The Price and Prevention of Counterfeit Parts in Manufacturing

by Liberty Electronics

Although the aerospace industry is leading the effort to combat counterfeiting through methods like serialization tracing and supply chain control, the use and sale of counterfeit parts is still an issue in manufacturing. Counterfeiters are changing with the times too, applying more sophisticated approaches and techniques to skirt testing, laws, and standards. Blanks, clones, and undisclosed remanufacturing are just some of the growing trends infiltrating the world of counterfeit.

Investing in the right prevention procedures, purchasing processes, and product quality controls might seem daunting, but the value of the price of protection far outweighs the cost you might pay for buying, selling, or using counterfeit parts. Here are some steps you can take to mitigate the risk of falling victim to counterfeit.

Know who you’re buying from

In July of this year, a major US connector manufacturer agreed to pay the United States $11 million to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit that accused the manufacturer of supplying the military with electrical connectors without the proper testing. The allegations spanned nine years of work performed for six models of electrical connectors that were not routinely tested per government requirements. Proper testing and quality control performed on parts such as electrical connectors is imperative to protect and prevent the dangerous purchase and use of counterfeit parts.

Procurement professionals can be enticed by lower costs and lead times for expensive and elusive parts needed for a project, but don’t let that small sticker price seduce you. More often than not, deep discounts and quick turnarounds are too good to be true. Doing the research and meeting all of the requirements for authenticating partners can be daunting, but a reliable contract manufacturer (CM) can alleviate most of this process for OEMs.

Leave the legwork to partners and suppliers

Vetting suppliers can be challenging, and when you purchase parts from multiple different sources, you have to repeat the process all over again. Establishing standards and selecting qualified suppliers during the initial bidding and quoting phase can cement a trustworthy partnership with a supplier from the beginning. When possible, using a single-source supplier can prevent having to hit that reset button continuously.

A trusted CM has purchase quality requirements (PQRs) already in place and has a process for providing documentation for proving parts are not counterfeit. Contract manufacturers can also do the legwork of researching and verifying all of the parts needed when they are provided a Bill of Material or are involved in the early stages of design and can collaborate on the creation of the list of parts needed.

Use reliable resources

Counterfeiting might be a war that’s constantly waged, but the industry is also always working to sharpen the weapons it can wield in the fight against counterfeit parts. Associations and resources such as the Counterfeit Avoidance Accreditation Program (CAAP), Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA), and Oxebridge Quality Resources offer trainings, certifications, and strategies for ensuring you only work with authentic parts.

Trustworthy CMs like Liberty Electronics cement themselves as quality partners in manufacturing by becoming certified to ISO 9001 or the aerospace-specific AS9100 standard. Counterfeiters are motivated, but we are more determined than ever to protect the integrity and safety of the industry from the cost and dangers of unauthorized sellers and counterfeit products.

For more information on combating counterfeit materials or to speak with an expert, contact Liberty Electronics today. 

Configuration Management – A Cornerstone of Liberty Electronics

by Liberty Electronics

At the heart of every aspect of our business, configuration management is extremely vital to Liberty Electronics. In fact, we built our entire Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System around it. Expanding our Oracle Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) software to include multiple ERP functions—estimating, planning, inventory and production control, quality assurance, etc.—enabled us to embed revision management into every step of the process.

Our configuration management process consists of statuses and workflows. Statuses of sales orders, part numbers, documents, etc. can go from “In work” to “Released” to “In Change.” These mandatory shifts allow the system to prevent certain transactions until the new change has been implemented and a new “Released” version is issued. To specify effectivity, Liberty’s system utilizes “Valid From” and “Valid Until” dates. In addition, “Stop Work” is the terminology we use to prevent production while we sort out the various issues that can arise. Status histories are not only made in real time, but notifications are made automatically when statuses change. Reviews and approvals can then be conducted at appropriate times because of these notifications, which enables team members to take action based on the workflow notifications that show up in their mailboxes.

Another crucial configuration management process at Liberty is the Engineering Change Order (ECO) process. It again is Liberty-designed and is quite robust and efficient, allowing us to process a high volume of changes very quickly. All Bill of Material (BOM) changes, for example, can only be made after first changing the status and creating a new internal or external revision. In addition, engineers no longer have to manually document BOM changes; instead, the system automatically creates an “ECO BOM Comparison Report.” This report looks at the old and new revisions and lists the quantity changes, components added, and components deleted, which removes the potential for error and communicates correct details directly to our team members.

