How to compare Flex, Jabil, Sanmina, Celestica manufacturing supply chain capabilities

EMS providers think they're saving money with manufacturing execution systems (MES) but they are only addressing direct labor where the majority of savings has already been had post Six Sigma and lean implementation.

By Mark Zetter

My electronics manufacturing solutions provider just sold me a bill of goods, conveying their manufacturing supply chain capabilities and framing the narrative with “superior supply chain predictability, agility, and visibility”. This is how EMS provider Sanmina positions their manufacturing execution system (MES).

Let’s say I’m CEO of a publicly traded electronics OEM company and I ask Sanmina: How does MES benefit me?

In a recent article, contract electronics provider Sanmina writes, “Supply chain visibility is enhanced by artificial intelligence systems, advanced analytics, cloud-based systems and automated integration across the shop floor.” Sanmina’s article also claims Sanmina’s MES built internally saves $50,000 per week by minimizing components shortages.

Does Sanmina’s MES and superior supply chain predictability, agility, and visibility only yield results when ‘enhanced by artificial intelligence systems, advanced analytics, cloud-based systems and automated integration across the shop floor’, as they mention?

No EMS provider today has yet to achieve real manufacturing automation, and no EMS provider is currently using artificial intelligence (A.I.). Plus, MES and A.I. are not related, even though in the not too distant future I can see where A.I. and MES will coexist in some hybrid IoT/robotics/MRP/ERP franken-system.

In writing this article I did a market study on MES solutions in the marketplace today. In addition to 42Q (Sanmina’s MES solution), other MES vendors in no particular order also wanting you to think A.I. when reading about them include; Dassault Systemes (Apriso); GE Digital, ABB, Rockwell Automation, SAP, Oracle, Siemens, Plex Systems, Cogiscan, Epicor, Honeywell Process Solutions, Mentor Graphics, Aegis, and Schneider Electric, just to name a few.

None of these vendors offer A.I. capability, yet MES vendor marketers continue to carefully plant keywords in blog posts and articles, or write that their MES offering “allows customers to embrace A.I.” (Epicor). Or, MES vendors inform prospects and customers they invested in an innovation fund focusing on A.I. (Rockwell Automation).

Others, like SAP, offer what they label as ‘manufacturing intelligence’, which serves only as a hub between SAP’s ERP and MES, but SAP also does not have artificial intelligence.

I’ve worked in the contract electronics industry nearly 20 years and one theme I find constantly surfacing is there is little to no real, innovative, critical thinking among EMS leadership.


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I reached out to Sanmina’s technical author, wanting to learn more about Sanmina’s MES and details about the $50,000 per week savings the writer claimed. Sanmina is the only MES vendor I found who write/talk about their MES, claiming a specific dollar amount saved.


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But the reply I got contained only marketing speak accompanied by some tomfoolery. The article claiming $50,000 savings was removed from their site revealing a 404 page. (UPDATE: Sanmina re-published their article)

Not to pick on Sanmina, many EMS providers often make claims when promoting or selling their solutions, but on closer examination the capability-to-actuality ratio is not always what it appears – typical for EMS organizations who put out fires more often than they apply careful, thoughtful thinking toward solving complex problems.

(Mis)managing manufacturing

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