Original equipment manufacturer

A critical decision to be made is whether to buy-in from an original equipment manufacturer or to manufacture the parts in-house. Many mainstream products are made up for specialist made parts from a single or limited number of world suppliers (e.g. automobile wheel bearings).

These parts have many advantages over in-house manufacture. They are made to a high standard, have a ‘data’ sheet supplied that has specifications and standards to which the component has been made, and have specialist advice about their use from the manufacturer. The disadvantage is that in some cases, the standard components available require in-house made components to connect them together, increasing the cost.

Use of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts has a number of advantages:

  • Complex functions of a new product design may be bought rather than manufactured (e.g. USB connectors, electronic subassemblies, gears boxes, electric motors, switches);
  • Safety critical items can be purchased that are to a known manufacturing and performance standard (e.g. switches, sensors, hydraulic cylinders, brakes, bearings); and,
  • Prototypes may be constructed cost-effectively that represent the final production version.

An important point to consider when applying this particular heuristic or strategy is that it is employed from the start of a design process. Once a product design specification (PDS) has been produced, the identification of suitable OEM parts should be the first task. Some accommodation of the specification for the OEM part may be needed within the overall design.

Useful links

Burkitt, J., G. Martin, G.H. Kay, G. E. Torrens, C. Chapman, and D. Sandbach, 1996. The development of the port-a-bidet: A portable bidet for people with minimal hand function. Medical Engineering & Physics 18, (6): 515-8.

Burkitt, J. A., G.E.Torrens, G.H. Kay, D. Sandbach and I.A. Sutherland, 1995. The development of the Autosip: A hygienic, self-operated, drinking device for people with minimal sucking ability and/or minimal arm strength. Journal of Rehabilitation Sciences. 8, (4): 115. Torrens, G.E., Marshall, R., Burkitt, J. and Kay, G., 1996. Using modularity to produce more competitive assistive technology products, Proceedings of the 13th Irish Manufacturing Committee , Limerick, Ireland, pp 797-804 Available at: (https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/handle/2134/15775) , Accessed:[23/09/2015]