Revolutionizing Operations: The Power of Supplier Partnerships, with Koh Young at IMI Guadalajara

Brent Fischthal, Head of Global Marketing, Koh Young

It is an exciting time to be an EMS in Mexico. Reshoring, due to geopolitical pressures, is increasing demand in the region and exchange rates, tariffs, and logistics makes it an ideal place to manufacture for their northern neighbors, the largest consumer market in the world. But for EMS companies with a Mexico footprint to really capitalize on this opportunity they need to be agile, efficient and invest in manufacturing excellence. IMI is doing just that!

IMI is one of the world’s larger EMS companies with facilities all around the world. This time we met with their team in Guadalajara to explore the value they are getting from automation enabled by key equipment partnerships including the one with Koh Young.

Partners, not Suppliers

We spoke with their Regional Engineering Head, Philip Reyes, who had worked at numerous IMI facilities around the world. His global experience allows him to create the right manufacturing solution in every environment and every location, considering labor rates, available talent and much more. In fact, IMI manufactures some of the same products in both China and Mexico. Philip commented on the fact that tact in Mexico was actually faster than in China. 

Philip explains that the vendors that they partner with are instrumental in their automation and operational excellence strategy. He told us, “To become successful. One of the secrets is you don’t treat suppliers as suppliers, underlined on our factory tour, with both Philip Reyes and Oscar Valdivia, IMI’s Manufacturing Unit Manager for Guadalajara, talking to the Koh Young team about new challenges and innovations, and Koh Young responding with creative ideas and solutions and a desire to work through any challenge thrown at them.

Philip explained that “I was talking with the team and heard that Koh Young had started to use AI with AOI. This is interesting and shows why it is important to partner with the suppliers to be able to achieve the best results for us and for our customers.” Getting in front of each other’s technology roadmap is hugely valuable to both parties!

Oscar also highlighted the importance of software integration in their strategy and why K-Smart is so important and they look to utilize the data they have from the inspection machines, while reducing the number of technicians on the line supporting those machines. Like every manufacturer, being able to manage more machines with fewer technicians does not just add efficiency, it mitigates the challenges faced as the demand for talent outstrips supply.

Oscar goes on to say that “as with most manufacturing plants, we have our own software to handle traceability. So, one of the main points of equipment partner selection is the communication software. AOI is one of the most important for sure, because we have all the results given by the machine and we have to have the records in every single product that we manufacture.”

Surgical traceability is not just valuable, it is essential. And not just in high reliability markets, almost every market expects these high levels of traceability to reduce the impact of recalls and track any design or manufacturing issue.

Philip Reyes knows a thing or two about the importance of data, saying that, “if you don’t have the right, or the immediate data, decision making is difficult. If this data is not delivered on time, that’s a challenge, because reliable data, just in time data, real time data is very, very important.”

There is no doubt that Koh Young is providing key parts to their data sets and that faster data, real-time data, accurate data, is better data. And better data leads to better decisions. Being able to see data in real time on dashboards is just part of the benefit. Beyond the dashboard it is important to be able to drill down into each data set and explore what can be gleaned and how that can be used to improve efficiency, performance, and quality.

Selection is Rigorous and Based on Global Experience

Having mentioned that equipment vendors are seen as technology partners, who IMI collaborate with and share their technology roadmap with, it is no surprise that the selection of those partners is both rigorous and exhaustive. Choosing partners and equipment sets is key to IMI’s success as a world class manufacturer.

Hence, IMI has an industrial excellence team that is traveling continually between plants. This team is part of the group that selects the equipment. Oscar explains that “we have a very frequent interaction with them to review the selections made. They have the background in all the different regions that we have manufacturing facilities in.” IMI has consistently selected Koh Young as their global inspection partner and firmly believes this kind of collaboration is fundamental to their ongoing manufacturing excellence and efficiency.

When to Automate

Automation is not something that is undertaken lightly. The kind of product, volume, type of assembly, product longevity, version variability, these all play into the decision of whether to automate and how much and the type of automation deployed.

Oscar explains that “IMI has some projects that are very manual, particularly for some industrial customers, but some others where everything is totally automated, often because of the quality requirements of the customer.” He went on to say, “for us we always start with the quality requirements. Then we can see the volume that we have to produce to try to select if we are going to go for something automated or something really manual.”

When we walked the facility, we saw some complex products with a high tact rate that were close to lights out assembly, others that had some automation, particularly around the SMT process and sub assembly, and some that were very dependent on manual labor. What is clear is that a good automation strategy, along with the right automation partners, is something that is becoming increasingly critical and a key differentiator.

Mitigating Talent Shortages

IMI Guadalajara has around 1,200 staff and runs four shifts that allow them to produce products for their customers 24/7. Even so, talent is an issue and competition for talent is strong. Oscar believes that “we must develop software talent here for Mexico, because one of the characteristics of Mexico has always been the quality.” He adds, “the quality requirements have been increasing, the line is always higher than the previous year and the requirement from customers is always more strict, for sure.”

Oscar explains that, “while technology is very important and must continue developing, behind the technology we need engineers developing new platforms, new codes to make life easier.”

It was refreshing to hear Oscar talk about all the strategies that IMI have in place to attract, develop, and retain the right people for now and for the future of the business. Oscar explained how important it was to tackle ownership of this issue rather than complain about it. He explained that IMI must, and does, take responsibility for talent within the entire organization through the World,

Like many, Oscar and Philip passionately believe in Mexico, and especially in Guadalajara, as an important manufacturing base that can and will continue to grow and grow. Oscar concludes that “together with the people that we are training, I believe we are going to be very successful.” 

Learn more about IMI at IMI.

You can watch the video case study as well as in depth interviews with Oscar and Philip at Koh Young America. IMI has Koh Young SPI and AOI inspection machines. Product details and more information about Koh Young and it’s 3D Inspection Solutions are available at Koh Young America.

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