Why Tony Stark doesn’t scrub hardware BOMs and neither should you

OEMs Meet Manufacturing Partners On Your Terms

By Mark Zetter

Electronic hardware product management executives can regain OEM focus; getting kickass products to market your customers want to buy and gaining market share.

When Tony Stark accesses J.A.R.V.I.S., his artificial intelligence (A.I.) in Iron Man so he can build something, he doesn’t waste time speculating whether multilayer ceramic capacitors are available or if his manufacturing partner is making risk buys to cover their butt.

Today, OEMs are forced to work alongside manufacturing partners chasing down materials, authorizing EMS provider changes to OEM AVLs, helping exhaust lists of alternate suppliers second-sourcing your AVL — all while wondering whether your contract manufacturing partner is offering best pricing when responding to your RFQ.

“[W]e are one of the [EMS provider] companies
who have worked with IBM. We had to find
our own way because frankly, IBM over
sold and overpriced Watson.”


Add to this, distributors lock out original equipment manufacturers from going direct to semiconductor companies for optimal pricing (and complicit in this are the OEM contract manufacturing ‘partners’). Plus, distributors are acquiring media and communities OEM engineers visit — and trying to manage the OEM mindset while forcing fake cavitations in OEM supply chains for monetary reasons.

None of this is in the OEM product manager’s best interests.

Meanwhile, an A.I. solution exists today, enabling you to optimize manufacturing admin and complexity. Some EMS providers are falsely claiming they have A.I., such as one top-tier provider who responded to our survey with:

“[Redacted] is leading intelligent digital supply chain transformation allowing customers to compete at the speed of global commerce with greater predictability, lower costs, and less risk using advanced intelligent systems. [Redacted’s] intelligent supply chain systems have real-time ecosystem connectivity, advanced prescriptive analytics, and machine learning to provide superior visibility, enterprise collaboration, and advanced supply chain risk management. Our Intelligent Supply Chain and Intelligent Procurement Systems proactively drive predictive, and prescriptive, actionable insights with automatic practitioner recommendations and alerts for unsurpassed real-time supply chain assessment, guidance, orchestration and cost leadership.”

I’m familiar with the EMS provider above. Their submission to our survey is careful wordsmithing crafted by marketers to hide their gap in capability-to-actuality they face.

And if you’re thinking it’s IBM’s Watson know that Watson has failed to implement A.I. time, and time, again. One noteworthy comment from a contract electronics executive, “[W]e are one of the [EMS provider] companies who have worked with IBM. We had to find our own way because frankly, IBM over sold and overpriced Watson. Most of the folks I’ve worked on the project with at IBM have moved on to China firms like Alibaba and Baidu.”

A.I. that works

OEM product management executives can determine which EMS providers are best suited for which OEM programs, and you can loosen the grip manufacturing partners often have preventing OEMs from moving programs easily to alternate contract manufactures. OEM CFOs can also see which products programs are suitable based on visibility into manufacturing cash flow and market conditions.

There is no reason to prevent any OEM from improving ROA by 2% with better product launch control, improving time-to-market, and controlling manufacturing constraints. How’s that for product management excutive decision-making?

Instead of OEMs spending your time being dragged into fires and problem solving issues created by manufacturing partners, you should have more and accurate information, and with this brings clear authority, to drive more accountability of your manufacturing partner(s) your company and your career relies on.

Stop paying contract manufacturers to compensate for their bad decision-making and poor planning. OEM product executives should be spending your time:

  • achieving amazing product designs and innovation
  • focusing on your customer features and potential

Meet your manufacturing partners on your terms

Engage your manufacturing partner(s) from a position where you have more understanding about their internal costs than they do. OEM product management executives: Meet your manufacturing partners on your terms.

Contract EMS providers are making poor purchasing, planning and production forecasting decisions and then dragging you into meetings to help solve problems they create. You can determine how much your program should cost, and accurately determine optimal materials pricing and availability — for every EMS provider you speak with — even before they respond to your RFQ.

A.I. exists today that allows you to enter negotiations with your manufacturing suppliers from a position of confidence, and with more visibility than they have about their own production factory capabilities and functional groups workflows.

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