Right now, across the globe, go to just about any reputable electronic contract manufacturer’s website and you will likely find a phrase such as: “from concept to reality”, or “from idea through implementation” with the unwritten subtext being “we do it all.”
We can relate; for 35 of our 40 years in business we at RBB said the same thing. Most CM’s say this either because we don’t want to discourage the initial call from a potential customer, or because we want to grab 100% of the prospect’s business – even the stuff that we don’t do especially well – out of fear that our competitors might snatch them away. So we profess to do it all and pray that it works out in the end.
Exciting New Innovations in the Industry
Some gutsy contract manufacturers are beginning to specialize as low volume electronics job shops and to no longer promise the one-size-fits-all approach. I’m not referring to the small CM’s out there that want to “grow up” and become big CM’s like the Tier 1 and Tier 2 players. I’m talking about new thinkers – companies who see themselves as fulfilling a very specific “small batch” role in the industry. A role that by its very nature does not attempt to coexist with the higher batch size needs.
These bold companies have tuned their businesses to zero-in and remain in this market niche. Here’s when it may be time to give a small batch specialist in low volume electronics a shout:
- You just invented a product and don’t know when or if it will ever take off.
- Your small batch work often gets a lower priority in your CM’s schedule than the large ones.
- You are obliged to support an older product but can’t really forecast the need any longer.
- Your portfolio of products is able to be split logically among two CM’s.
- It no longer makes sense to continue to build your own customized low volume electronics.
- You’ve outsourced your assemblies to a low cost region but your small batches get lousy service.
- Your company’s LEAN efforts encourage you to bring in small, frequent shipments of fresh product.
- Your current CM imposes seemingly random penalties on your small batches such as last time buys, high minimum order sizes and/or big price hikes.
- Your engineers update the product so frequently that you can’t afford
to buy large batches anymore.
- Your large batches might actually come down in price if you relieved your current CM of the slower, high-hassle-factor low volume electronics work.
- You are tired of predicting what will sell and just want to replenish what your customers actually buy.
A New Way To Do Business
If any of the above sound compelling, search for an electronics job shop in your neighborhood. There is a new way of doing business out there and you too can enjoy it. Check out our checklist to see what you can expect from the different types of low volume electronics manufacturers.
Bruce Hendrick has been a leader of major change in corporations and small business alike for the past 25 years; he's the owner of RBB Systems and Organizational Development Services, LLC; noted speaker, author, active church member and community volunteer