Original equipment manufacturer

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"OEM" redirects here. For other uses, see OEM (disambiguation).

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) is a term used when one company makes a part or subsystem that is used in another company's end product. The term is used in several ways, and the ambiguity of the term's usage can sometimes be unclear, even in context. It can alternately refer to a part or subsystems maker, the maker of a system that includes subsystems, an end product producer, or an automotive part that is manufactured by the same company that produced the original part used in assembly.

Generally, an OEM is the company that makes a part that is marketed by another company typically as a component of the second company's product.[1] For example, if Acme Manufacturing Co. makes power cords that are used on IBM computers, Acme is the OEM.

Confusingly, OEM can sometimes also refer to companies like value-added resellers. In this usage if Acme Co. sells circuit boards to IBM for use in IBM mainframes, IBM is the OEM.[2][3][4]

When referring to auto parts, OEM refers to parts and manufacturers involved in the final assembly of a vehicle—in contrast to aftermarket parts that can be installed after the car comes out of the factory. For example, if Ford used Autolite spark plugs, Exide batteries, Bosch fuel injectors, and Ford's own engine blocks and heads when building a car, then car restorers and collectors consider all of those brands as OEM brands, in contrast to aftermarket brands (such as Champion plugs, DieHard batteries, Kinsler fuel injectors, and BMP engine blocks and heads). This can mean that Bosch injectors, for example, are considered OEM parts on one car model and aftermarket parts on another model.

Automotive parts[edit]

When referring to automotive parts, OEM designates a replacement part made by the manufacturer of the original part.[5] As most cars are originally assembled with parts made by companies other than the one whose badge appears on the vehicle, it may happen that a car company sells OEM spare parts without claiming to have manufactured the part itself.

An automobile part may carry the designation OEM if it is made by the same manufacturer that made the original part used when building and selling the vehicle.[5] The term aftermarket is often used for non-OEM spare parts.[5] Car collectors speak of cars "originally equipped with [whatever brand] parts" and of parts that were "original equipment on [whatever make and model of car]."[citation needed]

When purchasing parts at national, discount auto parts retailers (e.g., NAPA, Auto Zone, Halfords, Advance Auto Parts, Auto Parts Warehouse, Pep Boys, Motrio, Autobacs, etc.), many parts will have OEM prominently displayed but followed by a qualifier such as "meets OEM standards". Such auto parts are not OEM; they are simply claiming to have been manufactured to the same specifications as the OEM parts—specifications that may well be unpublished and unknowable.[citation needed]

Computer software[edit]

Microsoft is a popular example of a company that issues OEM software for their Windows operating systems. OEM product keys are priced lower than their retail counterparts, but use the same software as retail versions of Windows. They are primarily for direct OEM manufacturers and system builders, and as such are typically sold in volume licensing deals to a variety of manufacturers (HP, Dell, Toshiba, etc). Individuals may also purchase them for personal use (to include virtual hardware), or for sale/resale on PCs which they built. Per Microsoft’s EULA regarding OEM, the product key is tied to the PC motherboard which it’s initially installed on, and there is typically no transferring the key between PCs afterward. This is in contrast to retail keys, which may be transferred, provided they are only activated on one PC at a time. A significant hardware change will trigger a reactivation notice, just as with retail. However, a motherboard change for reasons other than a defect will officially cause Windows Activation to consider it a new PC, and will result in permanent deactivation on said PC.[6]

Direct OEMs are officially held liable for things such as installation media, although they are not required to provide it upon sale of a PC hardware, and may indeed exclude it to reduce cost. Instead, manufacturers tend to include a recovery partition on the hard drive for the user to repair or restore their systems to the factory state. System builders further have a different requirement regarding installation media than Direct OEMs.[7] On versions of Windows which require a valid product key for media download from Microsoft (like Windows 7), OEM keys will be rejected, and the party will be given a notice to refer to the manufacturer.[8]

Economies of scale[edit]

OEMs rely on their ability to drive down the cost of production through economies of scale. Also, using an OEM allows the purchasing company to obtain needed components or products without owning and operating a factory.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Dictionary of IBM & Computing Terminology, page 66" (PDF). About IBM: More than a century of making the world a smarter place. International Business Machines Corp. Retrieved 2014-09-27. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) n. A manufacturer of equipment that may be marketed by another manufacturer 
  2. ^ "Build Your Brand on HP: HP OEM Partnership" (PDF). Hewlett-Packard Website. Hewlett-Packard. Retrieved 2014-09-27. 
  3. ^ Ken Olsen: PDP-1 and PDP-8 (page 3), economicadventure.com
  4. ^ Kidder, Tracy (1997). "Book Excerpt: The Soul of a New Machine". Bloomberg Business Week. Retrieved 2014-09-27. …hence the rise of companies known as original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs—they'd buy gear from various companies and put it together in packages. (Chapter One, paragraph 17) 
  5. ^ a b c Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)and Aftermarket Parts thepartsbin.com
  6. ^ "General Info on Microsoft OEM COA's, CDs, Ect.". Ebay.com. Ebay. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 
  7. ^ "OEM Licensing FAQ-OEM Partner Center". Microsoft.com. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 1 October 2015. 
  8. ^ "OEM System Builder Licensing Guide" (PDF). Microsoft.com. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 9 September 2015.