Why does your manufacturing partner secretly hate you?
You finally moved the design to production. You have selected a perfect size, great manufacturing partner who has the capability and capacity to deliver what you need. They are supportive and the relationship is great.
Now that your job is done, you can relax and watch thousands of devices coming out of the oven. Let’s throw a manufacturing kick off party for the team.
Wrong. Problems start to rise…
Honeymoon is over
As you progress to production of your product, problems start to pop up. Enclosures assemblies don’t clip or break, assembled boards are failing, test firmware is detecting both real and false problems. Everything seems to go wrong. Your engineering team wants to iterate the design to fix those issues immediately. However it seems that your manufacturing partner is responding slowly and that their support is not that great as it was promised at the beginning.
The disappointment is rising and you feel being tricked by a sleazy sales guy from a manufacturing partner who promised you that they can deliver, but everything is falling apart. Now, you really hate those manufacturing dumb-asses.
Feelings are mutual
As the manufacturing partner seems slow-moving and bureaucratic from your perspective, they may look at your engineering team like a bunch of cowboys going around, trying to do last minute changes and sneaking in design modification without documenting them.
Due to all these issues, production is stopped and you are blocking the whole production line.
This usually causes conflict between your engineering and manufacturing team. Both are having the impression that the other party is reckless and causing the program to fail.
“Be more agile!” – Common invitation to the disaster party
Now you demand that your partner gets more agile in the approach to accelerate the production. If your mfg partner is good, they will not comply with this request, because…
Manufacturing process is based on the assumption that the design is frozen and everything is properly documented in order to be able to achieve consistent quality of produced products.
Any design changes, even small ones, cause a challenge to the manufacturer. These changes must be carefully controlled via ECO (Engineering Change Order) process.
Each change request may trigger a series of events causing assembly or inspection procedures to be modified and rewritten, ICT fixtures to be updated, and operators to be retrained.
However, as this can take weeks to implement, from your view, it may seem non-cooperative and slow.
It is important that you understand the other perspective and how it looks from the manufacturer’s side.
“Let’s make it faster!” – This where the trouble started
Backers, investors, buyers are waiting in line for the product and you need to deliver it quickly in order to fulfill what previously has been overpromised.
Main reason why many companies (especially startups) get into manufacturing troubles is rushing through the process. Actually, they are not aware of the process required to move products to production. They just take the product, which is still in the prototype phase and then expect that it can be magically produced.
They go to the manufacturer and place a purchase order for volume production. Once things start to fall apart, they have a feeling that the manufacturer is doing everything to sabotage their program.
Truth is that, being in a rush, you skipped DV (Design Verification) and PV (Process Verification) phases and took the program directly to MP (mass production).
All the “early mortality” issues that are now popping up are forcing process return into DV and PV phases, which causes delays and frustration, taking your program into overspend.
Forget sprints, hardware is a marathon
To simplify the conclusion, don’t try to cut corners and skip steps. If you try to do that, it will just take more time and get more expensive.
If you need help to transfer your concept into final electronic product, feel free to get in touch and we can have a chat about it.