Product design and development is often outsourced to a contract manufacturer. In such instances, the sooner an OEM engages the contract manufacturer for product design and development services, the better off the OEM will likely be when the product being designed moves into the production and ramp-to-volume phases.
In instances where the contract manufacturer is chosen by the OEM for strategic reasons, the contract manufacturer will likely have experience designing and manufacturing similar products which will aid the OEM to minimize costly design iterations, help bring the OEM product to market sooner and add various other quality-related benefits to the contract manufacturing relationship. (See, also: Sample 'medical' electronics product design contract
Below is a sampling of the type of information, and capabilities, OEM executives might want to look for when considering a potential contract manufacturing partner(s) during the important evaluation process. The purpose in this instance is to inquire about the contract manufacturer's product design and development service capabilities. (See also: EMS Evaluation checklist
and Top 5 mistakes OEMs make with EMS providers
Any questionnaire presented should cover as many of the product design and development aspects as possible to help OEM executives gain a full understanding of the contract manufacturer's tools, staffing experience, equipment and processes utilized with respect to, but not limited to, the following product design and development categories:
- hardware / electrical development
- PCB design & layout
- industrial / mechanical design
- system level design
- software / firmware development
- component engineering
- change notice process
- design validation and testing
- review technique process (DFx)
- quality & reliability assurance
- software tools
- compliance, safety and regulatory adherence
1. How many years of experience does the contract manufacturer have in designing and developing [product type]?
2. What target markets does the contract manufacturer design and build products for?
3. Where are their design facility locations? (included number of design personnel per facility)
4. Ask the contract manufacturer to discuss engineering staff turnover
- number of design engineers hired in the last 2 years
- number of design engineers who have left in the last 2 years
5. Ask for revealing any alliances the contract manufacturer has with production, fabrication, test facilities, etc.
- nature of alliance
6. Does the contract manufacture have design skill capability in the following disciplines? (This portion of the questionnaire should be as specific as possible based on product and industry-specific product requirements)
- Does the contract manufacture 'sub-contract' design work? (If the answer to this question is yes, consider presenting a similar questionnaire to your contract manufacturer, for him to present to the subcontractor)
7. How many years has the contract manufacture been involved in design activities for the [particular industry]?
8. What are the contract manufacturer's core competencies in design and development? (Search EMS Resources Directory
9. Is there a minimum business level dollar volume expectation?
10. Is it required by the contract manufacturer that all design and development contracts must also commit to contract manufacturing? (See sample hardware outsourcing contract
11. Ask contract manufacture to design methodology and flow. Flow must include at least the following:
- input requirements
- approval/design review cycles
- all intermediate development steps
- information transfer medium
- final deliverables
- test verification stages
- quality assurance stages
- roles & responsibilities
12. What type of information transfer and archiving tools does the contract manufacturer use?
13. What tools are used to develop and maintain schedules and manage projects for design and development work (be specific)?
14. What collaborative tools does the contract manufacturer use to support design and development activities?
15. How does the contract manufacture verify if a design is manufacturable?
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16. Does the contract manufacture have guideline requirements for 'design for manufacturability' (DFM)?
17. How and when does the contract manufacturer perform design verification? What is checked for verification and how are the checks enforced?
18. How and when does the contract manufacturer perform simulation? What is checked for simulation and how are the checks enforced?
19. What does the contract manufacturer deliver to his customer?
20. What is the contract manufacturer's overall test methodology and process (ask to include an outline of a typical test plan)?
21. Does the contract manufacturer design for testability?
22. Does the contract manufacturer have guidelines / requirements for 'design for testability' (DFT)? If so, what does he check, and how are they enforced?
23. How are test vectors generated?
24. Are design reviews conducted on a regular basis? What is the interval?
25. Does the contract manufacture work with time-phased design programs? Does he he include specific checkpoints?
26. What considerations are given to requirements related to safety, environmental, and other applicable regulations?
27. How does the contract manufacturer document the results of tests and evaluations?
28. Are design and process documents under issue, or document, control?
29. Are records maintained to demonstrate achievement of required quality?
30. What processes or documentation is in place to transfer design into production? (Ask for experience with transferring design to external manufacturers:
- Whose DFx (DFM, DFA, DFT, DFE) guidelines were utilized (specify which guidelines)?
- Which contract manufacturing suppliers does your potential contract manufacturing partner have experience with?
31. Are designs verified by independent personnel (other functional groups) than those who directly perform the design?
32. What processes or tools are used to execute transfer of development to another location?
33. What processes or tools are in place to transfer prototype models to production?
34. How does the contract manufacturer's customers participate in design reviews?
35. Is a quality management system implemented? If so, ask for which processes are utilized by the system?
36. Does a quality measurement system for design exist with clearly defined metrics? (Ask to describe the metrics and define frequency of reviews)
37. What quality assurance tools are used in order to ensure design is compatible with standards, specifications, and DFx guidelines? (Here's how to drive teams to improve manufacturing quality
38. What is the contract manufacturer's program for reliability qualification of customer designs?
39. What program does the contract manufacturer have to determine the reliability of the products that result from his design and, how does he employ these learning's in your design process?
40. How is the design life of the product defined?
41. Does the design change control process include specific reliability criteria?
42. Are component de-rating guidelines used, and are these quidelines under change control?
43. Do reliability predictions account for both thermal and electrical stresses on components in the overall product design?
44. What is the contract manufacturer's process for obtaining customer requirements? (Learn about improving product program management
45. How does the contract manufacturer ensure functional team efforts meet customer requirements?
46. What type of change notification and documentation procedures does the contract manufacturer employ?
IP management (intellectual property)
47. What is the contract manufacturer's policy on design ownership?
48. What design activities does the contract manufacturer consider outside of his customers' IP ownership?
49. What arrangements does the contract manufacturer make with customers when he want to commercialize IP owned by the customer?
50. What type of measurement system is in place to assess customers' perception of complete performance?
51. What specific goals are in place for achieving customer satisfaction? Is cost an issue? (See Outsourcing Calculator for OEMs
52. Does the contract manufacturer analyze findings of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction for potential corrective action?
53. How are customer satisfaction requirements defined and documented?
54. How are the contract manufacturer's employers measured and compensated?
55. What criteria does the contract manufacture use to select components? How does he address WEEE and RoHs-related mandates and concerns?
56. What process is in place to ensure component selection is compatible with external manufacturers? (See: 6 Printed circuit board design mistakes often made
57. What processes are used to ensure component availability?
58. What processes and tools are used to qualify components ensuring reliability and performance?
59. What are the contract manufacturer's policies for establishing long-term availability and guaranteeing component, and overall, product life cycles?
Customer-related design history
Here, it is important to ask the contract manufacturer to list any previous design history experiences with your company. Ask him to specify the individuals within your company who served as points of contact for any previous work project.
- type of design activity
- which business of your company the contract manufacturer worked with
- what was the design time frame?
- list any company personnel / contacts the contract manufacturer worked with
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