How OEMs Can Harness Innovation

Innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organisation, but how can your EMS partner help in your persistent pursuit to innovate? SMS Electronics, Smart Made Simple (SMS) shares their views.

A lot is written about innovation and being an innovator.  The term has been used, probably overused in recent years, as we describe the latest technology as being ‘so innovative’, or someone summarises themselves on their resume´ as being an ‘out-of-the-box innovator.’ But what does the word innovation actually mean?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, innovation is defined as:




the action or process of innovating.

“innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organisation”

a new method, idea, product, etc.

Many electronic manufacturing companies describe themselves as being innovative as they continue to develop for the next generation.  But what does it take to be an Electronics Manufacturing Service Provider (EMS), that enables innovation to come to life?  In this article, we learn from Chris Johns, Head of Information & Technology at SMS – Smart Made Simple, about working with some of the UK’s most forward-thinking brands, and how an EMS company can become your co-innovation partner.


Introducing Chris Johns, known in the industry as CJ.

My role within SMS – Smart Made Simple is ‘Head of Information & Technology’, but what that fancy title actually means is that I, and my team, are a core function to ‘link’ the knowledge base that we hold within SMS, which spans over a century, to the technological

requirements and engineering needs of our customers.

Many customers come to SMS at any stage of their product development, as they do not have the in-house manufacturing specific know-how, capabilities, or capacity.  We become their in-house experts, as we seamlessly integrate our resources into their organisation, and become a natural extension to their operations.

We ‘link’ CTO to CTO and engineering (electronics design engineer to manufacturing processes engineer) levels, so we all speak the same technical language. This simplifies our customer’s communication, eases business, and speeds up the whole end-to-end manufacturing process for all parties in the electronics manufacturing supply chain.

Innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organisation; how does SMS keep up with innovation?

Technology is expanding at an exponential rate.  The electronics industry is pretty unique in that what is being developed today, will potentially get used to develop what we use tomorrow.

For example, think about our desktop computers early formation and development.

The early computers were cumbersome, slow and the component parts (chips) took an extraordinary amount of time to design. However, once they were designed, along came a new processor design that was faster and larger, with greater capacity and intelligence. Complexity in requirements for tasks to be performed rose, whilst the design and development simplified.

In 2021, we see that our start-up partners tend to be the most innovative, whilst our existing customers tend to develop and enhance their current technology rather than redesign.

Our dedicated Development Centre is our home to our sparky start-ups as it becomes their incubator for health, wellbeing, and growth.  It also enhances not only our SMS capabilities, but means that we always have an eye to the future, and our finger on the pulse for continuous improvement and investment for future technologies.


How does an EMS Company Influence an OEM Design?

For a responsible EMS company, we act as a safeguard to ensure that our OEM partners do not inadvertently go down a wrong path in their design, which could be:

  • A misguided/uneducated choice of components, which means that their product has a limited life because of early withdrawal of parts/components
  • We have a dedicated purchasing department that works around the clock with global supply chain intelligence provided to them in real-time with complete transparency and traceability
  • Sometimes undue/unnecessary physical constraints are placed into a product design which makes it costly and potentially prices itself out of the market
  • We don’t allow this to happen by offering engineering design support, DfX, and value engineering

We guide our OEM partners by balancing their need for ‘let’s try something revolutionarily / new’ with ‘let’s make it safer, smarter, simpler.’  We do this by offering our experience to safeguard them from carrying out new and costly research for a type of technology that we probably have the knowledge and knowhow of manufacturing.


What type of innovation did 2020 actually spur on?

For us, 2020 sparked the start-up movement once more.  Many types of innovation created to combat the challenges that COVID-19 brought into everyone’s day-to-day lives.

Demand also increased for technology that fits with any special requirements that COVID-19 presents, for example patient monitoring systems.

SMS prides itself on being able to simplify its customers’ supply chain and therefore inject speed into the production lifecycle, from conception through to the customer.  COVID-19 accelerated the development lifecycle even more with customers requiring us to drastically reduce the design cycle time, especially within the medical market.  We have scaled our operations and made them COVID-19 safe to comply with social distancing to meet this enhanced need for engineering expertise.

So, if we revert back to our Oxford Dictionary definition, it’s clear to see that what SMS – Smart Made Simple creates is value.  By increasing speed to market and driving competitive positioning for customers, SMS, in essence, solves customers’ most challenging problems better, faster and more cost effectively and efficiently in an industry where speed matters.


About Smart Made Simple

SMS – the U.K.’s leading Manufacturing Service Provider

From concept to creation, to commercialisation, to customer, for all technology companies. Whether you are a start-up, or an established household brand name, if you have a design, engineering, manufacturing or supply chain problem, thanks to the diversity of our experience and scalable service, SMS has the solution.

Since 1920, SMS has manufactured electronics products from the same home in Nottingham, U.K. For over 100 years, we have been the company behind the ideas, offering agile and adaptive supply chain solutions, that bring products to market faster, smarter and simpler.

Leader in the specialist low volume, highly complex manufacturing services market space, SMS has earned critical industry facility certifications, that brings full viability and credibility to the aerospace & defence, communications, industrial and medical markets. SMS brings the right scale, capabilities and competitive solutions to customers needing high-reliability attention, product realisation and supply chain optimisation.