The increased cost and complexity of designing, prototyping, assembling, troubleshooting, and redesigning modern RF/microwave assemblies that meet stringent government, military, and aerospace requirements is leading to a substantial growth in US-based contract manufacturing. In order to support OEMs and Primes, which can benefit from the diverse testing, assembly, and design capabilities of quality contract manufacturers, some such companies have become experts in being resources in helping achieve narrow design cycles and hitting challenging performance metrics. Also, several US-based contract manufacturers have expanded their expertise into repair and redesign capabilities that can significantly lower operation and project costs without impacting time-to-market.
Many OEMs and Primes feel stranded with the perceived necessity of burdening their precious design and test engineers with time-consuming troubleshooting and repetitive iterative testing tasks. Also, much of the most valuable resources, engineering and decision-maker time, is spent handling last minute details and minutia that is only a small fraction of the capabilities of the organization. Understanding in what aspects an organization shines, and what tasks are limiting profitability and wasting valuable internal resources, can help to begin planning for offloading non-essential tasks to trusted partnerships with contract manufacturers.
Often, the exact capabilities and resources that some key US-based contract manufacturers have is overlooked and underestimated. Also, there may be highly competent and experienced engineering staff available at a contract manufacturer with expertise that could be used to bolster a design, manufacturing line, or testing strategy. It may be valuable to have knowledge of the locally available US-based contract manufacturers and develop an understanding of what facilities and capabilities they possess, as design and manufacturing roadblocks can occur at the most inopportune times.
Testing to meet rigorous governmental, military/defense, avionic, and space standards and requirements is extremely costly and time consuming for most organizations. For example, RF/microwave test equipment that can properly evaluate the performance and provide measurements of the latest radar and communications technologies comes with a substantial upfront cost, monetarily and with necessary expertise to operate. Some contract manufacturers employ some of the best RF/microwave test engineers in the industry and make it their business to have the ability to meet the latest testing requirements.
Though and OEMs and Primes may pride themselves on what they can do in house, maintaining the staff, equipment, and facility space to perform some assembly tasks may cut into the bottom line and lead to less revenue generated from contract wins. Evaluating the cost-benefit of internally supporting certain RF/microwave assembly capability and staff may lead to the discovery that much of the most costly work can be more efficient offloaded to a shared resources, increasing the profitability of the whole organization.
Unlike cars and personal computers, RF/microwave testing and manufacturing equipment isn’t affordable enough to just discard and replace every few years. However, many OEMs and Primes are caught doing just that, throwing away hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars of equipment that may only require cost-effective repair work and retrofitting. The shifting standards and advanced capability demanded by the most recent government and military/defense projects can be better met, profitably, with appropriate use of all resources, even the equipment which may appear obsolete at first glance. Some contract manufacturers have the ability to assess, repair, and even assist with necessary equipment rentals or replacements, possibly providing huge savings and preventing missed project deadlines or budgets.
A US-based contract manufacturer can easily be integrated into an OEM’s approved vendor list (AVL) with purchases of common supply materials, such as components and bonding tools. Having access to a US-based contract manufacturer that also supplies common bill of material (BOM) needs can help to ensure their other capabilities are available at short notice with the need arises.
To learn more, read our latest tech brief concerning US-based contract manufacturing.