Dynamic duo: Electronics and EDI

By Molly Goad

There are some well-known pairs that just go together: cookies and milk; peanut butter and jelly; wine and cheese. But there’s also a lesser-known duo I’m going to cover in this post: electronics manufacturing and EDI. 

Making consumer electronics is very complex, and it really wouldn’t be possible without EDI. This industry has only gotten more intricate as technology has advanced greatly over the past few decades. 

EDI technology allows all of the partners involved in electronics manufacturing — from the designer to the camera lens manufacturer, to the phone assembler, to the distributor — to share documents in a common, universal format. (To learn more about how EDI works, click here.) 

To get a feel for what goes into electronics manufacturing, let’s take a look at how Apple’s iPhone is produced. 

Production of the iPhone

Apple Inc.’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif., but manufacturing and assembly occur far from that location. Just like automobiles, mobile phones are made up of lots of parts produced in locations all over the world: There’s a camera, battery, touch-screen controller, Wi-Fi chip, processor, networking (3G/4G/LTE) chips, glass screen, just to name a few. Each of those parts comes from a specific manufacturer. 

A technician assembles circuit boards by hand while it stands on the assembly line.

For example, Apple has used glass screens from Corning, headquartered in the United States, in every generation of the iPhone. Other parts come from manufacturers headquartered in Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and more, but all of these companies have multiple locations all over the world. (To break it down even further, components are created from rare minerals mined all over the planet; the details are beyond the scope of this article, but to learn more watch CNBC’s Inside an Apple iPhone.) 

Now, once all of these parts are manufactured, they all need to be brought together and assembled into the beloved iPhone. According to a recent Lifewire article (Where is the iPhone Made?), this is handled by just two companies: Foxconn and Pegatron, both of which are based in Taiwan.

“Foxconn is Apple’s longest-running partner in building these devices,” Sam Costello writes. “It currently assembles the majority of Apple’s iPhones in its Shenzen, China, location, although Foxconn maintains factories in countries across the world, including Thailand, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Singapore, and the Philippines. Pegatron is a relatively recent addition to the iPhone assembly process. It is estimated that it built about 30 percent of the iPhone 6 orders in its Chinese plants.”

As you can see, consumer electronics manufacturing is a beast. And EDI is a necessity in this process, so let’s explore the ways it helps move the electronics industry. 

Global Supply Chain

Consumer electronics are built from hundreds of parts distributed by suppliers all over the world. Apple, Inc. uses parts from suppliers in 43 different countries! (Source: Inside the iPhone: How Apple Sources From 43 Countries Nearly Seamlessly.) Connecting with companies from 43 countries would be downright impossible without the use of EDI. 

EDI enables electronics companies to onboard manufacturers quickly no matter where in the world they reside, and then allows all of those partners to easily work with the assembly team. Finally, EDI allows the finished product to be distributed all over the world. 

Breaking the Language Barrier

It’s hard to imagine working with partners in 43 countries; a common format for doing business is a must. EDI is a translator; it allows two people who don’t speak the same language to communicate when it sends data in a format both parties can understand. It’s not a problem to get an LCD screen from Japan, a compass from France, and an accelerometer from Germany to the assembly plant in Taiwan — the particulars are all communicated in the same electronic language. 

Tracking Electronic Components

The parts of a smartphone may be small, but they are indeed numerous. Assemblers like Foxconn need to have a clear picture of where things are located at all times. EDI allows businesses to see at any point where a shipment is and when it will arrive. Delays and hiccups are flagged and fixed immediately, so companies can adjust and not lose valuable time. Because you can’t assemble a phone if any of those teeny tiny parts don’t get there on time. 

No Human Errors

EDI is critical for completing purchase orders accurately. When a PO is initiated through EDI, the item number, price, and other data is populated automatically. Accidentally typing the wrong quantity of a touch-screen controller or transposing a digit in the item number doesn’t happen with EDI. 

Fewer Delays

Perfect timing is needed with all of the parts coming together to make a laptop, mobile phone, tablet, camera, and more. 

This synchronization is achieved by an EDI system integrated into the suppliers’ and manufacturers’ internal management systems. The data is translated into the language required by a company’s software program; automatic messages are created, sent, recorded, and stored without human involvement. Assembly doesn’t slow down because advanced ship notice (ASN) messages are constantly exchanged between partners; when discrepancies occur, they are flagged and fixed immediately. 

Thus, the components that make up a tablet arrive at the assembly team when needed and delays are eliminated. 

Contact BOLD VAN

Like bacon and eggs, manufacturing electronics and EDI just go together. If you’d like to give it a shot, or if you’re unhappy with your current EDI system, please know that BOLD VAN makes it simple. You’ll be in good hands as we implement our system quickly and seamlessly.  

To find out how to get started, contact BOLD VAN by calling 844-265-3777 or emailing info@boldvan.com

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