Manufacturing Companies Are Evolving to Aid Innovation
The Status Quo for Manufacturing Companies
Industries in every sector are getting better at using technology to deliver the products and services customers need, more quickly, and painlessly than ever before. Internet and mobile technologies have made it easier to manage your healthcare, finances, and even your relationships. Business-to-business vendors are delivering a huge range of services and solutions that let organizations focus on their core mission, leaving the peripheral stuff to someone else.
Some industries have been slower to change than others, however. Until recently manufacturing was one that held onto old ways of doing things, making it difficult for modern innovators to find a partner that could support the need for low prices, fast turnaround times, and hassle-free vendor management. Fortunately, that inertia has been overcome by a new crop of cloud manufacturing companies that understand how to put the cloud to work for them and their clients.
Manufacturing Companies – Archaic vs. Agile
The legacy approach
The manufacturing process that has been in place for decades was designed to support large vendors with huge orders, little need for iteration, and no need for speed. How can you tell if you are talking to manufacturing companies that are part of the old guard? Look for these tell-tale signs:
- Quotes take days or weeks and involve back-and-forth emails with an account rep or salesperson
- The vendor is not enthused by, or will not even accept your prototyping order
- They have large minimum production order requirements
- If they will do a small run, the price is sky high
- They are located overseas
- Design documents, bills of materials, and other related files are sent via email
- If you want to know the status of your project, you have to call or email a person
- You are responsible for sourcing and shipping all of the parts
- Once your order is complete, you must warehouse the parts and manage the inventory
The new wave
If you have a headache after just reading that list, you aren’t alone. The old model was not designed to support the needs of Kickstarter creators, small businesses, engineers, or makers. The barriers to entry are too high and can discourage today’s inventors. But don’t give up. You can now find a manufacturing company to partner with that has built a business around the new way that products are brought to market. You can now expect:
- Instant quotes: Upload your design documents and BOM, then find out how much your project will cost in seconds.
- Painless Prototyping: Modern manufacturing companies welcome your rapid PCB prototyping order and will support you as you iterate to get exactly what you want.
- No minimum order: You may need one item; you may need 10,000. Your manufacturing partner should be able to handle it without a fuss.
- Reasonable prices: One way that innovative vendors leverage technology is to efficiently combine small orders into larger ones. This helps lower prices for customers across the board
- Onshore PCB assembly and manufacturing: Overseas production adds a level of complexity and risk that you can avoid by choosing a manufacturer in the United States. New technologies make it possible for onshore manufacturing companies to offer competitive prices, with high quality, and shorter lead times.
- An online portal for document management: With the right partner, there’s no need to email documents back and forth, never knowing if the right file was received, or that the most recent document was used. With online document management, you know for sure that your current needs are clearly communicated.
- Status tracking and reporting: In addition to document management, modern manufacturing firms offer cloud-based product tracking and reporting. You can check in on the status of your project anytime, from anywhere. No need to call or email someone who may or may not be responsive.
- Seamless manufacturing: These days, the best electronic device manufacturers will handle the sourcing for you. They have relationships with parts vendors and can leverage their entire customer base to negotiate lower prices and pass the savings along. This isn’t only budget-friendly, it also greatly simplifies the production process and lets you focus on more strategic work.
- Post production inventory management and fulfillment: Today you can choose a manufacturing company that will see you through the entire product lifecycle. They can hold your finished products in inventory and ship them directly when your customer places an order. Some even offer API integration with your ERP or e-commerce system to make order delivery seamless. You can also benefit from the volume discounts that your partner has with shipping carriers.
Some Manufacturing Companies Are Ready for the Digital Age
It is difficult when progress disrupts an industry. Newspapers, publishers, music companies, television networks, and others have all had to find new ways of meeting their customer’s changing preferences or face extinction.
Manufacturing companies face this same challenge. Certainly some will fail to embrace new ways of serving the needs of hardware designers, but fortunately, enough have recognized the need to evolve. You should have no trouble finding one that will make a fitting partner for your PCB assembly, device manufacturing, inventory management, and fulfillment needs.