Liberty’s specific use of technology also helps the configuration management process. We exclusively utilize computer monitors and tablet devices during our production process in order to access documents. Only the approved “Released” version of the items, BOMs, routers, work instructions, etc. are available on these devices so there is no possibility for an operator to use an old revision to manufacture products, which would result in scrap, rework, and added costs. This establishes consistency within our production process and catalyzes our production process by promoting efficiency from the start of our builds.

We also keep complete histories on record of the entire life cycle of various aspects of our work processes—quotes, purchase orders, sales orders, items, BOMs, drawings, programs, routers, work instructions, etc. Transaction logs capture configuration states of assemblies during their assembly processes for posterity and communication purposes.

Configuration management at Liberty Electronic is not an additional requirement that Liberty strives to do. Instead, it is woven within our DNA; in other words, it is how we do business. Our configuration management processes allow us to guarantee that we will deliver the correct products to our customers every time.

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How the Right Contract Manufacturer Benefits OEMs [Video]

by Liberty Electronics

Choosing the right Contract Manufacturer is integral to business success, whether taking a strategic outsourcing approach, or a tactical one.  In this episode of Wired SuccessMark Cessar talks with Liberty’s Director of Business Development, Scott Anderson about how the right Contract Manufacturer can benefit your business, and how that can depend on whether the business takes a strategic approach or a tactical approach to outsourcing the work.

Hi my name is Mark Cessar and I’m joined today with Scott Anderson. He is the Director of Business Development at Liberty Electronics. He has worked here for 20 years and has almost 40 years in the industry. Our topic for today is “how the right contract manufacturer can benefit your business.” So Scott, will just start right in so how can the right contract manufacturer help an OEM improve their bottom line?

Well thanks Mark, it’s good to be here with you today. What we find it really depends on the approach that the customer takes. If they’re taking a strategic approach, it’s one answer. If they’re taking a tactical approach, it’s another but either way, they can expect to achieve some cost reductions, lead time reductions, capacity increases, and quality and reliability improvements

Can you elaborate or provide any examples of tactical versus strategic outsourcing?

Sure. On the strategic side, it’s more involved but there is a greater up-side. And so we find that customers are looking at focusing on their core competencies. And so they’re looking at final integration and test and looking really for Liberty to become an extension of their factory to manage this commodity for them. And so this allows them to reassign personnel to more value-added work, reallocate facilities to more value-added work, and at the same time taking advantage of Liberty’s lower rate structure and specialized technology that they might not possess.

Well, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Well, there are some additional benefits on the strategic side that are worth mentioning particularly on the design side. When companies can integrate more tightly, share information, it results in some significant improvements at the front end. And in addition, strategic agreements are another piece of this that we find helpful. It allows Liberty to build to a forecast and then we can stock raw material, we can stock finished goods, and it takes an assembly that might otherwise be a twenty-six week lead time and convert it to about two days, allowing us to support pull systems and VMI 3PO fulfillment Systems.

Well thank you Scott that’s all I have today and thank you for tuning in to another discussion on Wired Success presented by Liberty Electronics.


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Quality Assurance In Low-Volume High-Mix Manufacturing

by Liberty Electronics

Read about the tools and strategies manufacturers can use to meet high quality standards in constantly changing assembly environments. 

Assuring quality in a low volume, high mix manufacturing environment presents some unique challenges. Often, the manufacturing process is no sooner set up then it must be disassembled to begin building an entirely different assembly; assemblers just reach a comfort level with the flow of an assembly when they must switch to manufacturing the next one. Likewise, tools and fixtures that are set up for an assembly frequently need to be changed out or re-set up for a new assembly after building a very limited quantity.

Surprisingly, Six Sigma, a methodology that measures defects against millions of opportunities, provides a framework for addressing these low volume, high mix challenges. The DMAIC, or Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control elements of Six Sigma are a good place to start when discussing quality assurance at an Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) company like Liberty Electronics:

Define – It’s vital to have a defined plan for each assembly. Liberty, for example, has a plan template that is modified as necessary for each assembly. The plan typically addresses things like the right technology to deploy, validation steps and resources, training, controls and measurements.

Measure – The old adage that you can’t manage what you don’t measure applies here. At Liberty Electronics for example, crimping is a key process that is measured. Tracking process capability is a powerful tool. At Liberty, we track defects per million opportunities (DPMO).

