‘Quality is essential’ –
An interview with Florian Herbst, contact person for production services at InnoSenT.
As an EMS service provider, the medium-sized company InnoSenT relies on quality, reliability, and individuality.
InnoSenT GmbH is one of the leading radar technology companies worldwide. With innovative products, they play a key role in the development of radar. But what many are not aware of is that the medium-sized company is expanding another unit:
InnoSenT has been active as an EMS service provider for several years.
You will find out from our EMS sales representative Florian Herbst about how contract manufacturing is developing and what special things the company offers its clients.
The demand for your radar sensor systems has been incessantly growing since the company’s founding in 1999. How does a successful radar equipment company get the idea to venture down new paths and also become an EMS service provider?
FH: Although this decision may appear somewhat unusual at first glance, it makes perfect sense. Through our technology and innovative prowess, our future success as a radar expert is quite certain. The entire team demonstrates a strong pioneering spirit and drives forward technological progress.
And that is precisely what spurred management at InnoSenT go to down this new path. In the decision to provide production services, they saw the opportunity to further develop the company’s competencies, strengthen them, and put them to efficient use.
The idea didn’t come overnight. Many different factors played a role in this strategic decision.
Would you reveal to us what factors that were?
FH: I would be happy to. A combination of internal developments within the company and the market situation at the time played a role.
Our own production and joint development projects with clients allowed us to gain important experience early on. The catalyst was a client-specific product we built in our production halls in 2009 after completing the development phase. We provided our production expertise in the HF area and then we took on the complete device construction for the first time.
More such orders in which we supported our radar clients with the production of electronics came one after the other. It was in 2015 that InnoSenT kicked off its operations as an EMC supplier with a contract manufacturing order in the field of camera equipment.
As I previously mentioned, changes in industry were also conducive to expanding the services offered by InnoSenT. The struggling automotive sector played a key role. Companies rarely invest new machines when the economy is weak. However, in order not to experience any drops in production, they rely on manufacturing services. Just like back then, InnoSenT continues to boast state-of-the-art technical systems that clients benefit from.
In addition, the uncertainties of the automotive industry also concerned us as a radar equipment manufacturer. We utilised freed-up capacities for contract manufacturing.
Since 2018, the EMS services at InnoSenT have been an independent business unit.
The EMS sector is a tough place: how has InnoSenT fared since 2015?
FH: It was very laborious getting started. The sector has been continuously booming ever since. Besides service providers from countries with low production costs, we have been competing with major corporations and numerous medium-sized companies from the start in German-speaking countries alone. The competition is cut-throat. It is challenging to make a name for oneself. For the most part, we weren’t really known in industry beyond the radar equipment market. We first had to prove ourselves.
Fortunately, we did not start from scratch. With our network we quickly got a foothold. In addition, we boast a few advantages for clients which set us apart from competitors. Since 2015, we have been intensively further developing to expand the services step by step. EMS has been an independent business unit at InnoSenT for two years. And this young unit is fast-growing.
Today, I can vehemently declare that InnoSenT has indeed succeeded in establishing itself in the EMS sector.
What challenges did InnoSenT face along the path?
FH: There were quite a few, of course. For instance, we had to shift our way of thinking. Our team was accustomed to manufacturing for the high-volume automotive market. In the EMS area, however, both individuality and flexibility take front stage. Here, prototypes as well as small and medium production runs are more in demand.
With orders on the rise, we further expanded the team and interdisciplinary collaboration. We constantly increased our expertise and invested in machinery.
For example, we procured a flying probe for individual component tests. We also acquired special expertise for client projects, such as the calibration and sharpening of camera lenses. This means a relatively long learning process, but we are happy to make the extra effort. We hold ourselves to very ambitious standards in this regard.
Further challenges we faced also included the incorporation of industry-specific standards and the implementation of client-specific requirements, such as IRIS certification.
Another aspect that concerns the whole market is the scarcity of electronic components. Currently, the situation is somewhat more relaxed. However, we are constantly monitoring the market. We are already proactively seeking out alternatives for our clients and securing components for the long term in order to guarantee their availability.
The course at our company has been fully charted to implement smooth processes and optimum project support.
You just mentioned IRIS certification. How important was this step for you?
FH: Quality is very important to us. In attaining ISO/TS 22163 certification, we saw the opportunity to develop further and strengthen the EMS unit.
This was a smart move, if you consider how few EMS suppliers are available in Germany with the IRIS certificate. This quality standard is essential for the rail industry.
Without this qualification, you are not eligible as a producer or supplier. We are now together alongside well-known market leaders on a list and manage to optimally implement a high level of quality even as a medium-sized company.
And all this effort is worth it. We have already managed to obtain the first order with a seven-digit turnover.
“Quality down to the smallest detail” – you advertise with this slogan. But why is this aspect so important for electronic production?
