Why use an SME for outsourcing electronic design

Entrusting an external company to undertake a cost and time critical electronic design project for the first time leaves many an Engineering Manager lying awake at night. Worryingly, through fear of failure many will decide to undertake a project that lies outside their internal team’s expertise in house through fear of relinquishing control – a dangerous move as competitors release product into the market whilst you’re still painfully navigating that learning curve.

Outsourcing is nothing new; you’ll struggle to find any company these days that doesn’t outsource its activities to some degree. Focusing on one’s core competency is what makes a business successful, trying to do everything yourselves is what makes it fail.

Electronic design may be one of the last things a company considers outsourcing, perhaps the company assumes as they employ design engineers that their remit should be all encompassing, maybe they even see themselves as an electronic engineering company – so the very idea of outsourcing any aspect of this to a 3rd party seems somewhat bizarre.

What companies sometimes fail to consider is their own design engineers have a core competency, which you’d expect to align very closely with the core competency of their employer. If this is the schematic design and layout of an ‘intelligent’ PCB, based on microcontrollers, ARM, or PC based x86 then great, though based on my experience, outside of our competitors, this is unlikely to be true.

Unless you are a company very similar to ours, your engineering team’s core skillset is far more likely to be much more specific. For example in radar positioning, BMS, measurement, the list goes on almost infinitely.

Outsourcing designs themselves, whilst allowing expensive skilled engineers to concentrate on improving their own field of expertise rather than undertaking new learning curves is the commercially sound solution. This of course carries a perceived risk and requires a certain reduction of control over individuals that you may be used to. In reality this is often a benefit, one need not worry about having to micro-manage the design, a company like ours will take that off your hands and make your job far easier.

When selecting who to outsource to, do you look for a large behemoth, or a smaller, focused, SME? There are advantages to each but when we look at this more closely, there is only one winner.

Stability is a reason often cited for using a larger, perhaps multi-national company. However recent times have shown to the world even the very largest companies can, with little warning, suddenly collapse. The financial clout a behemoth can offer can give some comfort, but in reality would a gargantuan company consider you important enough to exercise that clout for your benefit?

I had the fortune of being on the other side of the fence recently when selecting a partner to develop our new website, approaching this completely fresh, I weighed up the pros and cons and as I expect a lot of our customers do, settled on a small, focused operation.

The benefits of this are far reaching. SME’s have the ability to react quickly to market change and indeed customer demand, not burdened by a plethora of operational procedures slapping red tape over any need for flexibility the client may have.

The SME also offers a completely focused approach that can adapt to the needs of the outsourcer and provides a level of comfort that only working with the same individuals regularly can bring. The SME’s engineers become a seamless extension of your own engineering team, able to react just as quickly remotely as any in house employees.

This ability to react quickly and shape themselves around their customer’s needs, rather than restrictive layers of bureaucracy and shackles of rigid corporate policies, is what the outsourcer really needs. Of course a sound procedural system must exist and is actually far better as it is able to evolve rapidly, undertaking tweaks to ever improve accuracy, such that no project can run away in terms of cost and schedule. SME’s understand how critical project deadlines are to their customer’s and value individual clients far higher than a Goliath values a David.

It is for this reason I intend for DSL to remain an SME, to remain focused on our customers, our expert engineering team and our ability to react quickly has elevated us to be the very best in our field.

I look forward to the opportunity to prove to many of you in the future that DSL embodies all of these attributes, and more…