Electronics manufacturing services (EMS) is an industry driven by rapid advancements in design and production. It’s why our business is so exciting – we’re literally creating the future. But with that reality comes a significant challenge: advances occur so rapidly that manufacturers must keep pace with the latest developments or risk becoming irrelevant.
Smart companies are realizing the value of a forward-thinking mindset supported by a significant, ongoing investment in the future. At Niche Electronics, we make those investments in three primary categories.
EMBRACING NEW TECHOLOGY
The ever-accelerating evolution of design means that equipment that was fine for some jobs just five or 10 years ago is now obsolete. Of course, investing in equipment is a major capital expense, but it’s necessary both to serve the needs of today’s customers and to build a platform for tomorrow’s growth and expansion.
Here’s one example related to a key trend in our industry, miniaturization. Current designs pack as many components as possible onto an integrated circuit. This presents challenges in the production and – critically – testing of circuit boards.
Niche Electronics upgraded our surface-mount technology equipment, enabling our team to assemble complex boards with miniscule components. Just as important: we realized the need to install the innovative camera-based testing equipment required to ensure the precision and consistency of our builds. That testing equipment identifies inconsistencies where the human eye no longer can.
Companies seeking continued growth – like Niche – must have a plan to replace outmoded legacy equipment with technology that can do the work of the future.
DEFINING AND STANDARDIZING PROCESSES
The EMS companies with a bright future also share a critical focus on procedures and documentation. Why? Increasingly complicated designs and rapidly growing parts lists. In the past, a bill of materials count for a project may have involved 30-50 parts and 200 placements. Now, projects routinely have 200-300 parts requiring thousands of placements.
Design complexity means it is very dangerous for a company to rely on individual judgements or “we’ve always done it this way.” Losing key personnel when you don’t have clear documentation in place could mean that vital production knowledge is simply walking out the door.
Like other forward-thinking companies, Niche Electronics has invested heavily in developing a clear, comprehensive set of procedures that dictate our operations.
While COVID-19 brought production to a near stand-still, we used that time to develop documentation that ensures consistency and removes human interpretation from complicated manufacturing. This provides clarity to the technicians doing the work – making it easier for them to excel – and provides the customer with a high-quality finished project.
RETAINING AND REWARDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Today, the labor market is a huge challenge for most industries, and EMS is no exception. The companies that manage to attract and retain technical talent have a distinct advantage. At Niche Electronics, we have been fortunate – we have enjoyed staff stability in all three of our locations, and have not experienced “quiet quitting” or other negative trends.
That’s a credit to our technicians and our managers, to be sure, and also to a competitive compensation program. But we have also built a company culture that fosters a team environment and empowers employees. One key: ensuring that we provide ongoing training and opportunities for advancement. All our operators and soldering personnel are trained to industry standards by our in-house J-Standard 001/IPC-610 Certified trainers.
Our team has responded with loyalty and long-term careers that bring stability to both our employees and our production capabilities.
One final thought: because change is constant in our industry, investments in the future – equipment, processes, people – must, by definition, be ongoing. Companies that embrace that philosophy will continue to separate from the pack.
By Frank Bowman, CEO, Niche Electronics