Dynamic EMS Know-How Gets Products to Market on Time

22nd February

From Seed to Scale through Speed and Scope

By Gordon McAlpine, Production Manager, Dynamic EMS

The most nerve-wracking time for any company that intends to introduce a new product is when the first tranche of populated boards arrives back from the EMS provider. You have done everything correctly, tested at every stage and worked closely with the EMS to ensure the design is as manufacturable as possible and that any likely problems have been ironed out. However, there is still a fair chance of a failure that could require a redesign. Redesigns are painful and expensive. As well as the cost of more development time and the effort to correct the design, there is also the expense of missing the market. Early sales make up a disproportionate amount of the potential profit of any new product, especially if the product is seasonal or event driven. This financial hit is compounded if a competitor manages to get to market first and generate sales that could have been yours.

Once a customer has bought from your competitor, they are more likely to stick with their choice for future products, whether that is because of an ecosphere, familiarity of the feel of the product, training investment, or for any number of other reasons. Even if the competitor didn’t manage to beat you to market, the narrowed gap in launch dates allows them to speak to potential customers at the same time as you and lower your potential market share. A delay of between 9-12 months in the introduction of a product in the electronics industry has been estimated to cost up to 50 percent of a product’s anticipated revenues. That, in turn, leads to lower shareholder confidence in the company and reduced cash flow, making things even more difficult in the future. There is also the additional time and expense of retesting the product for compliance with standards to consider.

In some cases, redesigns are just a part of life. However, working together with a knowledgeable EMS company can often provide a solution that will minimise any delays or even keep the product launch on schedule, giving you time to take more permanent steps to rectify the design if required. Of course, that possibility will often depend on the type of fault and the degree of expertise of the EMS provider, as any changes would require an in-depth knowledge of the function of the product, and the manufacturing processes to find any possible remedies. Repairing and reworking faulty designs has been going on as long as there has been PCBs. Originally this took the shape of breaking copper tracks and adding wires, but as boards have got more complex, more thorough knowledge and expertise in a range of disciplines is required to put things right.

Dynamic EMS had a situation recently with one customer that was resolved quickly and allowed the customer to get to market without a redesign. The customer’s issue was that one of the components, an HDMI connector, was an SMT device that used through-hole pins to get the right placement and improve robustness. Both these techniques require different methods of fabrication, which can lead to a build-up of tolerances. On this occasion, the tolerances of the drill alignment and artwork alignment compounded on some of the boards, and when the HDMI connectors were placed on the PCB, they twisted slightly out of alignment causing a short. Even when the engineers at Dynamic EMS had taken the initial step of adjusting the placement machine to take account of the offset, the faults persisted in the next batch, although the alignment appeared to be excellent. After more investigation, the company found that some of the boards had nodules on one side of the hole that pushed the connector to the other side, again causing the rotation that had twisted the pins and caused shorts. The situation was resolved after the component placement was offset in the other direction. That quick action allowed the customer to meet its schedule and get to market on time with a fully functional product.

With a less experienced EMS provider, these issues could have continued for much longer, and the board may have needed a full redesign, delaying the launch. Dynamic EMS has worked hard to bring the most knowledgeable personnel available into the company, as well as encouraging staff to take advantage of any training opportunities available. This know-how about all areas of the industry allows the company to not only work with customers to find solutions to manufacturing issues like in the case above, but also to offer the best help available on a wide variety of other topics, such as providing advice on how to design and manufacture more environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions or helping with procurement and suggesting alternative products and suppliers in times of component shortages. There are many ways that a good EMS can help the customer through the product design lifecycle, and the quality of that assistance relies heavily on the capabilities of its staff. Dynamic EMS is constantly looking to improve the quality of its staff even further to ensure that its customers get the best opportunity to get to market on time, every time.

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