Strategic Planning. Training. Market Positioning.

Posts tagged ‘electronics manufacturing services’

Negotiation Tips and Tricks for Program Managers

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.

Program Management Models

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.

One Good Idea

Years ago when I was part of what was then called the IPC EMSI Council, we used to end every meeting by going around the room sharing one good idea from each company. I still include time for that in the IPC EMS Program Management certification courses I teach because it always opens the door to new thoughts among the students. And, occasionally when I come across something I find interesting I do it in my blog.

The one good idea I’m sharing today comes from Concept2. They are an exercise equipment company that makes rowing and ski machines. I bought one of their rowing machines because they were top rated, had almost zero customer bad reviews and actually manufacture their equipment in the US (we can’t keep manufacturing in the US if we don’t make an effort buy US-made products). I discovered after I bought my machine that I wasn’t just getting a product, I was actually buying into a community of rowers. They sponsor global competitions and individual or team “challenges” several times a year. They have even partnered with a third-party software vendor to make it possible for rowers to virtually race each other.

The one good idea comes from their challenge schedule. Their end-of-year holiday challenge is for rowers to either row 100,000 meters or 200,000 meters between black Friday and Christmas Eve. Unlike their other challenges, where the reward is simply a certificate and a listing on an online Honor Roll, they donate money for each of rowers meeting one of the two challenge levels (the amount doubles if you hit the higher goal). So, in addition to motivating exercise during the holidays, folks that hit that goal are helping raise money for three charities. It is impossible to cheat because the rower “reports” your meters to an online log via a phone app or computer link.

I’ve noticed that several of my client companies have wellness programs and do company-sponsored food drives around the holidays for their local food banks–it is a pretty common practice in manufacturing firms. So, the one good idea I’m proposing is that if your company has both a wellness program and a food drive, consider finding a way to link the two by including a company donation tied to wellness program participants meeting set exercise goals. Its a win-win for both efforts. A few tips to make the program count:

  • Make sure the goal achievement payment promises will align with any budgetary constraints (it is demotivating to hear that goal achievement levels exceeded the amount the company is willing to donate)
  • Define the exercises that will qualify for the goal so there is no issue with what participants define as exercise and make it a broad enough list that people without access to exercise machines or a gym can still participate
  • Make sure the metric is easy for everyone to measure (time is a great measurement, since it is easy to check your watch)
  • Make it easy for people to log their hours as they happen in a central place (ideally an online spreadsheet)
  • Celebrate the accomplishment (a lunch, certificates, maybe an honor board).

Done right, employees have motivation to engage in healthy habits during a time when everyone typically overindulges, a local charity gets a little extra support and good “social responsibility” PR is had by all. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Establishing an Operation in Mexico Means Evaluating Tradeoffs

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.

EMS Session at SMTA International Focused on Lean Manufacturing Strategy


If you are planning on attending SMTA International in Rosemont, Illinois mark your calendars for this Tuesday conference event that Mike Buetow from Circuits Assembly and I will be co-chairing:

Taking the Cost Out of EMS: Getting the Best Return for Lean Initiatives

Sept. 29, 2015

11 am – 12:30pm

In today’s world of variable demand and higher mix product, electronics manufacturing services (EMS) companies need to be flexible and agile to respond to changing customer needs. At the same time, EMS companies also need to address efficiency and cost reduction in an environment characterized by razor thin margins. Does a more holistic approach to implementing Lean manufacturing philosophy hold the answers to best addressing these challenges? Join us as a regional EMS provider and supplier of manufacturing shop floor control solutions discuss how a Lean, yet agile EMS operation can be created by rethinking how customers, the supply chain, support functions and manufacturing operations work together in an interconnected Lean environment. Following the presentations, there will be a panel discussion with the audience focused on ways this type of holistic approach can eliminate the common constraints to effective Lean implementation found in the EMS environment.


  • Lean Flow on the SMT Factory Floor
    • Michael Ford, Mentor Graphics, Valor Division
  • Applying Lean Philosophies to Supply Chain Management in EMS
    • Wally Johnson, Firstronic
  • Panel Discussion

For more information and to register, visit

Branding, Marketing and Selling in EMS

My Circuits Assembly article this month looks at the concepts of branding, marketing and selling. Like my recent Leader vs. Manager post, this is another area where words are used interchangeably to refer to very different concepts. Branding, Marketing and Selling looks at the ways these concepts interrelate and specific ways that electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers can capitalize on well thought out strategy in these areas. Read the full article here.

Fully Charged

Medical Product Outsourcing just published a good article on EMS trends in the medical sector. Yes, I’m quoted, but more importantly Managing Editor Michael Barbella did a great job of looking at some interesting product trends.

The Right Way to Disappoint A Customer

My December 2014 Circuits Assembly article actually started out as a rant about a furniture store with a bad inventory tracking system. However, it turned out to be one of the most popular articles I’ve written in terms of comments generated. The bottom line is that it is never if you will disappoint a customer. Instead, it is how can you best resolve things when something goes wrong. This article looks at the right way and wrong way to handle things. And, yes, I did finally get the couch–it wasn’t the one I originally ordered but by the time it showed up in mid-December, it was one I was happy with and I felt that the salesperson was as invested as was in resolving the issue the right way because we had gone from a relationship of non-communication and disappointing surprises to one where she was calling me with shipping updates almost weekly.

Are You Getting the Return You Expect From Your Program Managers?

Part of the reason I’ve been a little lax on my posting is that I’ve had a heavy travel schedule that included teaching segments of the IPC EMS Program Management Certification course as well as co-organizing a session at SMTAI on conflict minerals with Mike Buetow from Circuits Assembly.

My October Circuits Assembly column looks at ways to build a unified program management team and ensure that all program managers understand how best to do their jobs. Program management is truly the most difficult job in EMS and anything that reduces the learning curves of new program managers will generally save your company money.

EMS Marketing is A Numbers Game

Amazed at the number of views a recent blog post of mine (The Five Biggest Myths in Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) Sales and Marketing) received, I expanded on the topic in my August Circuits Assembly column: 

EMS companies typically fit into one of three categories:

  • Those that have excellent marketing and make every dollar count.
  • Those that have a marketing budget and waste money without a clear plan.
  • Those that depend entirely on the sales team for marketing.

Not surprisingly, the companies in the first category have the biggest budgets and likely get the best return on investment. Why? Because, like sales, marketing in EMS is a numbers game. People have to be exposed to a message five to seven times before they remember seeing it at all. Develop a marketing plan that schedules a series of activities promoting a consistent message over the course of a year, and your market will remember seeing it. Buy a single ad, book at the last minute at a local trade show, or post an occasional message on your LinkedIn page, and you’ll be in the crowd that complains marketing doesn’t work. Put the entire load on sales and you’ll have a frustrated, overworked team with marginal results.

Read the full article.

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