Should I Outsource the Manufacture of my Silicone Keypad?

For many product designers and companies that are concerned with quality, the decision to outsource components of consumer electronics requires careful consideration of the costs and benefits. There is a current perception that overseas manufacture of components are implicitly a lower quality than state-side production. However, this is not true within the silicone keypad industry. Silicone keypads that are manufactured in production facilities across Asia can be many times cheaper than identical products manufactured in the United States. In these products there is no perceptible difference in the quality or the efficiency of production.

Outsourcing PCB Assembly

In the last five years, nearly all PCB (printed circuit boards) have been outsourced to China, thanks to increasing focus on quality control by facilities all over the Chinese mainland. As little as a decade ago, building electronic components in China was something of a crap-shoot. This was, in large part, thanks to inconsistent production standards and management in China. Such lack of consistency did not always follow the design standards of their clients. As more companies outsourced their products to China, competition within China has become fierce. Smaller manufacturing facilities have forced innovation in the entire outsourced industry. As a result now you can expect high quality from your provider no matter where in China (or elsewhere) your products are developed.

Cheaper than Domestic Manufacturing

The technology for manufacturing silicone keypads has been around long enough that there is no significant advantage in technique or scale by manufacturers within the United States. The relatively low complexity of the silicone keypads means that even manufacturers with limited experience can produce silicone keypads within a fine tolerance range after the molds are created and approved.

For obvious reasons (primarily labor costs) the production of silicone products in China and Asia is far cheaper than the production of those items in the United States. Even when you consider the shipment costs of the silicone keypads to the United States, they are still far cheaper per unit. This cost-savings will allow you to increase your overall margins and will allow you to produce other features that might have been on the back-burner because of cost.

Faster than Domestic Manufacturing

It is actually faster to produce your custom silicone keypads and buttons in China than it would be to make those same items domestically. This may sound counter intuitive by those who are not accustom to the process. However, instead of having to jump through regulatory hurdles with American factories, you can typically progress from design to production in only a week or so when utilizing off-shore production. The biggest time-sink of dealing with a Chinese facility can be waiting for different proof copies of your product. But that mandatory waiting game takes up significantly less time than US Regulation compliance. Furthermore, assuring quality proofs allows you can ensure that your product meets all of your standards.

How to Outsource

While it might technically be possible for a product designer to deal directly with Chinese and international firms and importers, it is not recommended. As an individual company, you will have very little “pull” with the international suppliers, and will have no good way of following up with the company in question.

Silicone Dynamics is your bridge to outsourcing. The company provides the benefits of outsourcing, along with the protections of dealing with a US company. We have the best suppliers working under contract. We possess the best “boots on the ground” in the Far East in order to ensure our contracts are completed promptly and with a high level of quality. Our clients utilize our services on a regular basis, and the security and consistency is well worth it.