Outsourcing Hardware ? Look for these 3 things!

I have built and shipped 8 products at Google that are full stack solutions(hardware, software, app). As part of every project, one of the first things that are critical to the success of the project is the Hardware OEM/ODM partner. In each instance, the answer is not the same. Infact, it is heavily based on the key responsibilities and goals of the project. 

For instance, if you are looking for a prototyping partner, your criteria will be much different than looking for a production level partner. The product, its deliverables are defined by your choice of the solution! 

The details below are focused on a high volume(>2K/month) products. 

1. Hardware Partner Expertise and Depth

It is important to understand the complexity of the product you are building. If you are mostly using off-the-shelf parts, its important to find a partner who can done a similar product before. Sometimes there are parts from Intel, Qualcomm, AMD, NVIDIA which requires special attention. In that instance, relationship with those IC vendors are critical to the selection. Beyond that, it is also critical to think about finding partners that have full spectrum of expertise required including Mechanical, Thermals, Manufacturing and test, Calibration. 

2. Cost

There are several costs involved in the project. The three main costs are: NRE, material cost and manufacturing/tooling cost. Each cost needs to be understood with the vendor or in several instances, you will be surprised. For e.g. I have ran into situations where the NRE and Material cost seems within the acceptable range but the tooling cost exceeds the budget. Paying attention to all these before engaging on the project is important. 

3. Project Managment

Finally, also pay attention to the Project Manager who will be managing your project. While you can involved engineers, software, software team members on your project, most of the day-to-day engagement will be with the PMs. Building a strong relationship either by traveling or on conference call is critical to the success of deliverables. 

If you have questions, feel free to reach out at ijinal@gmail.com  

Jinal Dalal