One of the interesting dynamics I’ve observed during my career in electronics manufacturing services is the evolution of sourcing strategy. In the ’80s, outsourcing was a risky decision that involved the highest level of the OEM organization. Final decisions looked not only at the immediate need, but at the ability of an EMS provider to support the business needs longer term. Today, outsourcing is more of a commodity decision, and sourcing teams are often staffed by people with far less knowledge of the manufacturing process or the softer issues in the total cost equation. My April 2016 Circuits Assembly article focuses on way to achieve lowest total cost.
Over the years I’ve noticed those new to program management often find negotiating with customers challenging. So, in my February 2016 Circuits Assembly article, I highlighted strategies for improving negotiation outcomes.
It is important to understand the role of the program manager has two parts: First, a program manager is the face of the company to their customers. Second, the program manager is charged with keeping the program on track within the contractor’s business model. In some cases, this role may include managing profitability. In other cases, it is simply keeping program metrics in line with the contractor’s model.
The reality is that if the program doesn’t make a profit or becomes a nightmare that causes chaos in materials or the production area, that customer most likely will be disappointed. Addressing project issues early ultimately contributes to increased customer satisfaction, smoother production flow and greater program profitability. The article lists seven strategies to improve negotiations.
Strategic vs. tactical: which makes more sense?
EMS program management models can vary by provider or even by facility or program team. No one model is ideal for all account types. However, typically program managers can be divided into two groups: tactical and strategic. Tactical PMs focus more on day-to-day activities, while strategic PMs tend to take more of a leadership role relative to their accounts. While many organizations consciously make the decision as to whether their PMs should be tactical or strategic, in some cases it just evolves one way or the other. The downside to lack of defined program management focus is the lines of authority and responsibility can become blurred. In my December 2015 Circuits Assembly article, I looked at both models and discuss the drivers that make one or the other appropriate.
Several months ago, I attended a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) event in El Paso, TX. Two of my electronics manufacturing services clients provided me with video, photos and sample printed circuit boards to use in a display about manufacturing. IPC and SMTA also provided materials. My October 2015 article in Circuits Assembly asks the question: Are manufacturers engaged enough?
This is an area I continue to question. With the cost of college, I honestly believe that it is very important for students to walk into to college with a good idea of the job options related to their chosen degree program and a roadmap for internships and/or co-op programs that can help them build a network during college that leads to job offers once they get a degree. Not everyone agrees with me. The educators I’ve discussed this with tend to feel that students should not be this focused. One even went so far as to say that it isn’t the university’s role to train students for private industry. To me, that shows the magnitude of the disconnect. My thoughts on focus and employer engagement weren’t that a university should be training people to the whims of employers, but that students paying $40-$60K for a degree should have a reasonable expectation that they were leaving college with marketable job skills and hopefully a path to a job that doesn’t involve a hairnet and French fries.
What do you think? Feel free to leave comments.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve started blogging for the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) at James Madison University. My latest post there relates to Establishing Your Brand as a professional. ICPM has a Certified Manager program aligned with the National Management Association (NMA). Their blog is composed of contributions from CMs on a range of management topics and is definitely a good read.
In my latest column in Circuits Assembly, I look at the challenges associated with establishing an operation in Mexico. The increased cost competitiveness of Mexico’s manufacturing, migration of automotive and aerospace clusters, and a lessening of the violence that has plagued the country for much of the last decade have incentivized a new wave of US-based regional manufacturers to look at the benefits of opening operations there as a the next step in their expansion plans.
That said, Mexico remains a country full of complexity when it comes to establishing a viable operation. There isn’t one right answer for best location or business structure. This month we look at some of the tradeoffs to consider when establishing a small operation in Mexico. Read more here.