Running a business is expensive, especially if you produce complex products on a large scale. Operating out of your office or small warehouse isn’t going to cut it.
Building a full-on factory is super expensive. You also have to consider local labor costs and other technical headaches. The simplest solution is to go with an OEM manufacturing company.
What is OEM manufacturing? It’s partnering with a company that already has purpose-built factories. With them, you can reduce the costs and energy required in making your product.
You can also streamline the process and let your staff focus on more important things. The only thing you need to know is what they are, how they operate, and where to look for good ones. For an in-depth guide on OEM manufacturing and its uses, read on.
Defining an OEM
You may have heard the term OEM but aren’t sure what it means. You know it’s related to large-scale manufacturing and factories, but you want more specifics. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer.
These companies make and sell goods or parts to other companies to finish the product. Examples are companies that make protective glass for smartphones or car exhaust pipes.
The company that buys the components goes by the designation VAR. VAR stands for value-added reseller. VARs contract or partner with OEMs to build smaller components that go into a more complex product.
The “value-added” part comes from the idea that a VAR will do something to an OEM’s parts to increase the value. The sum of the individual parts gets transformed by the VAR into a new product and then sold for a profit.
The parts sourced and manufactured by OEMs are often small. By themselves, they don’t contribute to the overall value or complexity of the product. For example, an OEM might make the knobs on a car’s thermostat, but they didn’t design the thermostat or the car.
That said, OEMs are far more than manufacturers of simple screws and knobs. By definition, an OEM is anything that contributes to a more complex end product. This means that companies who make computer chips or other complex components can also be OEMs.
They only have to make these on behalf of a second company who will incorporate those parts into a new product.
The Basics of OEM Manufacturing
So what is OEM manufacturing, and how does it work on a basic level? OEMs fill a space in the global market for a variety of goods and components other companies need. These range from specialty bolts and screws to glass screens, electronics boards, and textiles.
Many of these companies might like to make these basic parts themselves. The issue is this is often too cost-prohibitive. Building an entire factory only to make screws for IKEA furniture isn’t worth it.
It’s cheaper and easier for companies to contract the services of an OEM. This is because the OEM has already built and tooled the factory to produce a variety of equipment. All the VAR needs to do is partner up with the right OEM company to fit their needs.
All of the top electronics brands use OEM manufacturing.
Using OEM Manufacturing
There are many ways to use OEM manufacturing. They’ve become a staple of the global economy and have made countless commercial products cheaper. Many of them take advantage of cheaper labor and government investment or subsidies.
Innovations in robotics, warehousing, and assembly line manufacturing all help improve efficiency. These also all come at a lower cost. There is nothing stopping an OEM from operating in developed economies, and many do.
However, using OEMs is most effective when you can secure the highest level quality of components for the most competitive price. This leads to a division of manufacturing operations. Western factories and manufacturers can focus on finishing products.
The automobile industry is a fantastic example. These companies rely on special OEM manufacturers to produce many of their car parts. These include battery and engine parts to electronic components in the entertainment systems.
The finished parts get assembled in the VAR company’s facility. They employ skilled workers to engineer the car, draft the parts OEMs will need to make, and put it together.
This process gets the most out of OEMs to produce high-quality local products. The OEM parts are still high-quality and selected by the VAR. Before seeing use, they also pass all necessary inspections in the reseller’s country.
By using OEMs, auto manufacturers can deliver high-quality vehicles to the market. The costs usually associated with building their own factories or components are gone. The result is consumers get cheaper cars without sacrificing quality.
The Relationship of OEMs and VARs
OEMs aren’t only specific manufacturers waiting for VARs to come along. While many OEMs specialize in specific fields or types of commodities, that’s not all they do. They have to remain flexible to work with as many VARs as possible.
OEMs and VARs work together by having a direct relationship. The VAR has to know exactly what they want, how they want it, and in what form or quantities. The OEM has to listen to these requests and find ways to accommodate them to the satisfaction of the VAR.
Communication, Flexibility, and Customizability
The most important thing in this business relationship is communication. OEMs set up their manufacturing facilities to be flexible but also high-quality. If an OEM factory can make 2-inch bolts, chances are they can adjust to different sizes as well.
The ability to accommodate multiple VARs with specific requirements is key. Quality control is also an important factor. VARs will be clear about proper measurements and specifications.
They’ll also communicate what kind of standard they expect. This is why the OEM needs to work with the VAR to meet these needs. OEM manufacturers sell to businesses, whereas VARs sell to consumers.