FH: Our exceptional quality-oriented thinking can be ascribed to our own products. After all, product innovation only gets a foothold when the quality is also up to par. What’s more: our radar equipment is deployed only in areas where reliability is incredibly important. For example, they ensure safety through their deployment in driver assistance systems.
For us, high quality standards and traceability are a matter of course.
This guiding principle holds true across all business units and production processes at InnoSenT, regardless of the product or industry.
In our production, we have integrated additional high testing standards. All products undergo many tests by standard until they go out to the client. This goes so far that we exceed our clients’ expectations and enjoy being meticulous.
We correct minimal deviations, even if they are still within the client’s tolerance range. Of course, it is no easy task remedying a blooper, which also holds true in the cut-throat EMS market. Quality is essential for electronic production.
Quality is therefore your strength. But is that enough in light of so many suppliers promoting themselves with the ‘Made in Germany’ seal? How do you vie against your competitors?
FH: In this highly competitive market, relying on quality alone doesn’t cut it. That’s why we also emphasise individuality and flexibility. Particularly in comparison to large corporations, we boast a few advantages in this regard. The flat hierarchies enable quick and short decision-making, and red tape remains minimal. For this purpose, our experts are in direct communication across departments. This flexibility makes processing projects more pleasant and straightforward for our clients.
If clients need individual solutions or quickly require changes, we pull out all the stops. If necessary, we adapt our usual processes to get out more for them or implement specific requests. The client is also free to choose which services or production processes they would like to use.
There is no one-size-fits-all EMS support – we adapt to our clients’ requirements.
Another peculiarity that sets us apart from the competition is, of course, our expertise in HF development. Clients who contract us to carry out their production benefit from a high-performance development team that will proactively assist you.
If we have ideas for optimising the project implementation or product, we share them with our clients. This often has a positive impact on the price.
What do your clients appreciate about InnoSenT?
FH: We can tell you that quite clearly. Because we regularly carry out comprehensive client surveys. For one thing, we always receive very positive responses to our personal customer support and open communication. The clients also praise our strong quality awareness. We also enjoy top ratings when it comes to our reliability. And we are very proud of that. We endeavour to enthuse clients without work and accommodating service.
Electronic production and machinery go hand in hand. What technologies do you use?
We manufacture highly efficient machines that are state-of-the-art in electronic production. Our plant boasts such standards as laser marking and 3D SPI. We also have exceptional, technical equipment at our disposal, for example for industry-specific production projects. One example of this is the in-line vacuum furnace, which we activate as needed. Or selective soldering: with THT placement, we solder individually and selectively, i.e. not using wave soldering.
Due to our high quality standard, our testing and measuring technology is of great importance to us. We subject everything to an AOI and plausibility check before we deliver it. We are constantly expanding our machinery and investing in new units or technological innovations in order to optimise electronic production and increase our capacities and scope of services.
What plans do you have for the EMS business unit this year?
At InnoSenT, we have made it our goal to expand the EMS unit to become the third supporting pillar within the company. This means that it should be on par with automotive and industrial radar development. We want to draw attention as an EMS service provider. The focus is on attaining new clients. Thanks to our new IRIS certification, we feel we are optimally equipped for rail technology.
As an experienced EMS sales representative, how do you see EMS services developing?
I do, of course, observe the market and learn a lot through talking to clients as well. The German-speaking market has grown steadily. I think, the coming years still have a lot in store, despite the competition of low-cost countries. That’s because price is not everything. Regional service offers greater flexibility and better communication.
The future developments awaiting us through digitalisation are also thrilling. Smart communication enables better networking between clients and EMS providers. The project processes are becoming easier and traceable. Already today, for example, we are linked to our clients’ SAP systems.
The production machines are also more efficient through Industry 4.0.
As an EMS service provider, we rely on the latest technologies. The industry therefore could also benefit from clients investing less in new, expensive machines. When the economy is weak, they may outsource their electronic production to an EMS service provider from the region to remain flexible and have access to innovative production processes.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Florian Herbst has been employed at InnoSenT since the beginning of 2018. He was thus involved in the development of EMS services becoming a separate business unit at InnoSenT. As a sales representative, he is responsible for customer service and field sales as well as sales activities within the EMS unit. This includes such tasks as consulting regarding the service portfolio, support for existing clients during production projects, and the acquisition of new clients. He is available to prospective clients and existing ones to answer questions and provide suggestions and acts as a mouthpiece for client-specific requests and requirements.
“My biggest highlight at InnoSenT so far has been an outsourcing project for a large-scale client. They no longer produce just one of their systems at our premises but have now outsourced the production of all their system variants to InnoSenT. Great projects are already in the works for 2020. For example, we will take on the complete device construction for one industrial radar system client. Furthermore, I am particularly excited about the expansion of the EMS unit and the constantly growing client contact as a result”, says Florian Herbst regarding his work as a contact person for the EMS services at InnoSenT.
EMS Sales Representative