If you work in manufacturing, you know that your products are only as good as every component. Getting the right part at a reasonable price translates to better products, happier clients, and financial success.
This is where OEM manufacturing comes in. There are many advantages to using OEM parts, but there are also some things you can do as a client to get the most out of your relationship with the production company.
This article covers the basics of OEM manufacturing, including the advantages of their products. It also gives you some tips for maximizing your relationship with the company. It will help you ensure you are getting quality parts that allow you to meet your production demands.
What Is OEM Manufacturing?
The definition of “OEM manufacturer” is complex. In general, an “original equipment manufacturer” is a company that makes specific components that are then used in the products of another company. They work with clients to create a design and settle on manufacturing processes.
OEM companies set supply chain goals to produce the right component for the job. They also may offer add-on services, such as assembly, logistics, or warehousing.
Electronics and auto manufacturing are two of the most common industries that regularly use OEM parts. However, there are lots of different industries that rely on OEM manufacturers.
Advantages of OEM Parts
The biggest advantage of OEM parts is that, by definition, they are produced with a specific function in mind. They are made to fit and perform based on the original design of the finished product. This is why you can expect OEM parts to be the highest quality and design.
This may not be the case with aftermarket parts. These too are produced by a third party but without the original design in mind. For this reason, aftermarket parts may be sub-par in quality and function.
Aftermarket parts sales are usually directed toward consumers. OEM companies are generally business-to-business focused. That is due to the nature of the products.
The goal of an OEM is to make a component for a product before its original sale to consumers. Aftermarket parts are often produced as a cheaper replacement for a part after it has been sold, or to serve a different function than the original component.
An OEM is also distinct from an “original design manufacturer” (ODM). While OEMs make components for another end product, ODMs design and produce their own components for sale under another company’s label.
A good example of ODMs is third-party phone chargers. These tend to have a very similar design to other products on the market but are sold by distinct companies.
Getting the Most Out of OEM Manufacturing
The most important thing you can do to get the most out of an OEM manufacturing agreement is to establish a good relationship with the company. Communication is key. Having a working agreement with a manufacturer that is willing to field challenges as they arise will ensure you get the components you need on time.
This includes every step of the production process. Below are some tips to consider as you move through each phase.
Creating a Prototype
Prototyping is standard practice in OEM manufacturing. It allows you to establish a relationship with the company and lay out clear expectations about the process and the product.
This includes discussions of production timelines. If the OEM manufacturer is warehousing products for you, this is a chance to go over inventory management practices and standards.
Finally, the prototyping phase is the time to cover documentation. This includes conversations about how you will handle the exchange of files, blueprints, invoices, and other important documents.
Be sure to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This will grant the manufacturer permission to receive the product design necessary to produce the prototype while ensuring protection and privacy.
If both parties are completely satisfied with the prototyping phase, they will continue with pre-production. This step involves honing production processes to make a component that is ready to go to market.
Pre-production is an opportunity to take what was learned during prototyping and apply it to the production processes. This will improve efficiencies and end product quality.
Production begins when the OEM has finalized all adjustments from pre-production. Before actual production begins, the OEM manufacturer may ask you to sign a “manufacturing services agreement” (MSA). This solidifies all the expectations from each party.
The MSA is an important step for the manufacturer. It allows them to move forward to supply chain arrangements and set up inventory management. It also allows them to budget and put a production schedule in place.
Be sure you are comfortable with everything laid out in the agreement. This includes any applicable warranty information and production details. It also should specify steps for making changes during certain phases of post-production.
Once production begins, it may feel that things are “on autopilot.” This may be the case, and regular communication may slow a bit, but the manufacturing relationship does not end.
During post-production, be sure to schedule regular meetings for updates and adjustments. Spelling out this schedule in the MSA is even better.
As with any type of sales business, production needs may change. A reputable OEM manufacturer will want to help you meet all your demands, even amidst unforeseen circumstances.
Being upfront about changing needs or production specifics is the best course of action. It will allow you and the manufacturer to iron a plan together that is beneficial to both companies.
Find OEM Manufacturing Services
Now that you understand the basics of the OEM manufacturing processes, you get the most out of your agreement. Remember that the most important thing is to establish clear communication with the company. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page throughout all planning and production phases.
Shield Works Precision Manufacturing provides customized OEM production, assembly, and warehousing solutions to an international client base. We pride ourselves on maintaining the highest standards of customer service and product management. Reach out to us today to learn more about services or to get a customized quote today.
China’s factories ran at record-high levels in the second quarter of 2021. High demand for Chinese exports in places like the US and Europe fueled this production.
