Moving ideas from sketches on napkins to factory floors is often the
toughest stage for a startup entrepreneur. Flextronics International Ltd
thinks it can help with that.
The contract manufacturer, which
produces the Xbox game console for Microsoft Corp and smartphones for
Google Inc, as well as networking equipment and other electronics gear,
has upgraded its campus in Milpitas, California, with equipment aimed at
creating product prototypes for customers in a hurry.
become the world's factory floor over the past decade as incentives, low
wages and entry into the World Trade Organization made it a highly
efficient workshop for everything from shoes to electronics.
Silicon Valley companies as small as startups and as large as Google are
increasingly looking to local contract manufacturers for help with
design and early production of new electronics products, experts say.
This reflects a nascent trend of "reshoring" manufacturing operations to
the United States.
Flextronics and rival contract manufacturers
like Foxconn and Jabil Circuit Inc already offer customers "value-added"
help designing their products, advice on what components to use and
whom to buy them from, and other value-added services.
Flextronics said it spent $12 million on the Milpitas upgrade, with
plans to spend another $20 million in coming months. The idea is to meet
growing demand from companies in Silicon Valley that want to get
products to market faster, site manager Zahid Hussain told Reuters this
"Technology is changing. Time to market is critical right
now," Hussain said. "We're providing turnaround time. We're providing
Flextronics' campus includes labs with
metal detectors, guards and strict security procedures to protect the
confidentiality of clients whose engineers are designing new products
and producing prototypes.
Inside are cutting-edge machines that
"pick and place" components on circuitboards, as well as 3D printers and
X-ray and testing gear that Flextronics can use to turn a proof of
concept into a prototype product in 72 hours or less, Hussain said.
year, Google looked to a local contract manufacturer that its engineers
could visit conveniently instead of an Asian manufacturer when it
wanted to design and produce its Nexus Q home entertainment device fast.
Flextronics facility and others like it can be particularly attractive
to small Silicon Valley companies facing tight deadlines to produce
their first products, said Thomas Dinges, an analyst at IHS.
got all these companies coming out with new stuff that's totally
different, and they realize they need a couple hundred or a thousand
units, and if they don't hit that, their company is dead," Dinges said.
"I'm going to use someone who is local who I know has done this before."
© Thomson Reuters 2013