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Successful system integration ramp-up with a partner

There is a market trend to outsource more system integration and box build business. How vital is it for your manufacturing partner to understand your final products and business requirements when ramping up your system integration business? If you are thinking about outsourcing a new line of business, there are some things that are essential to consider.

Learning curve and communication

Professional flow of communication between partners is the key for success.  This includes:

  • Sharing knowledge of the whole system, how it works, and its operating environment.  This includes product details such as drawings, technical specifications, requirements and product structure.
  • System integration end products usually consist of units produced by many suppliers. It is necessary to have familiarity with the product and to understand their basic functions. It is also important to agree in advance, which customer controlled units are being supplied and by whom. Clear direction, terms and conditions will support a successful business for all.

Manufacturing partners are known to be able to handle PCBAs and smaller units; however, assembling a system is much more complicated and usually creates questions for the customer, particularly during the early integration phases. The core of the integration effort creates a physical version of the customer’s design idea.  Without altering anything it makes it possible for the OEM to focus on the system’s design.

Professional EMS companies will provide full knowledge for the system integration business, but still ensure confidentiality of the customer’s business.

Standardization and simplification is a key to success. Integration of a system often includes mechanical panels, PCBs and components assembled into the system or sometimes simply units on panels in a cabinet. It is an advantage to have a manufacturing partner who has engineers with mechanical experience to support component purchasing. Changing complex or simple items like screws and washers for similar parts already in stock at the manufacturing partner could speed up the lead-time for material sourcing.

A visit to the customer’s site is important so both parties understand the capabilities of the manufacturer and the level of quality required for the product. It is beneficial to meet the design engineers, buyers and quality engineers to get a better view of how each one of them fits into the process and to understand their needs. Customer site visits also help to develop a partnership and to gain common ground internally at the OEM. Early involvement of the right people will ensure that all expectations will be fulfilled.

For panel and cabinet projects, the OEM might outsource creation of some parts of the product documentation, such as interconnection diagrams, wiring tables, terminal block drawings, or instructions/records for assembly and test. The responsibility for creation of these documents should be agreed upon during the quotation phase. Additionally, there needs to be agreement on documents that are to be provided with each shipment as well as any specific packing requirements for the product.

It is essential to have an open line of communication between partners. Verbal communication is important, but so is the use of examples and photos as an efficient way of communicating.

Project phase 

Different industries adhere to different quality requirements and there is no need to make the process more complex than it needs to be.

It will benefit both parties if you aim for the easiest possible way to solve product structure, marking and other issues. Be sure to use the right set-up for the right product. If there already is a process in place, do not reinvent the wheel. Use standard processes as much as you can and add short customer-specific routines when needed. The manufacturing partner should have well-established processes in place for product implementation and project management to support the product.

When delivery dates are considered, sometimes system integration projects appear to start later than they should. Ensure that your partners are able to use streamlined processes for these projects.

Change management

One thing you can be sure of is that over time there will be changes to the product. It is very important to log changes in a structured way.

  • When a change notification comes, a few crucial points need to be addressed in addition to the actual change.
  • When should the change be implemented?
  • When is it possible to make the change?
  • What is the impact of the change and how will it affect the cost of the product?

Communication about any change needs to be very clearly defined in order to avoid misunderstandings and the surprise of unforeseen cost changes. Communication and utilization of the standard change management routine is vital for fast time-to-profits for both parties.

A major part of Enics’ manufacturing business comes from box build and system integration projects.

Are you interested?

Would you like to hear how we are managing our system integration projects? Contact us (for Industrial OEMs only) at marketing@enics.com