Analyze – Useful data is a gold mine of information for correcting and preventing defects. In God we trust; all others bring data. Gage R&R is an example of an effective analysis tool at Liberty Electronics.

Improve – At Liberty, we believe that if we are not improving, we are going backwards. We deploy powerful tools like Pareto analysis, fishbone diagrams, flow charts, scatter plots, FMEA, etc. to facilitate improvement throughout the value stream.

Control – Poka Yoke or mistake proofing is at the heart of what we do at Liberty to produce defect-free assemblies in a low volume, high mix environment. 3D printing has revolutionized our ability to quickly and inexpensively create assembly and test jigs, fixtures, go/no-go gauges, etc. Training and cross training of employees also must be a top priority. None of this matters, however, if the configuration isn’t correct. Configuration control in terms of document management, items, bills of material, software, etc. is a must. And in low volume, high mix production it must be a lean and nimble system that can get the job done in a timely and efficient way.

Sample 2 with 3D Printed Inspection Fixture 300x169 | Quality Assurance In Low-Volume High-Mix Manufacturing, Liberty Electronics®Achieving world class quality in a low volume, high mix EMS company presents daunting challenges. For an EMS provider like Liberty Electronics, with customers that produce products where people’s lives depend on quality and reliability, necessity is the mother of invention.

If you would like to learn more about Six Sigma quality assurance at Liberty Electronics, contact George Allman at



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Can the U.S. Become its Own Manufacturing Island? [Video]

by Liberty Electronics

Liberty has worked with customers previously that were not realizing the expected benefits of using an offshore supplier, but recent events have a lot more OEM’s looking to move some or all of their supply chains to the United States. The Institute for Supply Management reported last month that nearly 75% of companies are reporting supply chain disruptions. A recent Thomas Industrial survey reported that 64% of manufacturers are likely to bring production and sourcing to North America, and this number has been growing.

In this episode of Wired Success, Mark Cessar ask Liberty Electronics’ Director of Business Development, Scott Anderson, about the rising opportunities for reshoring the supply chain from oversees suppliers.

Welcome to another episode of “Wired for Success” by Liberty Electronics. My name is Mark Cessar and I’m here today with Scott Anderson, the Director of Business Development here at Liberty Electronics and has been for the last 21 years. Today we are here to talk about reshoring. So Scott, I’ll just start it. Why are we making a video about reshoring?

Well hey, thanks Mark. It’s good to be with you again. Well, reshoring, as you can imagine, is a hot topic recently. Liberty has worked with customers over the years that have not realized benefits from offshore suppliers, but recently a lot more OEMs are looking to move from offshore suppliers to domestic suppliers. The Institute for Supply Management recently reported that 74% of companies have experienced supply chain interruptions and Thomas Industrial Survey reported that 64% of companies are actively looking to move their some or all of their supply chains to the United States.

This may seem like an obvious question, but why is there an increased interest in reshoring, Scott?

Well, it’s no surprise but the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a lot of this. Companies have not been able to get their parts shipped, factories have been closed, and they’ve suffered as a result. And a second factor is tariffs. Since the Trump administration has imposed stiffer tariffs on some countries, the OEMs have experienced some cost increases that they’ve had to deal with. A third is the USMCA that was just enacted here on July 1st. It replaces the NAFTA Agreement, but it is expected to have upward pressure on Mexico’s labor rates.

Do you expect any other factors to drive this movement?

Well US energy costs have been coming down. We’ve increased production, lowered cost, and have become a net exporter of energy. So that helps US manufacturers both with product cost and with transportation costs, and I’d add to that, there seems to be an increased awareness of natural disasters. You may recall the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan and resulted in the Fukushima nuclear reactor incident. That it was a huge disruption to supply chains. And more recently closer to home, in 2017 hurricane Maria, when it hit the Caribbean, caused damage to supply chains. Liberty in fact, was able to pick up some business when one of our competitor’s factories closed there. Another issue is that we might have reached a tipping point with the theft of intellectual property. There seems to be much more awareness of that. There’s some threats of regional conflict, the South China Sea for example, that have made people nervous. And then crime is also an issue. We’ve had customers say that they’re actually afraid to travel to certain parts of the world because of crime.

When reshoring, why should an OEM consider Liberty Electronics?

