Working with engineers is very similar to working with military personnel in that to communicate effectively you need to learn acronyms quickly! Follow along - OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) work with CMs (Contract Manufacturers) to bolster their supply chain. If your OEM produces electronics than your CM might be an EMS (Electronics Manufacturing Services). The real question is this: Is your EMS also your ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) or are they helping with DFM (Design for Manufacturing/Manufacturability)?
Confused yet? The reality is that each global contract manufacturer offers a unique value to your supply chain. Somewhere among the myriad of acronyms is an organization or two that can really help. Here is a quick simple run-down of the players:
ODM: Is really focused on the functional design of the product. Their strength is product design on behalf of the OEM. Design it, prototype it, test it, build a lot of them.
EMS (also the CM for this discussion): Will offer feedback about manufacturability. Their focus is the manufacturing of the product.
Today the lines have become less clear as many EMS companies are performing ODM services for their OEM clients. It is much easier for and EMS to provide ODM services than for an ODM to offer the manufacturing services of an EMS company. EMS companies became more vertically integrated by adding ODM. This shift has helped OEMs achieve a greater speed to market as they are working with one organization that understands manufacturing vs. two organizations and a longer development to market timeframe. The EMS may be at mercy of the ODM unless they move that service in-house.
Another layer is the EMS (CM, a little redundant) who starts at the DFM stage. The OEM has a design and product that is achieving some commercialization success. The EMS (CM) can offer DFM feedback to potentially increase the value of the product or reduce cost with component substitution or packaging modification to achieve greater efficiencies in transportation.
ODM wants to turn your concept or drawing into a product. A good EMS partner wants to take your product, offer input to make it better (maybe even cheaper) and deliver lots of them to the ship to addresses that you provide.
Check out a couple of additional blog posts to help you in your search for the right manufacturing partner: