Electronic Manufacturing Services, or EMS, are specialized manufacturing services that include sourcing, quality control, assembly, testing, and packaging. These services allow companies to outsource the production of their electronic products in order to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and speed up time-to-market. EMSs often focus on the production of specific types of electronics parts or assemblies, such as circuit boards and connectors.
A brief history of components and electronic manufacturing services
The use of electronic components has been around for centuries, but it wasn't until the 20th century that they began to be mass-produced and used in a wide variety of products. In the early 1900s, vacuum tubes were used in radios and other electronic devices, but they were large and unreliable. In the 1950s, transistors were invented, which allowed for smaller and more reliable electronic devices. This led to the development of integrated circuits in the 1960s, which allowed for even smaller and more complex electronic parts and devices.
The rise of consumer electronics and the increasing use of electronic components in industries such as automotive, aerospace, and medical devices has necessitated the rise of an industry to produce all these specialized electronics. If you follow the narrative from the first vacuum tubes to the manufacture of semiconductors now, you’ll discover the obvious and significant economic boom. In fact, the global electronic manufacturing services market is valued at over $500 billion and is expected to continue growing in the coming years.
Today, we live in an age where it’s not uncommon for people to own tons of electronic devices. In fact, a Deloitte study found that the average US household has a total of 22 connected devices!
The move towards more electronics, and more specialized electronics, being incorporated into more items is only set to continue. Since the emergence of the Internet of Things, the pace has only accelerated:
- Emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT): The concept of IoT, which refers to the interconnection of devices via the internet, gained popularity in the late 20th century. In the 1990s and early 2000s, researchers and businesses began exploring the potential of embedding sensors, processors, and communication capabilities into everyday objects to enable them to collect and share data. This laid the foundation for the integration of electronics into various items.
- Advancements in Miniaturization and Connectivity: Technological advancements in miniaturization of electronic components, such as sensors, processors, and wireless communication modules, made it possible to incorporate them into smaller and more discrete form factors. These advancements also led to the development of more efficient and low-power consumption devices, making it feasible to power electronics using batteries or other energy sources.
- Evolution of Wireless Communication Technologies: The development of wireless communication technologies, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular networks, provided the infrastructure for seamless connectivity and data exchange between devices. This enabled the creation of smart devices that could communicate with each other and with the internet, leading to the proliferation of connected devices in various industries, including consumer electronics, healthcare, automotive, home automation, and more.
- Demand for Connectivity and Automation: As consumers and businesses increasingly sought ways to stay connected and leverage technology for convenience, efficiency, and automation, there was a growing demand for smart devices. Consumers started embracing smart gadgets such as smartphones, smart TVs, smart thermostats, and smart appliances, while industries adopted IoT solutions for asset tracking, remote monitoring, predictive maintenance, and other applications.
- Convergence of Technologies: The convergence of various technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, big data, and advanced sensors, further accelerated the integration of electronics into everyday items. AI and machine learning algorithms enabled devices to process data and make decisions, while cloud computing provided the storage and processing power required for data analytics. Advanced sensors allowed devices to capture and interpret data from the physical world, enabling them to respond to changes and adapt their functionality.
With such widespread and growing use of electronics in our lives today (and as technology advances), there is a constant demand for skilled workers who can manufacture these devices at affordable prices.
What is a Contract Manufacturer (CM)?
Contract Manufacturers (CMs) are businesses that specialize in manufacturing products for other businesses. They can provide a range of services, from simple component assembly to testing and packaging. CMs are used by electronics companies to outsource some or all of the production process, allowing them to focus on their core business.
What is an Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) company and how are they used by electronics companies?
An Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) company is a specialized contract manufacturer that provides a comprehensive range of services related to the design, manufacturing, testing, and assembly of electronic products for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). EMS companies offer end-to-end solutions, from concept to finished product, including printed circuit board (PCB) assembly, box build assembly, product testing, supply chain management, and after-sales support. EMS companies are crucial in the electronics industry, as they enable OEMs to outsource their manufacturing needs, reduce costs, accelerate time-to-market, and focus on their core competencies.
How are Electronic Manufacturing Services different from a Contract Manufacturer?
Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) and Contract Manufacturers (CMs) are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two. EMS companies offer a wider range of services beyond manufacturing, including product design, engineering, testing, supply chain management, and after-sales support, whereas Contract Manufacturers primarily focus on manufacturing and assembly. EMS companies often provide value-added services such as design for manufacturability (DFM) and design for testing (DFT), which help optimize product design for efficient production and testing processes.
Another key difference is the level of involvement in the product lifecycle. EMS companies typically offer end-to-end solutions, covering the entire product lifecycle from concept to finished product and even after-sales support, whereas Contract Manufacturers may be more limited in their scope, focusing only on manufacturing and assembly according to the specifications provided by the OEM. EMS companies often act as strategic partners, providing expertise and guidance throughout the product development cycle, whereas Contract Manufacturers may have a more transactional relationship with the OEM, solely focused on manufacturing and delivery.
Getting started with an EMS isn’t as overwhelming as it might feel at first
EMSs and CMs provide a wide range of manufacturing services that are essential for many industries. These services help companies to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and speed up time-to-market. They also provide skilled jobs and support economic growth in many countries around the world.
Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) and Contract Manufacturers (CMs) are essential service providers for the global electronics industry. They help companies to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and speed up time-to-market instead of spending time searching for electronics parts online. EMSs are typically smaller and more specialized, while CMs are larger and have broader expertise across multiple industries and product types. Together, these services support economic growth and provide skilled jobs in many countries around the world.
Finding the right EMS or CM can feel a little overwhelming - especially when you dive into diversifying your supply chain to build resilience into electronic production operations. Learn more about how to choose your first contract manufacturer right here.