If you have purchased electronics products from China, you may well have been in contact with an Electronic Manufacturing Services (or commonly known as EMS) company.
These suppliers provide design, test, manufacture, as well as return and repair services for electronic components for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). One key process is the PCB assembly or PCBA.
What an EMS company does
You can sub-contract out all aspects of the new product development to an EMS, including the design, which would most likely include all the electronics, PCBs, and sometimes the mechanical elements as well. However, an EMS is capable not only of designing PCBs and associated electronics, but also to produce complete assemblies in mass production.
A good EMS would also have a design team that would develop all the necessary software and firmware code for your product; this would be carried out in conjunction with your design requirements and specification and would work closely with your technical team.
A classic example of this would be the mobile phone or tablet, where the EMS would manufacture the PCB assembly (PCBA) and all the other electronic elements of the product and then either produce the other parts in-house or purchase them in from dedicated suppliers. The final assembly of the product would be carried out by the EMS, which includes testing, verifying, packaging and shipped to the customer.
This is a case where the buyer could develop the software and the EMS the firmware, however, each case is different, but the key thing is, it is managed within either your organization or the EMS and NOT subcontracted out to an unknown third party supplier.
How an EMS factory, and in particular its PCBA process, can be audited
If you have selected your EMS and have placed an order, then the next step is probably to get your chosen EMS audited before you wire any payment.
Each report includes photos of the factory and the process, comments and findings from the auditor as well as any corrective actions that may be required for improvement in a particular area.
Ultimately the factory is given a rating which will indicate how the factory performed against the checklist.
Our engineers follow a checklist organized in the following sections:
- Production Capacity
- Process Controls
- Material Parameters
- Preventative Maintenance
- Material Storage
- Assembly Process
- Storage and Handling
- Housekeeping / Health & Safety
Can you think of other attributes that can be checked?
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