The Benefits of Communicating with Your Fabrication, Assembly, and Manufacturing Engineer (CM)

July 14, 2020 Cadence PCB Solutions

Key Takeaways

●     Tips to enhance the partnership between a company and a CM.

●     Gaining a greater understanding of what questions to ask your CM.

●     The importance of effective communication when utilizing a CM.

Quality control station in an electronics manufacturing factory

 Effective communication keeps your company in sync with your CM. 

As is the case with all relationships, communication is critical. But when millions of dollars are at stake, communication becomes paramount. This is the scenario when a company is placing its product's overall future into the hands of another. Partnership choices are vital, and if your company desires to obtain the most from these types of relationships, they must effectively communicate their designs as well as their expectations for the finished products.

One such partnership is the one formed by your company and its contract manufacturer (CM). Within a CM's personnel structure resides the engineers that perform and oversee the tasks of fabrication, assembly, and manufacturing. Being able to communicate with these all-important members of your partnership team is vitally important.

Importance of Communicating and Common CM Partnership Issues

When a company decides to use a CM, they are entrusting them with their vision of what their product should and will be. The first benefit of this decision is your company does not have to navigate all of the intricacies of fabrication, assembly, and manufacturing. However, since this is a double-edged sword, your company is also giving up a certain amount of control.

The proxy effect of this partnership means that communication is of the utmost importance, and even the slightest miscommunication can lead to design failures, delays to market, and additional costs. The entire process from design to market is not without its more common issues when utilizing a CM.

These issues include, but are not limited to problems such as:

  • Issues with the supply chain

  • Quality control issues and concerns

  • Issues relating to inadequate knowledge of necessary production techniques

  • Issues with the safety and protection of a company's intellectual property

  • Ineffectively communicated requirements of a company's product design

  • Issues with possible increases in your company's liability

Resolving CM Issues Through Communication

Since the materials you utilize in your designs affect nearly every aspect of the finished product, then the quality, cost, and availability of these materials is a significant concern. This warrants placing supply chain issues at the top of the list of common problems a company may encounter when working with a CM.

This is even more of a potential issue if your design requires a high-quality component or involves hazardous materials. The most crucial aspect to consider here is your company's communication with your CM to familiarize itself with the contract manufacturer's supply chain practices.

Avoidance of supply chain issues is possible by asking the right questions of your CM and ensuring that they are both transparent and have a stellar reputation. The key here is still communication and this starts with your company communicating the exact material requirements and expectations for their product.

3D graphic of the words Supply Chain Managem

Proper communication avoids common supply chain issues.

Quality Control and Effective Communication

Another side effect of using a CM to manufacture your product is relinquishing full control over its quality. However, this is another issue that you can resolve with communication.

In the PCBA industry, quality control is a substantial problem and why you must ensure your CM utilizes rigorous quality control practices. To acquire this knowledge and reassurance your company must communicate with the CM and ask the right questions. Mainly, the focus here should be on understanding their experience and familiarity with both the standards and regulations necessary to meet your manufacturing needs.

Communicating Your Concerns to Your CM

Issues relating to inadequate knowledge of necessary production techniques for your specific project are not all that uncommon. In cases like this, your company can take a little extra time to communicate its processes, which in most circumstances alleviates the issue. This is also true if your CM offers a broad contract of manufacturing services.

When utilizing a CM, there may be times in which your project specifications, design parameters, or IP may be a risk factor. In scenarios such as this, your company must communicate both the details and conditions of that information's use. A company will often share these details within the confines of a deftly written licensing contract.

Using Communication as a Tool

The communication between your company and the engineers that perform the tasks of fabrication, assembly, and manufacturing is understandably important. At the top of that list is the communication of your design requirements. Under many circumstances, communication can either solve an issue or create a problem. This is particularly true if your design is the first of its kind in terms of market presence.

Therefore, clear and concise communication of your requirements is essential whenever you are outsourcing. So, what does this mean? Well, it means that there should be detailed blueprints, schematics, and above all, a willingness to work with your CM to ensure that everyone is abundantly clear on the specifics.

Overall, your company should view communication for what it truly is—a tool. Just like we utilize multimeters to assess voltage levels, resistance, or continuity, communication is an essential tool in conveying a company's requirements.

Communication Tips for a Beneficial CM Partnership

How can you best communicate with your CM? Consider these tips:

  • Communicate the overall scope of your project design, which includes:

  • Completion timeline

  • Delegating responsibility for the critical project elements

  • Outlining all expectations of both your company and the CM

  • Gaining a critical understanding of the supply chain

  • Emphasizing critical milestones within the afforded timeline

  • Allow for a prove-out process, i.e., beta builds to confirm function, fit, and form. This should also include halting the design early on, which can assist in avoiding time lags due to continual changes later.

  • Delineate sourcing requirements, as this simplifies the supply chain and reduces time to market.

  • Always operate under the assumption that there will be post alpha and beta iterations. So budget accordingly, which includes budgeting additional time.

  • Account for secondary device requirements and their prospective impact on both cost and time requirements.

  • Have an understanding of the possible environmental effects on your product:

  • How will sterilization affect the final components?

  • Will bonding methods create possible issues?

  • Where will the device be shipped?

  • Will humidity or extreme temperatures affect the packaging or the device?

  • Define your testing and inspection requirements upfront.

  • Thoroughly communicate your device's function.

  • Have an understanding of the overall project cost.

Communication between a company and its CM could quite possibly be the most important consideration. And depending on the communication, your project can either thrive or fail.

 

soldering iron tips of automated manufacturing soldering and assembly PCB board

Effective communication conveys your manufacturing expectations.

Thankfully, with our PCB Design and Analysis overview page, you’ll be sure to have your company armed with the necessary knowledge to enhance the benefits of utilizing a CM. Also, if you are undecided on which processes best suits your company’s needs or you want to learn more about our processes, then view our Library and Design Data and Process Management page.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.  

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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