Traditionally, manufacturing hasn’t been synonymous with rapid innovation, given that security concerns, lack of funding and uncertainty have led many to shy away from making changes to production methods.

However, that’s all changed in the last few years.

The electronic contract manufacturing and design services market is currently on track to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.5% from 2021 to 2028. Why? When COVID emerged, contract electronics manufacturers (CEMs) had to invest in the latest technologies to adapt to the demands of a new, more demanding landscape.

In 2023, different challenges are emerging, and CEMs are finding manufacturing solutions in more innovative technologies once again. So, how has CEM technology developed since the pandemic and which advancements will consumers reap the benefit of in the near future?

Overcoming recent challenges

When we think of ways COVID-19 impacted the electronics manufacturing industry, we usually think of problems like the chip shortage, which severely disrupted the production of all kinds of electronics products. But it’s a slightly different story for CEM technologies.

As global supply chains became increasingly volatile, with international lockdowns causing disruption to trade routes and labour shortages, electronics manufacturers turned to cloud-based databases for improved visibility over component availability.

Though once deemed too unsafe to handle sensitive manufacturing information, cloud technology offered valuable real-time insights into supplier inventories, streamlining order processing when it was needed most.

The pandemic also prompted the accelerated uptake of automated technologies in the healthcare industry, as electronics manufacturers looked for a fast, reliable way to produce wearable medical devices to ensure high-quality patient care whilst resources became increasingly stretched.

For example, CEMs used automated quality control procedures to check for product flaws that might be missed by human error — resulting in fewer recalls, quicker turnaround times and a safer product.

Now the electronics manufacturing industry has overcome the biggest challenges witnessed during the pandemic, it’s turned its attention to different CEM technologies that promise to solve ongoing issues in the factories.

As it stands, many CEMs are being let down by outdated equipment that require lots of maintenance and manual processes that often result in mistakes, leading to extensive periods of downtime and product flaws that halt production, harm customer relationships and cost lots of money.

These issues have been particularly problematic for the production and assembly of printed circuit boards (PCBs), causing delays to the manufacturing of all kinds of consumer electronics from smartphones and watches to lighting and security systems.

Fortunately, there are plenty of manufacturing solutions to be found in one modern CEM technology…

Optimising operations for the future

Right now, many CEMs have their sights set on bolstering production lines with artificial intelligence (AI) technology, which promises to increase the efficiency and accuracy of electronics manufacturing processes from start to finish.

For instance, AI can be used to back predictive maintenance procedures, where sensors are used to anticipate when a machine is likely to break down before the event occurs — minimising downtime and making mistakes less likely. In turn, companies achieve higher quality, more cost-effective processes and customers benefit from faster turnaround times.

AI can also be used in tasks that would otherwise be completed by humans who are susceptible to making errors like quality control checks, which are one of the most time-consuming parts of the PCB assembly (PCBA) process.

By detecting flaws that could be missed by the naked eye, AI can help improve the way electronics manufacturers spot and address product issues in PCBs. Plus, because AI insights are provided in real-time, AI-powered CEM technology can help electronics manufacturers right wrongs at the earliest possible stage in the PCB production line for fewer delays and happier customers.

And that’s by no means all the ways that AI can be used in technology-driven manufacturing solutions.

AI algorithms can be used in machine learning — analysing data from production lines to identify areas that require improvement. If obstacles regularly arise at one particular stage, CEMs can work out what’s causing the issue and rectify it to streamline processes and continuously improve operations.

Essentially, it’s not a case of if AI can be used in an element of electronics manufacturing, but when

EMS is an experienced electronics manufacturing solutions provider offering high-quality PCBA services with top-of-the-range equipment. To learn more about what we do, call +44 (0)1635 588 871 or email