Important Considerations for Choosing a Product Support Partner

OEMs who have outsourced the production of their product often times wish to outsource the support of that product as well. This can be accomplished when those OEMs team up with a full-service contract manufacturer (CM). CMs who provide such product support become both an extension and a representative of the OEM to their customers. In addition, the CM also plays a vital customer support role as they help diagnose and resolve customer issues quickly, correctly, and cost-effectively.

Product support is separate from engineering support. The former is heavily dependent upon reverse logistics while the latter includes activities such as design for manufacturing (DFM) assistance and protoyping. On the other hand, there’s a lot of overlap between production and product support, since both require:

  • Warehouse facilities
  • Parts procurement and inventory management
  • Staff with hands-on assembly and rework skills
  • Packaging and shipping capabilities

In short, full-service CMs possess the personnel, processes, and facilities required to deliver OEMs the product support they need over the lifecycle of their product. Since OEMs still need to do their research and legwork to find the best product support partner for them, we’ve compiled a list of the most important considerations they should focus on.

Have they supported products like yours before?

When looking for a product support partner, this is probably the most important question to ask. Repairing electro-mechanical assemblies requires different tools and technical skills than does handling returns and exchanges for commodity consumer packaged goods (CPG).

Likewise, performing component-level printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) troubleshooting for industrial and consumer electronics requires tools like hot-air rework stations, soldering irons, digital multimeters (DMMs), and many more specialized tools and consumable materials (like RMA solder flux).  Servicing a hydraulic or pneumatic assembly, requires still other types of bench equipment, materials, and hand tools.

If the CM has experience supporting products like yours, they will already have all that infrastructure in place, reducing the time needed to spin up your product support program.

Do they have (and can they keep) personnel with the specialized skills necessary?

Not only does the CM’s inventory of tools and capital equipment need to match the product type, but the skill set of their product support staff needs to fit as well. As we’ve discussed before, troubleshooting and repair work requires technician-level skills which are a step above the capabilities of most assemblers—and with wages to match. As an OEM, you should be asking how long the service and repair technicians have been with the CM, what their turnover rate is, and what continuing training and certification processes are in place.

A successful product support program also requires inventory management, operations, and procurement skills. Since these are also needed for manufacturing, full-service CMs are uniquely positioned to satisfy an OEM’s need for this expertise.

Do they possess the facilities necessary to support your equipment?

An outside product support partner must be able to warehouse, package, and ship service parts and serviced product back to the customer. Depending on how many products you need supported, the volume of service work expected, and the complexity of those products, some potential product support partners might not have the space you will require.

When selecting a CM for product support, you should also keep an eye on their total capacity. Could they handle the volume of returned product you are estimating, and perhaps more importantly, do they have room and resources to increase their throughput if necessary?

Do you trust them with your customers?

Your customers are the reason your business is in business, and any outsource product support team will be their primary contact point, especially for initiating the return material authorization (RMA) process.

Will that RMA experience lead to greater satisfaction with you the OEM, resulting in continued—and hopefully increased—business with them in the future? We’ve explained in a previous article how reverse logistics can generate additional revenue streams, increase customer loyalty, and even help drive product improvement by gathering customer feedback. Those improvements can actually drive down future returns while cutting warranty repair costs if an OEM is able to close the loop between customer feedback and product design.

From handling new warranty claims to servicing products at their end-of-life (EOL), product support is a must. OEMs today need the peace of mind which comes from knowing a fully resourced, professional, and experienced product support partner is keeping their product running, and the customers satisfied.

With a full offering of CM services, ample warehouse and shop floor space, and focused expertise in electronics, electro-mechanical assemblies, and robotics, RiverStar continues to support high-tech products for our many OEM customers.

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4 Important Considerations for Choosing a Product Support Partner
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4 Important Considerations for Choosing a Product Support Partner
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Since OEMs still need to do their research and legwork to find the best product support partner for them, we’ve compiled a list of the 4 most important considerations they should focus on.
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RiverStar Inc.
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