Well the first thing that comes to mind is location, location, location. Liberty is blessed to be located in a part of the country that both geographically and culturally is a low-risk area. And then second, I would say, our experience in helping OEMs transition from one supplier to another. We have some robust processes in place and technology in place that really helps smooth the transitions, and one of the things that we’ve learned from our customers is that when considering the cost of poor quality, cost of mis-deliveries, Liberty can actually lower their overall total cost of ownership.

Well thank you, Scott. My name is Mark Cessar and this is Scott Anderson thank you for tuning in to this episode of “Wired for Success” by Liberty Electronics.

*  *  *

Liberty Electronics helped a number of customers transition from both foreign and domestic suppliers. We have some robust processes and technology in place that are critical to successfully switching suppliers. One of the things we’ve learned from our customers is that Liberty can provide the lowest total cost of ownership for them. They’ve pointed to savings in the cost of poor quality and delivery as making the difference between Liberty and offshore suppliers.

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Leadership in Technology: Using 3D Printing in Aerospace Part Production

by Liberty Electronics

Read about how Liberty Electronics has applied its expertise in 3D printing to new services for their customers. 

Liberty Electronics has been at the forefront of 3D printing since the technology became commercially available, and has been recognized for driving innovation in a number of areas.  From developing novel applications to partnering with Stratasys in BETA testing, Liberty has been a leader in the use of this emerging technology.

As a contract manufacturer in the EMS industry, most of the work that Liberty does is build-to-print. For Liberty, this means assemblies – cable assemblies, wire harnesses, and electrical box builds.  But thanks to hard-earned 3D printing expertise, Liberty is now able to serve customers in a new way.

A customer had a requirement for a 3D-printed part for a missile application.  The schedule was tight.  The part had to be manufactured using a specific 3D-printed material at a specified density.  The manufacturer of course had to be approved and qualified, and ITAR-registered and compliant.  Liberty Electronics was a natural fit for this new requirement.

First, Liberty was able to seamlessly process the customer’s CAD model in SolidWorks.  The model was then processed by Liberty using Stratasys Insight software.  First articles were produced and then accepted and approved by the customer.  Liberty was authorized to immediately begin production using the Stratasys 450ms system.

The results have been impressive.  In terms of cost, the 3D-printed parts came in at 25% of the cost of alternate manufacturing methods.  Lead-times also decreased significantly.

As a result of this successful program, Liberty can now offer to build-to-print 3D-printed production parts to other customers, allowing them to reap the same benefits.


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Lean Manufacturing In a Low-Volume High-Mix Environment

by Liberty Electronics

Read about how Liberty Electronics has implemented lean manufacturing process to save its customers lead time and cost while delivering high-quality product.

Implementing Lean Manufacturing in a low-volume, high-mix electronic manufacturing services (EMS) company is not a textbook exercise.  Frequent customer-driven schedule changes, limited production quantities and frequent setups require some creativity in implementing lean manufacturing. In Liberty Electronics’ experience, there is still waste that can be eliminated throughout the value stream.

In the macro view, organizing into cells and customer satisfaction teams, combined with a profit-sharing incentive plan based on objective performance data, provide a greater sense of ownership and accountability.  Implementing a rigorous 5-S program to keep things clean, neat and orderly, and moving to a more visual workplace with clear signage and metrics provide improvement in quality, delivery and labor productivity.

In some cases, one-piece flow is possible along with point-of-use material and tool storage, and a two-bin system, with all of the attendant productivity and quality benefits.  In other cases, smaller batch sizes are the answer.  The ability to pull material kits and tooling, along with on-demand routers, take both cycle time and cost out of the process.  Real-time labor data tracking provides useful labor data to evaluate performance against bids, and helps drive labor efficiency improvement.  It also provides instant status visibility for use both internally and in providing timely status reports to customers.  This is a good example of the benefit of an in-house IT group that can make custom applications to support lean initiatives.

In a low volume, high mix environment, 3D printing has been invaluable in support of lean processes.  Creating custom tool holders that are easy to find, transport, and that are safe and easily accessible have helped considerably.  Well thought out and easy to use 3D printed fixturing eliminates waste, driving both productivity and quality improvements.

Training and cross-training of employees have proven key, along with moving to daily, weekly and in some cases hourly takt times to help improve on-time deliveries and labor efficiencies.

In-process validation of both products and tools is a key part of lean manufacturing at Liberty Electronics.  Having empowered employees that can stop the flow of product when the customer acceptance criteria is not met is critical.  And speaking of employees, having engaged and committed people has been, in our experience, indispensable in generating improvement ideas to eliminate waste.

