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Moving From Job Shop to Full Service EMS Provider

june 2018 articleYour customer wants to grow. Are you ready for the transition?

One of the difficult challenges small electronics manufacturing services (EMS) companies face is the transition from a transaction-based job shop to a relationship-based, full-service EMS provider. There are a number of issues to consider prior to taking that journey. My June column in Circuits Assembly, looks at some of the issues a job shop should analyze in determining whether to make this evolutionary change. Read the full article here.

The Trump Effect, One Year Later

Back in February I wrote an article for Circuits Assembly, titled “The Trump Effect, One Year Later,” where I highlighted some of the positive effects those policies have had. While the stock market has gone back to being more of roller coaster, I still feel we are looking at more positives than negatives. Tax policy really has improved for both individuals and small business. Jobs numbers look good. The economy has taken a slight dip because of the demand bubble created by last year’s hurricanes and floods, but most companies in the EMS sector are still reporting strong sales. Trade talk is still tough, but I suspect that will work itself out favorably. We’ve got ground to regain from past concessions.

The one car wreck I see still on the road is health insurance. My health insurance company conveniently informed me after open enrollment closed (and they raised premiums an astronomical amount) that they would cancel my policy at the end of the year. So, I’ll be shopping in the desert wasteland of HSA-compatible junk insurance policies at the end of the year unless Congress decides to actually do some work on healthcare before the mid-terms. While I carry individual insurance I know many smaller EMS companies struggle with this issue as well. Letting the market meltdown before initiating a fix is a slap in the face to small employers and responsible individuals who have been shaken down by insurers for decades throughout the U.S. Hopefully, that will change.

All that said (or vented), I still think the business community is in a better place right now. What do you think? Feel free to comment.

Program Management and Negotiation

My August column in Circuits Assembly focuses on getting to win-win in OEM-EMS negotiations.

One of the recurring themes I hear in electronics manufacturing services (EMS) is how challenging it is for many program managers and salespeople to negotiate with customers. I’m often told the industry has changed, but when I ask hard questions I tend to find that the biggest change is that the people doing the negotiation seem to know a lot a less about the business of building electronic products than their predecessors. And this isn’t just on the EMS side. Years ago, OEMs put highly technical senior people on the team that managed outsourcing efforts. While those people were tough negotiators, they negotiated based on strong knowledge of the processes and challenges inherent in electronics manufacturing. Similarly, EMS program managers (PMs) were often pulled from operations. If expenses were increasing, they had the knowledge to explain the reason a price increase was necessary. Read more here.

EMS Recruitment and Service Sector Parallels

Most manufacturing firms I know (both EMS and precision engineering) are hiring right now. In many labor markets, that can be difficult. I continue to wonder how much of this is that the right applicants aren’t available versus that the right applicants don’t know manufacturing is a career option. Like many of you, I’ve sometimes beaten my head against the wall trying to explain to young people why factory work is great career option both in hiring back in my corporate days, and to friends and relatives entering the job market. My favorite example was when I was interviewing marketing manager candidates in Florida and one applicant looked around my rather spartan, windowless office and told me he really wanted a job that had a nicer office. Fortunately, the next applicant went out on the manufacturing floor and was amazed by the prospect of being able to work in a place that built electronics. SMT placement machines fascinated her. It was the same type of excitement that brought me to EMS in 1981–it is pretty cool to work in a place where you see new products ahead of the rest of the world.

That said, the message in my latest Circuits Assembly article is that the best “target” applicants may be mid-career folks looking for a change. The service sector (particularly hospitality) typically hires people with required skills rather than trains and promotes from within for supervisory and management positions. It can be physically demanding work. The end result is a pool of workers with little advancement potential looking for better options. The challenge is that those workers may not be looking at manufacturing jobs. Their vision of a factory may be a dark, dingy, noisy workplace. They may have heard that manufacturing jobs will all be replaced by robots (although in many cases they are more at risk of being replaced by kiosks in their current jobs–thanks to the fight for $15). They may simply assume that they don’t have the skillset to work in a factory. Or, they may not have a clue that these jobs exist.

The benefit of looking at this segment of workers is that they are experienced enough to appreciate concepts that younger workers may not. Where a younger worker overestimates their value; an older worker appreciates seeing a framework for advancement. Where a younger worker is looking for a cool workplace; an older worker appreciates benefits like health insurance, paid vacation and predictable hours. In short, workers who have enough work experience to understand the realities of their current career choice have the understanding to appreciate much of what a career in electronics manufacturing has to offer. Read the full article here.

EMS and Employee Recruitment

SMTMay2017_selected-pages_Page_1I wrote an article that focused on TeligentEMS’ teaming efforts with Tallahassee Community College (TCC) to develop an educational program for SMT operators in SMT Magazine in May. I really enjoyed writing this article for two reasons. First, as much as the Gator alum in me hates praising anything in Tallahassee, TCC really has its act together. It is helping to change lives as well as provide an education to folks who either don’t have the time or the money to spend on a four-year degree. Second, I was able to interview a production worker who had changed her life by taking advantage of SMT training at TCC and then going to work at TeligentEMS. Much of that interview is in her own words and I think in many ways she reflects the sentiments of many 30-something workers who are trapped in service sector jobs and looking for a path to a job with advancement potential that doesn’t involve a long period of unemployment and retraining in order to make the switch. For EMS companies facing challenges in recruiting production employees, this article highlights a formula that seems to be working.

Revisiting the Trump Effect: Dealing with the Fear Factor

March 2017_Page_1My latest article in Circuits Assembly looks at the conversation many contract manufacturers and Mexican shelter companies are having with their customers: what happens if a border tax is implemented? From a sales and marketing standpoint there are definitely steps to reassure customers and formulate contingency plans that should be taken now. Read more here.

The Trump Effect

My January 2016 article in Circuits Assembly looks at the Trump Effect and Manufacturing. The correct link is provided, but right now it appears to navigate to CA’s home page so look for the article on the left side of that page, if the link doesn’t take you to directly to the article. I look forward to a year of breaking paradigms and from what I’ve heard in conversations, a lot of EMS CEOs are hoping for the same thing. Read the full article: The Trump Effect and Manufacturing

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