Our Hispanic Heritage Month blog series continues as we celebrate Flex team members of Latin and Hispanic origin who have made significant contributions to our manufacturing and supply chain excellence. Previous blogs in this series highlighted our data-driven supply chain management tool and kicked off the month-long cultural observance.
Today, we go to the front lines for a view on how our team works with our customers to achieve successful outcomes. We caught up with Ivan Jileta, a long-time member of the Flex account management team, who runs coordination between our customers and teams to design and manufacture extraordinary products. A 20-year industry veteran with experience in the Americas, Asia and Europe, Ivan brings an unparalleled global perspective to delivering results for our customers. During his six years at Flex, Ivan has partnered with customers to deliver products in the industrial sector, ranging from semiconductors to human machine interface.
Here’s an excerpt of our conversation with Ivan.
Even as we’ve honed our supply chain and manufacturing expertise over the last 50 years, there’s nothing like new product introductions (NPIs) to continuously keep us on our toes. In cases where our customers want to transfer existing production lines to our facilities, how do you start planning for the transition?
That’s a very broad question! We, of course, have very well-established frameworks to guide our journey, but there’s a whole art to ensuring the transition is successful. Every customer has different requirements, even when they’re in the same industry. At the starting gate, you need to first and foremost assemble a dedicated team who will support the transfer. From our customers, we also ask them to assemble a team of dedicated resources to help guide the process.
What are some of the biggest challenges with NPIs?
Ramping up new products and launching on time is what we do, and we do it very well. However, this is an enormous effort. You must constantly anticipate issues along the critical path – whether it’s materials, testing and quality – and have contingency plans at the ready. In some cases, customers want to launch a product in two different regions at the same time. So you take this enormous effort, and double it. But we’ve done it many times, and we’re always up to the task and ready to exceed expectations.
What are the factors to ensure a successful transition?
Communication is key. We need to first come to an understanding about the scope of work. Where is our entry point? Are we handling the prototype and validating proof of concept? Once we figure this out, we decide how and when the milestones will happen.
We also need to define what success looks like. This means setting success metrics and reaching consensus on what the performance targets are. How many product lines? How many units? By when? Achieving mutual understanding is critical to setting the stage for effective collaboration and execution. It’s not uncommon for us to dedicate entire workshops to having these important conversations.
We have expertise at every point in the product development lifecycle from design to build – and of course, post-manufacturing services.- Ivan Jileta, Sr. Director, Account Management
Is there an optimum point of hand-off in the continuum of solutions we offer?
No. This depends on the unique needs of our customers. As a trusted technology, supply chain and manufacturing partner, we have expertise at every point in the product development lifecycle from design to build – and of course, post-manufacturing services.
If we’re bringing a new product to market, we have the capabilities and technology expertise needed to innovate and design for volume manufacturing, which is critical know-how when speed is the name of the game. If the customer already has a product design, then we can handle every detail around scaled production and delivery.
Let’s say a customer wants Flex to take over their production. What are some of the key milestones we need to achieve before we switch on production?
There’s tremendous work to be done on the front-end to plan and coordinate. Before you can begin thinking about production, you need to do a lot of knowledge transfers. This is where we spend a lot of time with our customers.
You also need to think about product line design and identify and address any capability enhancements we need to make at the target manufacturing sites. The list goes on; preproduction is a big effort with many, many milestones.
Let’s talk about knowledge transfer. How do you approach this gargantuan task?
There are different types of knowledge that need to be sourced from the customer. It’s a bit easier to bite off when we think about the different categories of information we need to access. There’s knowledge related to the customers’ business such as their supply chain and IT support tools.
We absolutely need to master all the information that are specific to the product to help us plan and execute. This includes forecasting, planning, purchasing, engineering, and so forth. There’s a body of information that I would characterize as being advanced such as troubleshooting documentation. We need to get all of this, A-Z.
So you’re a pro at this!
While every customer is different, we have the experience and footprint to deliver for all kinds of requirements. Because of our extensive experience with production transfers and new product ramps, our systems and processes are battle-tested and mature for consistent and effective product validations. Obviously, we’ve developed a sizable body of best practice common tools and metrics to drive quality and on-time delivery. Above all, it’s all the great teams across the world – Flex also has some very talented people.
What trends are you seeing out there that warrants calling out?
We’re seeing companies that want to transform themselves into flexible and agile businesses. To do this, they need to disrupt traditional business models and digitize their operations. There’s a compelling opportunity for these companies to leverage our deep knowledge base to help them digitize their products through our design centers and disrupt their supply chain with our know-how and scale. Our global operations can help them go to market in shorter cycles. All of this brings a huge value to our customers’ operations, reducing cost, resources and time-to-market.