Lean manufacturing in an EMS provider like Liberty Electronics takes on a unique shape, but it is no less effective in supporting world class manufacturing than in a high volume, low mix environment.


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3D Printing Innovation During the COVID-19 Crisis

by Liberty Electronics

During this historical period of time where the world is experiencing the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses everywhere are responding with necessary measures and precautions. Stopping the spread cannot be done through maintaining the normal day-to-day functions.

As social gathering has been put to an end for the time being, and humans find solace and protection in home isolation and washing hands, many essential businesses must remain open and are looking for the best possible ways to protect their employees and maintain good health while getting the job done.

As an essential business, throughout the past several weeks, Liberty Electronics has taken numerous measures to ensure its employees are safe and healthy during this time. In accordance with the orders from the Pennsylvania Governor and United States President, Liberty sent as many associates as possible home to Telework per the company business continuity plan.

Liberty monitors the facilities and production floors to ensure there is proper social distancing, partitions are set up, and sanitization is in constant practice. In addition, offices have been split in order to allow social distancing and quarantine.

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COVID-19 is a moment in history that no human being has experienced before. It is a constantly evolving global situation that requires monitoring and individual business adjustments. It also presents an opportunity for manufacturing companies in particular to use their engineering abilities to design products in support of these isolation and sanitization efforts. Many companies that had to postpone their current practices have even flipped their businesses to create products that can aid hospitals and citizens during this health crisis.

As Liberty has offered its abilities to contribute to the prevention efforts of this crisis, Liberty has also looked for ways that 3D printing can prevent the spread of germs and reduce the risk of infection in-house.

sneeze guard liberty electronics | 3D Printing Innovation During the COVID-19 Crisis, Liberty Electronics®One of the priorities was to protect the receptionist, as she is the first person to interact with any person that comes in and out of the building. To create a barrier between these human interactions, the manufacturing engineers built what they’ve coined a “Sneeze Guard!” This consists of two long sheets of 1/8-inch thick polycarbonate glass.

They then designed 3D brackets and clips, which they placed in a 3D printer—the Stratasys Fortus 450mc in Dark Gray ASA with heat-imbedded threaded inserts for support. The brackets and clips ran for 30 hours, with an additional hour for post-processing and assembly.

The clips tightly secure to the front desk in the Liberty main lobby, providing enough stability and support to hold the polycarbonate sheets upright. In addition, the glass is tall enough and wraps around both sides in order to provide a secure barrier behind the desk.

In addition to this custom Sneeze Barrier, Liberty has also 3D-printed face shields for the employees who are still working in-office. They even printed clips to be attached to ball caps so those wearing hats can still wear the face shields.

It truly is amazing to see what solutions 3D printing can provide towards the efforts to maintain safety and good health during this unique COVID-19 health crisis. Even more astounding is the ability to have these parts created and finished by the next business day. As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. A crisis like COVID-19 demands creative and innovative solutions like never before.


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How Overmolding Can Help Wires Last Longer and Perform Better

by Liberty Electronics

How Overmolding Can Help Wires Last Longer and Perform Better

Wires frequently become strained especially when used in different temperatures and conditions. But there is a solution that can help prevent wear and lengthen the life of your wires and cables – overmolding. Molding and insulation are necessary to protect wires from wear and tear, creating a longer-lasting product that performs better. Overmolding is one way to fix wiring wear-outs, and the result is known for its strength and resiliency.

Liberty Electronics® offers three types of molding, each with a different level of protection: cast molding, press molding and overmolding. Overmolding is the final step in molding and insulation for wiring and can be used in nearly every industry and application to withstand the rigors of the most demanding environments.

Cast Molding and Press Molding

Cast molding uses a custom-designed mold to provide the wiring harness with specific dimensions. It also allows the product to fit within the space and shape you require.
Press molding provides a specific physical barrier but can also be used to give substance to smaller wiring assemblies. This assembly is more robust and conducive to handling and gains some strain relief between the electrical connector and cable bundle.

Benefits of Overmolding

Overmolding offers high levels of electrical protection for the cable assemblies and wiring harnesses by providing an additional layer of insulation. This type of molding combines wires and connectors into one piece, often covering slide or machine braiding as the final step of protection for the wiring. The design process places the components within a mold and covers them with a hot liquid plastic material via injection. Once cool, the final product protects the connection of the underlying wires and connectors.

