Electronics manufacturing is considered by many as high-tier level manufacturing challenge. The process of design, assembly, production and testing of electronic components along with PCBs are complex tasks not all electronics manufacturing companies can perform themselves. Using an OEM electronics company is the perfect example of a company who does not fully engage in the complex world of electronics yet end up with electronic products for them to sell or market. They simply let the OEM factories manufacture products on their behalf and all they have to do is introduce ideas and designs. Check here what an Original Equipment Manufacturer actually is.
Private and white label electronics companies offer different advantages in the field of electronics manufacturing. You can’t introduce your own ideas but have to work with what those companies offer. This is also the reason why OEM contract manufacturing companies in the electronics industry are prevalent. More creative designs are a clear trend in electronics manufacturing.
Most electronics manufacturing companies create their electronic product designs then submit these to OEM electronics manufacturers for services such PCB assembly and testing. This way, they only pay for PCB assembly and testing and not pay for the entire electronics manufacturing development process. Aside from the basic services, OEM electronics manufacturers also offer additional services such as PCB etching, board tweaking and redesign etc. However, for private and white label electronics, things are much simpler since you just purchase ready-made electronic devices and brand them.
Step 1: Electronics & Product Design
Product design involves open communication between the client and manufacturer. Most of the time, the manufacturer will ask the client/customer for a concept and they work off of it. A lot of back and forth with suggestions and specifications until the final design is created. This occurrence usually happens if the OEM electronics company do not have graphic design skills to create the layout design or 3D model of the product. Some OEM electronics manufacturing companies are usually staffed with graphic designers to take care of design tasks.
Step 2: Prototyping
Once the design is ready, it now enters the product development stage with the main objective of having a product prototype at the end of the line. After noting down all of the details and specifications for the electronic product, the OEM electronics company will work on the project and complete it as conceived. Extensive research and brainstorming will be done before they integrate into actual manufacturing process to keep risks at a minimum and avoid wasting time and money. The product prototype should be a perfect replica of the design template including specs and details.
Step 3: Product Testing
An electronic prototype which serves as the product replica is going to be the tested in its different facets in multiple times. The goal is to ensure the product meets safety precautions and quality standards with its full functionality. Most OEM electronics manufacturing companies have laboratories designed for product testing and failure investigation. The engineers who conduct these tests will also take advantage of these as a research and development process for future electronic designs related to the current model.
Advanced testing procedures include optical inspection which automatically analyze the PCB for issues and defects on the computer. Broken traces, patches, etching issues and improper hole locations are easily detected through automated optical inspection. Another important type of testing process is environmental testing wherein the product is exposed to its intended environment and check if it reacts to the environment’s temperature, humidity, air pressure among other factors to test its durability and resistance.
There are several more testing procedures such as functional testing, in-circuit testing, x-ray testing and a lot more depending on the nature of the product. All of these testing procedures will be performed on the product as part of the quality control program and ensure it is in its top form for mass production.
Step 4: Mass Production
Electronic manufacturing is usually divided on to two major areas with mass production capabilities: PCB manufacturing and electronic product manufacturing.
1. PCB Manufacturing
There are electronics manufacturing companies who specialize in ODM PCB manufacturing but are limited to this specialty alone and are no longer capable of creating the mold, packaging or case of the electronic product. PCB manufacturing is the task which involves the most electronic knowledge since the printed circuit board houses all of the electrical components, circuits and processors. Electronic manufacturing companies who specialize in ODM PCB manufacturing are most likely staffed with electrical engineers and electronics experts. On the other hand, OEM PCBs are mostly done by the companies themselves.
2. Electronics Product Manufacturing
PCB manufacturing is a sub-process of the actual electronics product manufacturing. This is the part wherein the case of the product which houses the PCB itself is created along with other aspects of the product such as aesthetics and functionality. If there are electronics manufacturing companies who specialize in ODM PCB manufacturing alone, there are also companies who only specialize in this area of electronic manufacturing as well.
If you notice in OEM electronics these days, none of them have complete departments to deal with the entirety of the electronic manufacturing process. For startups and mid-sized electronics manufacturers, some aspects of the electronic manufacturing are outsourced to other companies to delegate time and expenses unlike with private label electronic manufacturers who simply purchase ready-made electronic designs.
Specialized electronics manufacturers can also provide specialty production techniques such as quick turn production, PCB assembly and cabling services. Quick turn production is an instant approach to production aspects like OEM PCB assembly wherein they can assemble the board in 2-3 days upon receiving all of the required electrical components. Cabling services is a special service which focuses exclusively on wires and circuitry.
Electronics manufacturing follows the same manufacturing process such as other product types like garments, plastics and chemicals. The biggest difference are the sub-processes involved in each step which further complicates the entire process due to its specific expertise and knowledge needed for the tasks. The market trend for consumer electronics is still great in the near future.
In the aspect of mass production, PCB manufacturing and the actual electronic product manufacturing are both fields which require different skill sets and expertise. The wide range of skills needed within the OEM and ODM electronic manufacturing line is what makes this industry much more complex compared to the others. Hiring employees who are skilled in all of these departments will be tough to find in a very competitive industry and market.