Would you like to take advantage of the benefits a Chinese OEM manufacturer can bring your business, but you’re not sure where to start? Are you wondering how to choose an OEM manufacturer?
Learn more here about how to find the right OEM manufacturer for your products.
Why Use an OEM Manufacturer?
Many companies don’t have the resources for high-volume manufacturing or highly specialized products. You can outsource manufacturing to reduce costs and avoid the complexities of keeping production in-house.
An Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) makes the components for your product. You provide the design specifications for anything the OEM produces. You receive the parts and assemble them into the finished product with your trademark.
An OEM with experience making products similar to yours knows the product assembly process. They already have a supply chain in place. You can put this experience to work for you.
Domestic or Overseas Production?
Before you start looking for the right OEM manufacturer, you need to decide if you want to use a factory in the US or overseas. The best solution for your product manufacturing depends on your business priorities.
Pros and Cons of Domestic Manufacturing
Domestic manufacturing has some advantages. Using a factory in the US can give you more direct control over production. You can visit the site more regularly. You avoid dealing with tariffs and international shipping logistics.
American factories usually let you order small batches of a product. Overseas factories often have large minimum orders.
The main disadvantage of using an American factory is that you’ll almost always pay more. In addition, you may not be able to find a domestic manufacturer for some types of products.
Pros and Cons of Overseas Manufacturing
Using a factory overseas has several benefits. A factory in a country like China will almost always be cheaper than a factory in the US.
You have more options. The vast number of companies that have outsourced their manufacturing to China means that you’ll usually be able to find several sites with experience making your type of product.
Possible challenges include longer shipping times and handling import/export regulations. You’ll also need to navigate differences in business cultures. However, you can address many of the issues surrounding overseas production when you start vetting potential manufacturers.
Start Looking for a Chinese Manufacturing Plant
You can get suggestions for Chinese manufacturers you may want to use from many sources. Your industry trade association can give you potential names. The small business network for your industry is another resource.
You can also get recommendations from business contacts and networking groups.
International trade shows in the US that attract Chinese manufacturers are a good starting point as well. You can meet manufacturers and make connections with exhibitors selling products similar to yours.
Online directories of overseas manufacturers are a good resource. These sites include:
- Global Sources
- Global Sourcing Specialists
Searching by industry or product category can help you find manufacturers with expertise in your area.
Narrow Down Your Choices
You can use several factors to narrow down your list of potential manufacturing partners. One of the most important considerations is to find a factory that makes products similar to yours. Some manufacturers will offer to make anything, but the quality will likely be lower.
Look for online ratings and reviews to see what other buyers say about the manufacturer.
Finally, look for manufacturers that primarily export to the US and other western countries. These manufacturers already have experience complying with the necessary quality standards, product safety standards, labeling regulations, and packaging requirements. They’re more likely to have the international shipping logistics you need.
You can also look for a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise (WFOE). A WFOE manufacturer has its production facilities in China. However, the company has non-Chinese ownership and management.
Depending on its ownership, a WFOE will give you the quality and service western businesses expect.
Protect Your Intellectual Property
Protecting your intellectual property (IP) is critically important as you begin the process of outsourcing your manufacturing. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are some tools you can use. Be sure your legal protections are designed for international situations.
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legally binding contract. It helps protect you against other companies copying your product. Before you start getting quotes from potential manufacturers, they should sign an NDA.
Questions to Ask a Potential OEM Manufacturer
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to start asking some detailed questions. Ask about the labor practices of any factory you’re considering. Be sure to verify this information the best you can. Unsafe working conditions or abnormally low compensation for workers are at minimum a PR risk for you.
Ask to see a business license and documentation of the quality control system. Recent proof of inspections or third-party audits is also important. A reputable company will give you this information.
Other questions to ask include:
- What is your experience making this type of product?
- Who are some of your current clients?
- Do you do all the work in-house or subcontract to other factories?
- What is the minimum order size?
- How long will it take to make my order?
- What is the price for samples?
- What is the price for production?
- What are the payment terms?
With this information, you can choose two or three finalists and ask them to make a sample of your product. Comparing the results will show you which Chinese manufacturing plant you should use.
Choose Your OEM Manufacturer
The process for finding and evaluating an OEM manufacturer in China can seem overwhelming. Thorough research will help you find the best factory for your products.
Avoid the hassle and choose Shield Works for your product manufacturing. We’re a 100% British-owned WFOE. You get benefits like full IP protection, a live video stream from your manufacturing zone, and ISO standard quality control.
We also offer warehousing and logistics. Contact us today to find out how we can be your outsourcing solution.