The benefits of an overmolded cable assembly include:

  • Increasing the flex strength, especially where the cable exits.
  • Improving the level of protection against outside forces like temperature swings and rubbing.
  • Creating a water-tight seal for the cable assembly connection that resists oil and moisture.

Overmolding provides an electrical barrier while orienting the connector and providing dimensional parameters. Ultimately, this makes wiring last longer and perform better than without additional protection.

Materials Used in Moldings

Different types of molding utilize various materials based on the needs of the specific assembly, depending on the product’s design and factors such as the environment where the product will be used. Three types of materials often used include:

    • Viton, a robust and chemical-resistant yet flexible material, making it excellent for military applications such as rocket motors.
    • Epoxies, which are utilized in cast molding due to their rigidity and durability and are ideal for connectors and adding substance to cable assemblies.
    • Polyurethane, a biologically resistant material to environmental agents such as water or microorganisms. This material is used for molding in transit, military and commercial applications.

Molding and insulation offer optimal protection and performance for wiring harnesses and cable assemblies. By shielding internal components and enhancing protective qualities, overmolding is ideal for equipment requiring frequent flexing and that must perform in harsh conditions and extreme weather.

Partnering for Successful Overmolding Solutions

We can partner with you on overmolded assemblies and harnesses to help find the right solutions for your upcoming products or programs. As a relationship-based business, partnerships with us result in more success, better performance and a higher quality standard.

With over 35 years of leadership in our field, we specialize in supporting aerospace, defense, rail, transportation and nuclear energy industries by providing products including:

      • Electronic wiring harnesses
      • Box builds
      • Electrical cable assemblies
      • Electrical cabinet assemblies
      • Electrical panel assemblies
      • Electromechanical assemblies

In addition to our dedication to success, quality service and on-time delivery, we’re a relationship-first business that values cooperation over competition. To partner with a supplier who works with you, contact us on our website or via email about working together.

Effective Configuration Management in an Industry of Adaptability

by Liberty Electronics

In today’s manufacturing world, “good” is not good enough when it comes to configuration management. In our increasingly competitive, fast-paced market, change processes are vital to ensuring that you get the right components, adhere to modified critical dimensions, and have the correct code in software programs and revised tool settings; these are only a few of the numerous reasons as to why configuration management is so important. There is no question regarding the rising necessity of exceptional configuration management in the manufacturing world.

Picture this: you have a product that one of your contract manufacturers is to assemble. You determine that your assembly should contain a different component that is not specified currently, so you must make a critical change to your bill of material (BOM) so you can incorporate this vital component. Unfortunately, this component has a 16-week lead time. You discover upon receiving the final assembly from the contract manufacturer that it was mistakenly built to the old BOM revision and does not include your new component. You must wait 18 weeks to receive the correct assembly.

At this point, in this scenario, the lack of effective configuration has cost your company time and money. Often times, these changes also flow down from customer to contract manufacturer while the product is being made. Without effective and efficient configuration management, a contract manufacturer will have difficulty meeting deadlines while implementing the configuration changes, or they cannot reliably apply the changes to the correct serial numbers.

Evidently, a robust configuration management system is essential to getting the product you want, when you want it. The question remains: What does an efficient and robust configuration management system look like? The answer to that question has multiple parts.

First, automation is key in the configuration management process. This minimizes human error and minimizes the overhead costs of managing numerous revisions. In addition, efficient configuration management needs to be a rigid process to ensure compliance and prevent shortcuts. It is also a highly comprehensive process; configuration management must cover all relevant documentation, including quotes, purchase and sales orders, items, BOMs, drawings, programs, routers, work instructions, etc.  It should cover both customer and internal revisions in order to control all changes.

When all of the foundation work is established, implementing the changes is a comprehensive decision-making process that requires intentional communication. Several key questions must be asked: What is the impact of the change on work in progress (WIP), finished goods, and even shipped products?  Should they be used, reworked, or scrapped? How do you know if this has been done? 

As these questions are asked, cost effectiveness is a key consideration to ensure these decisions are made wisely from a financial perspective. A robust configuration management system must provide for the necessary notifications, reviews, and approvals to ensure that the execution is as intended. And finally, it must provide auditable records that document all of the relative information.

