Ariene Chou, Owner & VP Operations
Original equipment manufacturers across the U.S. have long been outsourcing electronics manufacturing and printed circuit board (PCB) assembly to offshore entities owing to the cheaper cost of operations. However, outsourcing often comes with its fair share of challenges. First, the electronics industry is growing at an unprecedented rate, and companies need to rapidly launch new products to sharpen their competitive edge. In an outsourced manufacturing model, lack of timely communication between partners and higher turnaround times prevent manufacturers from introducing products and prototypes faster, which in turn restricts them from acquiring larger market shares.
Besides, considering the volatility of today’s business landscape, it is crucial for manufacturers to sell products at a competitive price to draw more buyers. But, of late, as higher import costs are imposed on offshore manufacturing, OEMs are compelled to increase the market price of a product. They also face the pressures of adhering to several regulations, including the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (2002/95/EC) that restricts the use of certain materials in electrical and electronic equipment. Subsequently, it has become mandatory for manufacturers to ensure the optimal safety and quality of products before releasing them into the market. In this scenario, overseeing quality in typically outsourced manufacturing models can be complicated and toilsome.
To uplift the electronics manufacturing culture of the U.S., what OEMs aspire for are holistic service providers that can help them seamlessly address diverse requirements, such as aligning to compliance needs, maintaining product quality, and reducing cost-burden.
With a comprehensive understanding of these needs, California-based United Manufacturing Assembly, Inc. (UMAI)—a minority woman-owned company—offers a complete range of PCB assembly services from procurement, assembly, engineering support, and testing services, to full system built and order drop-ship service.
The Value Proposition of Onshore Manufacturing
UMAI aligns to today’s electronics manufacturing trends with a keen focus on high-mix low to medium volume production. The company also provides repair and return merchandise authorization (RMA) service, where it replaces a product or a specific part of it and fixes any dysfunction. It allows the company to better tailor to specific customer demand, improve responsiveness and lower inventory requirements for finished goods.
“We do consignment as well as turnkey manufacturing, where we carry out the tasks of procurement, supply chain management, and provide clients with the final product.
Additionally, we provide product drop-ship service to meet customer requirement, which saves clients massive investment in inventory upfront,” says Ariene Chou, Owner and VP Operations at UMAI.
UMAI expedites the manufacturing process by offering design for manufacturability (DFM) review service during a new product introduction (NPI) stage. Enhancing the chances of revealing potential problems associated with PCB fabrication and assembly, it gives better assurance to clients on timely production while cutting down unwanted expenses.
Over the past 32 years, UMAI has embarked on a journey of becoming the best value-added electronics manufacturing services provider by delivering the highest quality products at the most competitive prices
In another key value proposition, UMAI has mastered the art of automating the historically toilsome soldering process to a great extent. This is of vital importance in today’s electronics manufacturing. With components becoming smaller and more compact, manual soldering process can be inefficient, due to the significant amount of time it demands and the increased chances of human errors. Especially if a PCB is designed for a sensitive or important application, a single mistake can cause significant repercussions. By leveraging automation, UMAI reduces the chances of such glitches and makes the entire soldering process swift.
UMAI provides a wide range of services across many market segments. To meet the fast-changing demands of OEM customers, they have built and maintained a culture of quality without sacrificing speed.
With such comprehensive services, UMAI has helped many OEMs to carry out manufacturing onshore successfully. While ensuring faster turnaround time, UMAI enables its clients to enjoy the key offshore benefits of keeping the manufacturing costs low and the market price of a product competitive.
“Over the past 32 years, UMAI has embarked on a journey of becoming the best value-added electronics manufacturing services provider by delivering the highest quality products at the most competitive prices. We rely on clients’ referrals as the key source of gaining new business, and irrespective of order quantity, we treat each customer equally. Moreover, our capability of advancing in parallel with customers empowers both organizations to grow,” Ariene comments.
Customer-Centricity at the Core
A key constituent of UMAI’s riveting business model is its ability to deliver clients the right product at the right time. The success of on-time delivery, most of the time, depends on the communications between the OEMs and contract manufacturers. For instance, a small assembly requirement that is missed in the bill of materials (BOM) can slow down the entire manufacturing process. It takes lots of time and patience to obtain that crucial information back. UMAI keeps a close connection with clients to avoid such instances, and the company carefully plans their orders to meet the delivery date.
To further solidify the communication with clients and streamline the processes, UMAI assigns program managers to each client. These program managers work as a single point of contact from the very beginning of the production process to the completion of the shipping, and they keep the inter-relational departments stable so that the best resources in UMAI’s supply chain management group works diligently on the production schedule. This helps alleviate miscommunication and develop accountability as well as attention to details, making each assembly more than mere “stuffing.”
Rigorous Testing and Inspection
Timely delivery is an integral part of service excellence. UMAI never undermines the quality aspect of a product. By continually improving the manufacturing capabilities with investment in cutting-edge technologies and state of the art equipment, UMAI ensures extensive testing and inspection that are suited for the most demanding PCB assembly requirements.
As a part of their quality control initiative, UMAI works closely with clients during NPI stage to ensure products are designed for testability (DFT) with testability features to product design. They also drive every single product through a rigorous inspection stage. UMAI has invested heavily in Automated Test Equipment (ATE) to identify any manufacturing or component defects with more accuracy and efficiency.
UMAI understands that in the fast-moving manufacturing industry, engineering change orders (ECO) or design change is widespread. Recognizing the value of immediate communications and the lack of late surprises when it comes to supporting a change, UMAI keeps customers informed of anything that might impact their business. The company holds a flexible team and a robust quality assurance system that satisfies every customer’s desires and expectations in a streamlined manner. A comprehensive understanding of each industry’s demands has allowed UMAI to deliver the reliability and repeatability customers depend on.
In a nutshell, preventing every possible cause of domino effect, including unexpected lead time issues with components, ECO, and board complexity, UMAI ensures glitch-free, on-time manufacturing.
Exemplary Success Stories and Strategic Roadmap
Having such comprehensive manufacturing services, UMAI has obtained a platoon of clients across diverse industry verticals. Take power and energy sector, for example. Players in this industry seek reliable and durable products that won’t dysfunction during massive workloads or power fluctuations. In one instance, a power & energy OEM customer reached out to UMAI with a sample loaded PCB without any documentation. Engaging with the client, UMAI helped them reverse-engineer it by going through each component on the board and create a documented BOM. This enabled the customer to proceed with ordering parts to build extra boards quickly. “UMAI has been our assembly house for printed circuit board since 2001 when we were a two-person venture working out of an old ex-auto garage in Emeryville. During those early years, they worked patiently with us through the difficult prototype phase of product development, helping us through low volume builds, knowing that their compensation hardly matched the effort they put in for us,” penned the COO of the client about the uniqueness of UMAI’s partnership.
Backed by the motivation of such positive feedbacks and a long history of manufacturing durable electronics, UMAI has drawn a strong roadmap for its future with a focus on the automotive, medical, and industrial market. The company plans to make more dedicated investments to enhance the automation capabilities, test, and inspection equipment as well as hire innovative, collaborative, and creative people to elevate electronics manufacturing culture to the next level.
“Providing 24-72 hours quick-turn services, local manufacturing with the advantage of global reach by an alliance with our offshore manufacturing partner, KANBAN inventory management option, and placing customer satisfaction on the top of the priority list, we have set ourselves apart from the peers. At UMAI, we love what we do, and that in itself has the customers celebrating and applauding our brilliant teamwork,” Ariene concludes.