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Why do EMS providers need CAD software? - Russell Poppe Guest Blog

Monday February 20, 2017 at 11:50am
Our customer Russell Poppe, Director of Technology at JJS Manufacturing takes us through the reasons EMS providers need CAD software, in a special guest blog post.

Why do EMS providers need CAD software?

  For a company offering sub-contracted electronics manufacturing services, investment in software aimed at product design is not an obvious choice. However, where the Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider works closely with their customers from ‘design for manufacture’ advice through to product fulfilment, there are several areas where such software can be invaluable:

·         Importing and amending  customer documentation.

Initial drawings, particularly for components of electro-mechanical systems such as back plates, cabinets and wiring, can be incomplete or incorrect. This might be because some detail is difficult to determine before the first prototype has been built, or conversely because the product has been developed as a physical prototype then not fully documented. 

When the EMS provider finds that changes are required, these could be advised to the customer through email or hand-drawn modifications. It is then up to the customer to up-issue their drawings. This can take days, if it happens at all, possibly leading to delays in production. Having a Computer Aided Design (CAD) system simply allows the drawings to be updated and sent back to the customer for review and approval. 

·         Creating build documents.

Whilst it is possible to create these in ‘standard’ packages such as Word, with supporting photos and sketches, it can take a very long time for complex systems. This is a particular problem if the build instructions need to be detailed, for example if multiple staff are involved, if they speak different languages, or if semi-skilled labour is to be used to create a cost advantage. Naturally, skilled assemblers may be able to work from the original drawings, but having good assembly instructions still helps ensure consistency and quality. As we’ve already said, the original drawings might not be right either! CAD can also provide benefits such as the ability to automatically create wiring schedules from schematics. This in itself can save a lot of time in production and inspection. CAD might also be used as part of a ‘paperless’ build process, for example using 3D models to show how an assembly is to be put together.

·         Creating drawings for jigs, fixtures, test boxes, assembly aids etc.

In order to manufacture efficiently it is often necessary to create assembly aids such as fixtures or test equipment. The availability of CAD makes the design process faster and more effective; ideas can be tried out, and interfaces between product and fixture can be ‘virtually’ tested before manufacture. Of course if the fixtures are made elsewhere, providing accurate information to the supplier is likely to lead to a more cost effective price.


·         Modelling, testing and communicating ideas for design or build improvements.

A good EMS provider will always provide ‘design for manufacture’ advice to its customers, allowing efficient product build and competitive pricing. Further to this, ‘cost down’ opportunities may be developed once the product is established. A CAD system allows easy modelling, testing and communicating of recommended changes to component parts or assembly processes, which is of mutual benefit to the EMS provider and their customer.

  Of course any investment needs to show a return, so in summary consider these 10 key points:

1.       The engineering time saved in creating build packs, allowing more work to be completed with the same resources;

2.       The ability to update customer drawings and share information with them reduces the risk of delays or expensive mistakes;

3.       Standardising build processes helps ensure better consistency across personnel and sites, again reducing the chances of mistakes and rework;

4.       Faster turnaround on new products by quickly ensuring usable documentation, reducing engineering and production time, work in progress (WIP) and increasing ‘on time in full’ deliveries;

5.       Potential for faster transition to more cost effective manufacture using semi-skilled labour;

6.       Minimise ‘non-recurring engineering’ (NRE) costs, assisting with competitive pricing and profitability;

7.       Reduce the need to recruit skilled assemblers, with drawings made to de-skill the processes e.g. wiring schedules generated automatically from schematics for wiring and inspection;

8.       CAD and a standardised document format create a professional image; Word drawings and hand-drawn amendments to paper copies do not always inspire confidence!

9.       Electronic drawings provide the possibility for creating build instructions for a ‘paperless’ shop floor;

10.       ‘Design for manufacture’ and cost reduction opportunities are easier to present to customers; e.g. draw up and model a solution, prototype and trial if necessary, and present customers with drawings and test results – then they just have to say yes!

So when all is taken into account, CAD – particularly when used with electromechanical assemblies – can be seen as an essential tool to assist any EMS providers in supporting their customers.


With Special Thanks to our customer Russell Poppe, Director of Technology at JJS Manufacturing for composing this blog post for SolidSolutions.    

If you are interested in contributing a blog post to the SolidSolutions website, please do not hesitate to contact our marketing team;,

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