A rising need for electronics devices offers huge opportunity to those manufacturers that can deal with an increasing number of complex issues. Managing director at Offshore Electronics, Steve Marshall, explains further.

An estimated 75 billion devices connected by the Internet of Things (IoT) will be installed by 2025, says a report from Statista Research Department. Manufacturing and supplying these devices is a huge opportunity for electronics manufacturers, but it comes with a number of complex challenges.

Although making more devices is not so difficult, juggling the range of conflicting factors, such as rising labour costs, fluctuating demand, foreign currency movements and supply chain instability all add complexity. 

Companies that are agile enough to deal with these issues are more likely to succeed, and ‘agility’ – having an operation that is flexible and adaptable enough to survive unpredictable conditions – is proving the hidden secret to business success. Agility is as much about a company’s culture as it is about its technology. An agile company is proactive, anticipating problems and having a plan in place to take appropriate action as needed.

Building agility

The first step to introducing agility is to create an agile ‘culture’ within an organisation, where employees communicate effectively and can solve problems rapidly. Communication is critical and works on many levels. It can mean feeding back field data, in order to make improved products; reacting quickly to industry trends, which demand that products are modified or overhauled; perhaps most importantly, it encourages communication between organisations, to ensure that all partners make changes at the same time.

Often, communication goes beyond the inter-personal, extending to delivering data from one place to another, such as raw data from the production line, or even individual machines. An agile organisation can manipulate and manage this information in a way that helps it to anticipate problems and react to them.

New solutions

Finding success in today’s commercial environment usually means responding quickly and efficiently to changes in technology or market conditions. Some manufacturing solutions from the past do not work in the modern world.

In the past, companies gambled on reduced manufacturing costs by moving production to lower cost economies. This is not always appropriate nowadays, as costs have risen in countries such as China. At the same time, delivery times, currency exchange movements and limited flexibility can be a concern. In modern electronics, manufacturers must guarantee high product quality and fast delivery times and, in this instance, moving production to a lower-cost economy carries a risk that must be properly assessed.

The first step in becoming agile can be to step away from traditional solutions and find new ones. Outsourcing the manufacture of electronic assemblies to a contract electronics manufacturer (CEM) is an efficient way to increase flexibility. It allows companies to focus on their core expertise, to reduce risk and cost, and to accelerate time to market.

It takes effort to introduce manufacturing agility across an organisation. However, the desire to think in new ways and shun outdated ‘solutions’ to problems, is a good start. Opportunities within electronics manufacturing are plentiful and becoming agile could be the key factor behind grasping them with both hands.

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