Blog: How EMS Companies Like Kimball Electronics Use MFT Within High-Tech Manufacturing

How electronic manufacturing services (EMS) company Kimball Electronics uses MFT

Inside that portable tool charger, that air conditioner, that thermal imaging system, that “infotainment” display and airbag inside your car, and even that X-ray machine in your nearest radiology department, is an electronics circuit board or assembly built by Kimball Electronics.

Electronic manufacturing services (EMS) companies like Indiana-based Kimball Electronics design, test, manufacture, and service electronic parts for original equipment manufacturers. With an uptick in demand for technology innovation across global markets, the EMS industry has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Spun off by Kimball International in 2015, Kimball Electronics has been at the forefront of that resurgence, having been consistently recognized by customers and trade experts for its quality, reliability, and service. And that’s no easy accomplishment, given that Kimball’s reach crisscrosses industries and the world, with manufacturing operations in North America, Asia, and Europe.

To successfully enable on-time deliverables for defibrillators, ultrasound equipment, and respiratory monitors, HVAC and optics assemblies, and electronic power steering and vehicle telematics systems, Kimball Electronics must leverage a variety of communication channels to comply with countless international mandates and file transfer requirements.

How to Modernize IT Systems

Kimball Electronics produces printed circuit boards and electronic assemblies and also executes much of the design, engineering, prototyping, testing, and packaging. The electronics manufacturing organization, then, requires file transfer support to move the data needed to build customer widgets, and to connect with financial institutions and credit card companies for payment remittance.

Kimball Electronics has been in business for more than half a century, and like many of today’s organizations seeking digital transformation to better compete, relied on multiple legacy systems and applications supporting its B2B processes for too long. Kimball Electronics’ previous file transfer solutions, which consisted of an out-of-support FTP server and a Microsoft FTP tool, were on the way out in favor of more modern capabilities.

With so many systems and applications accumulating over time – many of which were one-trick ponies that couldn’t support all the protocols Kimball Electronics wanted – the EMS company decide it was time to modernize IT systems and retire the “spaghetti” infrastructure for good.

FTP Replacement

And so began the search for a managed file transfer (MFT) and B2B integration platform that could support AS2, FTP, SFTP, and SSH/FTPS and could integrate its document management system from SAP to support the critical flow of financial files.

The question boiled down ultimately to this: “How do we effectively consolidate FTP solutions and modernize our data movement infrastructure?”

According to Jim Sitzman, application developer at Kimball Electronics, the EMS company sought “a single-source provider that can easily make AS2 and SFTP transfers and provides a wide range of protocols for any future needs.”

The electronics manufacturing organization also desired a simpler solution for users and for business partners, with automated self-service and user creation features, “something that could decentralize the maintenance of the user authorization and business partner setup,” said Lynn Scheu, Kimball’s director of IT system support.

Finding the best data movement software that could meet all its file transfer requirements, while certainly difficult, was not impossible.

MFT for Electronics Manufacturing

Kimball Electronics discovered a leading MFT platform supporting multiple protocols, SAP application integration, and the automation of file-based workflows meant the electronics manufacturer could consolidate its FTP servers and provide a better experience for its customers and trading partners.

All the multi-enterprise document exchange that enabled Kimball Electronics to deliver engineering and supply chain support, rapid prototyping for industrial electronic assemblies, and electronic components for automotive safety systems and the like became part of a streamlined, B2B integration engine that could communicate with any trading partner and deliver full visibility into its data flows.

The company gained:

  • Support for the advanced protocols it needs to communicate with a global network of partners, suppliers, and customers
  • A web-based front-end system and portal that facilitates easy customer uploads and dramatically reduces manual document processing
  • An intuitive data movement solution that internal users without vast technical skills can understand.

“The ease with which administration can be done with a web UI is a big win for our administrators,” Scheu said.

Why MFT?

What if I can’t deliver design specs on time? What if my parts don’t arrive when needed? What if I can’t access a banking network and we don’t get paid?

These are the types of things Kimball Electronics no longer worries about after deploying an industry-leading MFT and B2B integration platform and gaining renewed confidence in its communication capabilities and its ability to manage its important data flows. The EMS provider consolidated FTP tools, regained control of who it could do business with, and automated various manual processes, including the ability to ingest files into SAP.

Modern communication methods and standardized integration technology drive so many critical B2B processes today, and Kimball Electronics has streamlined those processes to improve its ability to manufacture durable electronic goods on a global scale.

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