Everyone talks about systems, but how relevant are they to helping you actually cut cost? Here are some software-driven systems to look for when choosing a contract manufacturer.
- Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) analysis tools – contract manufacturers that take a proactive approach to obsolescence risk management give you more cost-effective options to consider when components are nearing end of life. Your CM should be using one of the premier data providers, SiliconExpert or IHS.
- Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools – EDA tools facilitate detailed design for manufacturability/testability (DFM/DFT) analysis and reduce machine programming time. These systems enable a contractor to rapidly analyze DFM/DFT issues, eliminating defect opportunities and inefficiencies during the new product introduction (NPI) process. Electronic transfer of program information is more efficient and can eliminate errors found in more manual processes. The premier software tool is Mentor Graphics Valor; every CM should be deeply familiar with its capabilities.
- Integrated ERP and Shop Floor Control systems – While most companies don’t have paperless factories, the higher the utilization of automated systems to track demand, project status and material on order, the more visibility both contractors and customers have into developing issues and/or “what if” scenarios when demand suddenly changes. These systems may also cost-effectively support traceability data collection and configuration management. ERP software fully integrated with both Shop Floor and Financials should be considered a must-have requirement.
- Quality Management System (QMS) – In today’s continuous improvement-driven environments, the ability to collect and rapidly analyze quality data is a competitive advantage. The best-in-class systems are software-driven and move the QMS beyond process documentation to integrate in real time with execution of the QMS. This class of software is called Quality Execution Systems, Unipoint is the market leader.
Best-in-class software systems help reduce overhead and enable smaller teams to be highly productive. They can improve response time and provide early warning on material availability issues, quality issues or bottlenecks in production. In an increasingly regulated world, they can also support data collection and reporting related to material content, country of origin, required traceability data or revision history. They can also be an integral part of product quality improvement strategies. However, to truly maximize the value of software, a contractor’s team must have a strategy. In selecting a contract manufacturer, look for a team that can explain how their systems are used to provide specific benefits to customers.