Updated: Mar 10, 2021
The quality of your finished product depends on any OEM that you include in the process. If you’re putting together a high-end record player, and the OEM making the needles lets you down with a substandard product, it doesn’t matter how good the other parts of the product are.
Finding an OEM is not necessarily easy. A quick google search will bring you a number of options for most product types, but how do you know whether they are right for you? If you’re looking to build a long-term relationship with an OEM supplier, there are a few vital considerations before going full steam ahead with your project.
In this guide, we’ve included some of the top tips for finding an OEM for your product to make sure you are happy with the product you are working so hard to create.
Focus On OEMs In Your Product Niche
Around 40% of the world’s products are manufactured in Asia. In fact, the Chinese manufacturing sector added a value of around $4 trillion to their economy in 2018.
There are thousands of companies to choose from in manufacturing hotspots in China, Taiwan, Japan, and other Asian countries. A lot of companies will be happy to work with you, but it is about finding the most suitable OEM for your product.
The more you can niche down and find a company that understands your business, the better the results are likely to be.
For example, take a moment to think about the “electronics” niche. This is a huge area. According to Wikipedia, over 90% of all laptop computer components are made in Asia. An OEM that makes parts for a laptop, or aftermarket products for computers, is probably an expert in this area. If you’re making a computer product then you might want to work with them, but if you are making an audio product, you’re better off finding a specialist in this area.
OEMs will often be able to show you examples of the companies they have worked with, and even products they have manufactured components for. They may have also acted as ODM and made complete products too. This will give an idea of the quality they can offer, and knowledge of products in the same niche as yours.
Talk to Their Team
When you are thinking about starting a partnership with any new OEM or business partner, it is important to have some discussions. This way, you can ensure that you are on the same page, and both interested in working with one another.
However, there is more to it than just making an inquiry.
The best OEMs will be keen to work with you. This means that they will be happy to accommodate your needs, send you samples, and discuss examples of people they have worked with. Don’t be afraid to ask for endorsements and testimonials from their clients, either. This is a good way to verify that they do good work.
It’s okay to use this as an opportunity to vet potential partners. The chances are that you are going to be working closely with them, and you need to know that you can create a workflow that provides space for feedback and good teamwork, even if you are half the world away. Though there may be a time difference, if the OEM’s staff are difficult to get hold of or unresponsive over email it can cause alarm bells.
Discuss Products in Technical Language
One of the best ways to ensure you end up with a professional, well-made product is to share technical language with the OEM.
You can inspect other impressive products in the industry, or similar products made by a manufacturer, or send over your own designs. Discuss specifications and see if you share common ground and a vision for the product.
Understanding and clearly communicating your design documentation, such as CAD diagrams, and asking them to provide technical feedback is a good way to check the expertise of an OEM, and sending a prototype or sample of the product you plan to produce and opening it up for discussion and feedback is a great way to check you are aligned. At the same time, you are effectively checking that the manufacturer has the ability, creativity, and attention to detail that can take your product to the next level.
We’ve already mentioned some ways in which you can get samples from these brands, such as buying products you know that they have been involved with.
However, one of the best ways to get samples is simply to ask. Though it isn’t fair to expect a company to produce a product specifically for you for free, they might be happy to send you some example products. If they also operate as an ODM, the company might also be willing to send you complete products for you to test.
Rather than just white labeling the product, remember that the OEM will be able to make adjustments for you, or just manufacture specific components. This is the way many products work. For instance, Apple’s product components are made in Asia before being put together in America.
Depending on what product you are discussing, many OEMs will be happy to send you a few samples for free. Even if the components aren’t the same as what you will need, this gives you the opportunity to test the build-quality and manufacturing specifications.
Check the Testing Criteria and QC Checks
In an ideal world, you would arrange a way to visit the facility where your components are being made. This is not an option for a lot of smaller companies. If this is your first venture into OEMs and manufacturing a product, or you are looking to create a relatively short run of products to start with, then you need to gather information in other ways.
Fortunately, as the customer, you’ll be able to ask plenty of questions of your own. Companies should be more than happy to let you ask about their quality standards.
Good OEM companies will conduct quality control checks at numerous stages throughout the manufacturing. Ask your potential partner about this. Are the checks done by a person or a machine?
This ties in with what standards and guarantees the company can give you. For example, they may promise to stay below a certain rate of defective products to protect you and your customers.
This may be a chance for you to have some input when looking for an OEM too. You can always ask them if there is a way to include extra QC checks. Even if this comes with a cost, it is worth it if it means that you get a better end product.
Opt for OEMs Who Are Flexible
Though we’ve already mentioned the fact that you should go for OEMs that are as niche-specific as possible, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be flexible.
To get the best results, there will be plenty of scenarios where an OEM needs to flex to your needs. There might be an element of “meeting in the middle” on some aspects of your product development.
A lot can change quickly in product design, and at any time during the process of manufacturing your product. Flexibility involves problem-solving, and ultimately, you want to work with an OEM that you know has your best interests at heart. This means they will be clear communicators, and be willing to flex to your own specific needs, even as they evolve.
Bonus Tip: Always Communicate Clearly
It is astounding how many issues that crop up in business and manufacturing could be solved by discussing things clearly. This means clear product specifications and giving as much detail as possible even in the early stages.
If you are not able to offer clear communication to a manufacturer, it is incredibly easy for things to get confused.
You need to make sure that your product vision is totally clear and made to your specifications. The right OEM is able to understand this and will keep you informed at every step, but without clear instruction and communication, it is impossible.
OEMs should be able to understand your needs as a company, and keep up to date with industry trends. This means that you shouldn’t be afraid to use industry terminology and share specific plans with them. The more information you can provide early in the process, the better.
There is bound to be a lot of back and forth when you are discussing your manufacturing process and coming up with a plan for your OEM. If you don’t have the time yourself, ensure that there is a product specialist in your team who can oversee all of these communications and be responsible for keeping everyone informed.
There are other aspects that may come into play when you are looking to find an OEM. For example, you will have a budget allocated, so pricing needs to be discussed to ensure you retain a healthy profit margin.
Finding the right product partner and OEM to work with usually means building a long-term relationship. In order to do this, make sure you spend the time upfront to do your research. Discuss your project thoroughly with the OEM and check that they have a strong history before you take the plunge. This can save a number of issues cropping up in the future.
If you are looking for a Hi-Fi and audio OEM, get in touch with our team to see exactly how we can help you to make your product dream become a reality.