Lack of capacity, along with rising operating costs and increased competitive pressures, have caused companies to explore the option of contract manufacturing for their products. Contract manufacturing outsources certain manufacturing operations to a third-party, passing on the responsibility for materials, capital, equipment, staff, and software.
In cable assemblies and wire harnesses, there are hundreds and often thousands of opportunities for defects per assembly. Therefore, it is imperative that a manufacturer takes rigorous steps to mitigate the risk of incurring those defects. Multiple process controls must be deployed to ensure that a wire assembly is produced that meets or exceeds the customer’s requirements. Many of these measures are taken before the components are even built. Revision-controlled quality requirements---specified on prints and in workmanship standards---must be understood. Operators must be trained and must demonstrate this understanding. As an assembly is produced, a predetermined regimen of tests and other validations are employed, both by operators and technicians. These validations, depending on the project, can include mechanical, electrical, and environmental tests. Each of these stages in the quality assurance process ultimately ensures that the product meets or exceeds the customer specifications.
Twenty-five years ago, Liberty Electronics’ system for creating and distributing work instructions was 100% paper-based. At Liberty, as with most companies in the industry at that time, engineers created work instructions for each assembly, printed out each document, and distributed them to manufacturing personnel. These manufacturing employees, in turn, depended on these paper documents in order to assemble components according to contract. Upon completion of an order, the documents often had to be filed for reuse at a later time.
Creating a quality product doesn’t just end with the manufacturing phase. Choosing the best packaging and shipping options to meet a client’s needs is also an important step in ensuring a product reaches the client in the same state it left the facility. Components are packaged according to specific standards and or client guidelines, and these may include special instructions or specifications, as well as quality assurance measures taken during the manufacturing and packaging process. A variety of packaging options can be used to achieve this goal, including ESD packaging and 3D-printed covers, as well as other more traditional packing products.
Marking and identifying the components of wire assemblies properly is an important step in the manufacturing process. Proper identification ensures that the product reaches the required certifications, while providing practical information to the manufacturer and customer about each component of the assembly. Different types of identifying techniques, including laser marking, heat-shrinkable labels, wrap markers, and printing, all offer various options for the manufacturer to meet the client’s needs.
Making sure wire bundles are adequately secured or contained is an important step in creating a quality product, even after the necessary electrical or environmental protection has been applied. It is imperative that a wire assembly be secured adequately, and it is also crucial that the bundle fits well within the physical space allotted. This is where various wire bundle management techniques come into play. Wires can be held together using heat shrinkable tubing, lacing, stitching, tie wraps, metal bands, or braided coverings. The style and material used to secure the assembly helps it achieve the best performance possible.