This means that VARs take the blame in the consumer market for defective products. Let’s use an example where Levi contracts an OEM to make the zippers or buttons on their blue jeans. It’s Levi that gets raked over the coals if the buttons are cheap or the zipper malfunctions.
The same is true if Samsung uses a faulty OEM part in their phones or TVs. OEMs need to balance flexibility and affordability with guarantees of quality and reliability. Between the two of them, VARs and OEMs need to work together to make sure both sides benefit.
OEMs in the Computer Space
A rising trend in relation to OEMs turning into semi-VARs has been occurring in the PC industry. Companies that design operating software or computer parts have been OEMs. This refers to the likes of Microsoft and Apple and, of course, Intel, Nvidia, and AMD.
The typical relationship would involve Microsoft selling Windows to a company like HP. In addition, Nvidia or Intel might also sell graphics cards and processors to HP. Windows, Nivida, and Intel are OEMs in this relationship, while HP is the VAR.
Companies like HP, Dell, or Lenovo integrate these parts into a finished PC. These are then sold to the consumer. However, with the rise of online ordering and PC building, things are changing.
It’s becoming popular for consumers to buy parts from OEMs like Nvidia or Intel. They can order everything from the graphics card to the wires and even the case online. Because this doesn’t require people to go to third-party retail stores like Best Buy, these OEMs can also function as VARs.
This gives them more leverage over the market. It also gives them more control over things like quality and manufacturing.
Where To Look For OEM Partners
There are a lot of things to consider when comparing OEMs. Cost and quality are important factors, but that’s easier said than done. For companies and VARs, there are two major regions to consider: industrial India and China.
There are, of course, many other options in the developing world to consider. You can also find good quality OEMs to partner within the “Global North,” but costs tend to be higher. India and China have similar strengths, but China wins in several key areas.
The population density in these countries and industrial economic strength are important factors. They have huge skilled workforces, which means a ready labor pool. This is an important consideration since labor shortages, and lack of specialists could choke your supply lines.
Both India and China also have tons of factories to choose from. They rank in the top 5 for having the largest share of global factories. They’re joined by the US, Japan, and Germany, which all have higher labor and operating costs.
Having a large sample size of OEMs to choose from means you’re more likely to find a good and reputable match. That said, a few hidden edge factors make China preferable over any other options.
The World’s Largest Manufacturing Country
China has almost 30% of the world’s manufacturing capacity. This puts them head and shoulders over the US, which sits at second place with 16.8%. Chinese labor is cheaper, and operating costs are lower.
Contrary to popular belief, China produces more than cheap and affordable products. They’ve developed a reputation for innovation in almost every field. They also have a huge number of specialists.
Chinese OEMs are also used to working and communicating with foreign companies. You’ll still need to do your research to find one that meets your needs. However, it’s safe to say China isn’t only the cheapest option; it’s also the highest-quality one.
The Difference between The OEM- VAR Relationship with Aftermarket
Chances are you’ve heard the term “aftermarket part.” These are products manufactured and sold after the original product has gotten finished. To be more specific, an aftermarket part gets manufactured by a third-party company.
They are not associated with the OEM that made the original part. Aftermarket parts don’t fit into the OEM-VAR relationships and are competitors. OEMs and VARs develop a close business relationship.
How Aftermarket Parts Affect Things
The VAR wants to make sure the parts are standard. They also want to guarantee consistent replacement parts from the OEM. The VAR and OEM might draw up a contract to this effect to make sure certain products have end of life support.
To use cars as an example again, VARs will want to make sure that OEMs keep making specific car components for them. It makes it easier and cheaper for those companies to repair vehicles and source replacement parts.
Some OEMs can attempt to sell these parts directly to consumers, thus by-passing VARs. Many VARs are ok with this, as their focus is on customer satisfaction by keeping their products working. Those VARs who don’t want to get bypassed will usually agree with the OEM about rights.
If the original OEM made the replacement part, it’s official and not aftermarket. If a different company, not associated or contracted with the VAR, made the component, it is aftermarket. Many companies that make parts used as aftermarket replacements are also OEMs.
They often make parts for other companies, such as luxury cars, in the case of the auto industry. Consumers might buy a higher-quality stereo from them or replace the gear shifter. By putting these parts into a different car, they become aftermarket.
What Is OEM Manufacturing?
What is OEM manufacturing? It’s a process and approach that helps lower the costs of producing complex products. OEMs allow the consumer market to pump out affordable yet high-quality items.
Any company considering producing products on a large scale needs to know about OEMs. As long as you have good communication and do your research, the perfect OEM fit is out there. Shield Works is ready and waiting to bring your manufacturing dreams to life, so give us a call today.