In today's highly competitive markets, it may seem cheaper to specify off-the-shelf parts for manufactured goods, though this isn't always the case.
The use of customized parts can save time, reduce inventory and warehouse space, and lower product cost. Customized parts can also help manufacturers build better products and gain more satisfied customers.
Another reason to consider customized parts: Many companies in an effort to cut costs have eliminated jobs. An electrical engineer, for instance, may now be expected to specify mechanical components. Makers of specialized parts often have technical expertise that their customers can tap.
For example, our company helped one of our distributors, Price Engineering (PE) of Hartland, Wis., review one of its manufacturing processes.
Prior to the review, PE used standard 24-V, double-valve connectors for wiring harnesses on a customer's mobile hydraulic equipment. The review noted that LED indicators wired to the harnesses would burn twice as bright with 12-V connectors. With the old connectors, equipment operators in the field had a hard time seeing the dimly lit indicators under sunny conditions.
In response, the review team specified and designed a double-valve wiring harness with four pairs of connectors and cables cut to custom lengths. These 12-V connectors boost LED brightness, making the equipment safer and easier to operate.
Our company also added surge suppression to the connectors, screen-printed the function of each solenoid coil onto the jacket of the cord set, and printed individual tags for each connector to help with identification. The customized wiring harnesses now arrive preassembled at PE, which saves them project management time and money. Factoring these items in, the custom harnesses cost PE less per unit than the stock parts.
PE used the profits and time savings to develop a special cart that simplifies its customer's manufacturing process. Manifolds fitted with harnesses go on the cart, along with motors and reservoirs, enough of each item to build 25 finished machines. The cart then ships to the customer as one complete, compact unit. PE's customer utilizes just-in-time manufacturing methods, so we time our shipments of harnesses (to PE) to match workflow. This helps reduce inventory and warehouse space needed to meet manufacturing schedules.
Ultimately, customized parts in this case raised product quality as well as efficiency of the manufacturing process, a win-win.
Murrelektronik Inc. (murrinc.com) is a maker of electrical components and factory automation equipment.