When sourcing box build services, manufacturers must evaluate the sophistication of the provider’s assembly tools and methods, the strength of its engineering team, and the breadth of its capabilities.
Sophistication of tools & methods
Sophistication of tools does not always mean shiny new million-dollar equipment. It can be as simple as using specialized hand tools for manual operations, such as torque-limited tools that prevent over- or under-tightening of screws.
It should include the use of robotic systems where they are more efficient than manual operations, such as adhesive dispensing systems that reduce waste and provide better process control.
Sophistication of methods includes things like the use of an assembly line. This is not a new idea by any means, but you may be surprised at how many box build operations don’t use it. A worker putting together your entire system will not be as efficient as a worker specializing in one or two steps in the assembly of your product.
Strength of the engineering team
Manufacturing engineering is the primary focus for box build services, but look for design engineering capabilities as well.
A strong manufacturing engineering team develops robust processes for quality, repeatability, and efficiency. They specify and install the right tools, provide training, evaluate their effectiveness, and modify as needed to optimize the process and results. They design and build fixtures and jigs specific to your product’s assembly.
A strong design engineering team can help design, optimize, and source components such as wire harnesses, enclosures and others for your box build requirements. An in-house design team can help you dramatically reduce manufacturing time and cost, and also achieve better quality, through design for manufacturing.
For example, a box build customer recently came to us with a two-piece injection-molded enclosure designed to be sealed with adhesive. Our design engineers recommended a modification to the enclosure that would allow it to be ultrasonically welded: a much faster, less labor-intensive process that produces a stronger and cleaner seal.
We often optimize the box build process for our customers’ existing designs by deploying robotic systems to reduce labor as much as possible.
Breadth of capabilities
A box build services provider should have a breadth of capabilities that allow you to maximize the core value of box builds: that is, the efficiency of having everything taken care of in one place. These capabilities should include:
- Printed circuit board design
- SMT assembly production
- Enclosure design and sourcing
- System integration and assembly
- Embedded software and programming
- Inspection and final testing of the completed product
- Final packaging
Perhaps the most important capability is the ability to innovate and find unexpected ways to reduce your costs and improve your quality. For example, we have saved one customer a significant amount of money by using a hot wire cutter to rework their existing foam insert for final packaging, allowing them to use it for a new product rather than scrap it and procure new. While this was not part of the initial box build project, our team simply hated the idea of throwing away the pristine packaging and proposed this solution.
The best way to assess this capability is to visit the box build services operations, observe the processes, and ask why things are done the way they are.