Comprehensive checklist for choosing an electronics manufacturing partner

Jun 25, 2024Contract electronics manufacturing

comprehensive checklist mpe

For any purchasing managers and product designers in the process of selecting a suitable Contract Electronics Manufacturer (CEM) to produce their electronic device, there are a number of important factors to consider. Among the key considerations are the quality control measures the prospective partner has in place, their current production capacity, as well as testing and inspection capabilities. This is particularly true when it comes to the design, assembly and testing of the heart of their electronic product: the PCB assembly itself.

This blog will delve into the PCB assembly CEM selection process specifically, highlighting the most critical areas for consideration and providing you with your very own downloadable checklist as a comprehensive guide.

How to go about choosing an electronics manufacturing partner

There are various due diligence methods at your disposal when it comes to choosing an electronics manufacturing partner. These include:

  • arranging a standard site inspection
  • carrying out a reference check
  • requesting a sample product, or
  • performing a complete CEM selection audit.

Selecting the most suitable method for your project will depend on the reputation of the potential CEM partner(s) in question and how they became known to you, your budget constraints (audits can be resource-intensive) and the complexity of your PCB assembly.

An audit is a close examination of the processes, systems and documentation that a prospective CEM partner has in place to comply with regulatory requirements and provide quality assurance. An audit typically sets out to identify risks, evaluate controls, ensure accountability and if carried out successfully, will ultimately enhance trust and facilitate decision-making. The alternative due diligence methods outlined above can instil a similar level of confidence, albeit in a less structured manner.

Which specific criteria should you consider?

When choosing an electronics manufacturing partner, the most critical areas to evaluate are:

Regulatory compliance

Regulations vary based on industry, the product’s origin of manufacture, intended application, device type and relevant environmental legislation. For example, certain industries, such as medical devices, automotive and aerospace, have specific regulatory requirements for electronic products. Compliance with standards including ISO 13485 (medical devices), ISO/TS 16949 (automotive) and AS9100 (aerospace) may be necessary. It is essential to verify that your potential partner complies with relevant local and international regulations. In addition to the end product, you should check that their documentation and processes also align with the necessary regulations.

Quality control processes

Evaluating the CEM’s quality control processes, including their adherence to industry standards such as IPC-A-610 for acceptability of electronic assemblies, as well as any additional quality certifications they may hold (e.g. ISO 9001). Request to see their Quality policy and any additional information about their quality inspection methods, testing procedures and defect rates.

Equipment and technology

When choosing an electronics manufacturing partner, assess their manufacturing capabilities, including the type and condition of their equipment, their capacity for high-volume production, if needed,and their ability to handle surface mount technology (SMT), through-hole technology (THT) or other specialised processes required for the assembly of your PCBs.

Supply chain management

Reviewing the CEM’s supply chain management practices, including their sourcing of components, inventory management, and relationships with suppliers can ensure the continuity of your device’s production. It is critical to ensure that they have robust processes in place to manage component shortages, obsolescence, and counterfeit parts.

Product testing and inspection

Evaluate the CEM’s inspection and testing procedures to ensure the quality and reliability of assembled PCBs. This includes in-process inspections such as Automated Optical Inspection (AOI), functional and environmental testing and any specialised testing required for your electronic product to meet performance specifications.

Experience and expertise

Last but not least, understanding your prospective partner’s level of experience and expertise will enable you to make your final selection. Assess the CEM’s experience in PCB assembly, including the types of projects they have worked on, their track record of successful completions and the expertise of their staff in handling various components and assembly techniques. Moreover, seek references from past clients or industry partners to gauge your potential CEM’s reputation, reliability and customer satisfaction rate. Reviewing testimonials, case studies and independent reviews that highlight their strengths and areas of expertise can help you appraise their suitability for producing your electronic product.

Reaching a final conclusion about choosing an electronics manufacturing partner

A successful audit, or appraisal of a sample product or a site inspection will provide valuable insights into the manufacturing partner’s capabilities, quality control processes and adherence to regulatory standards. It can help ensure that the partner is well-equipped to meet project requirements and deliver high-quality PCB assemblies on time and within budget.

An unsuccessful audit or similar due diligence method, on the other hand, may reveal deficiencies in the manufacturing partner’s processes. Issues with quality control, non-compliance with critical regulations, equipment or capability limitations, weaknesses in the supply chain and reports of a negative reputation are all indicators that the prospective CEM cannot meet your specific requirements, and another prospective partner should be selected instead.

Thoroughly reviewing the findings of your audit when choosing an electronics manufacturing partner helps to identify strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement and any critical issues that may impact product quality, compliance, or reliability. These factors can be used to negotiate terms, pricing, and service level agreements with the chosen electronics manufacturing partner.

Download your comprehensive checklist for finding a suitable contract electronic manufacturer here

MPE Electronics is an established and experienced contract electronics manufacturer specialising in PCB assemblies and full box build assembly for a wide range of commercial and industrial businesses.

To find out how MPE Electronics’ PCB manufacturing and assembly services can benefit your business, contact our expert and friendly team on +44 (0)1825 764822 or enquiries@mpe-electronics.co.uk.

Privacy Settings