Efficiently implementing robust configuration management practices is essential to maintaining cost efficiency, high quality, and overall design reliability in manufacturing. In this evolving manufacturing industry, complex and numerous changes are a fact of life. It is not only important to partner with a contract manufacturer that utilizes exceptional configuration management for the sake of reputability and reliability, but it is also important for profitability and revenue. Even more so, quality and safety go hand-in-hand with mistake-free configuration management. Do not allow second-rate supplier configuration management to negatively affect your efforts in providing your customers with world-class products on time and at competitive prices.


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Solving Problems With Root Cause Corrective Action

by Liberty Electronics

Solving Problems With Root Cause Corrective Action

When a project goes astray, one of the most important ways to get it back on track is to find out exactly what went wrong. Using supporting data and facts, root cause corrective action (RCCA) is one way to resolve the issue. The RCCA method finds and eliminates the cause of a detected nonconformity, permanently resolving it.

RCCA isn’t about fixing an individual mistake – it’s a series of actions that positively change or modify the system’s performance for the long term. It looks at the big picture and targets the weakest parts of a system that are more likely to cause failure.

Because RCCA aims to make a systemic change, it’s critical to address contributing causes since they could become a future root cause. Ultimately, RCCA can help create better products, gain a competitive advantage and improve customer satisfaction.

Implementing Root Cause Corrective Action

When implementing RCCA and determining potential solutions, there are five factors to consider:

  • Viability: The solution must be compatible with the company’s schedule and resources.
  • Effectiveness: Before choosing a solution, determine whether it will be effective in solving the problem.
  • Team Involvement: Those affected by the problem should be included in the process of formulating the solution.
  • Big Picture: Focus on systemic issues and address problems that affect the entire organization.
  • Contingency Plan: Come up with a plan based on anticipated success and have a backup strategy in mind.

You should also ask questions like:

  • Will the corrective action lower the risk of event recurrence to an acceptable level?
  • Does everyone involved accept the solution?
  • Are there any opposing effects that might make the action unacceptable?
  • Does the corrective action fit within organizational constraints?

Once the action has been implemented, it’s time to evaluate whether it was as effective as expected. Using predefined criteria to measure results will help assess the effectiveness of the RCCA, helping your team solve similar issues in the future.

Ensuring Team Buy-in

One of the most significant considerations when determining the effectiveness of RCCA is how successfully the team worked together toward implementing the solution. The most critical areas of team collaboration are knowledge facilitation and the team’s willingness to challenge assumptions and critically evaluate the direction of the analysis.
Another important factor is the inclusion of leadership and team members from outside the area of focus. Doing so brings a fresh perspective to the root cause analysis, which helps teams think outside of typical patterns to determine the most suitable RCCA.

No matter the complexity of the issues you’re facing, Liberty Electronics®, a relationship-based business, can partner with you to help find solutions for your upcoming programs. With over 35 years of leadership in our field, we specialize in supporting aerospace, defense, rail, transportation and nuclear energy industries by providing products including:

  • Electronic wiring harnesses
  • Box builds
  • Electrical cable assemblies
  • Electrical cabinet assemblies
  • Electrical panel assemblies
  • Electromechanical assemblies

In addition to our dedication to success, quality service and on-time delivery, we’re a relationship-based supplier that values cooperation over competition and are based in Franklin, PA. To build a long-lasting relationship, contact us on our website or via email about working together.

Liberty, Independence, and Reshoring

by Liberty Electronics

In an interesting convergence, the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal has taken effect within days of celebrating Independence Day here in the United States of America.  The new deal replaces the old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that was implemented on January 1, 1994.  While the net effect of NAFTA has been the subject of spirited debate, there are two unfortunate realities. First, the US trade deficit with these countries increased from $17 billion to over $177 billion per year, and over 800,000 US jobs were displaced during NAFTA’s 26-year existence.  Likewise, and worse for Americans, since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, 3.4 million US jobs have been displaced, and the annual US trade deficit with them peaked in 2018 at over $400 billion.  To add insult to injury, trade with China has strengthened a totalitarian regime that oppresses the Chinese people and views the United States as an obstacle to their global ambitions.

In achieving the goal of helping to level the playing field, the new USMCA deal and others that could follow will likely increase the costs of goods produced in what were previously identified as “low cost regions.” In addition to trade deal changes, the costs of “low cost region” supply chains have been severely impacted by things like increased tariffs, the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, wage growth, energy costs, and destabilizing factors, which include crime and the threat of armed conflict.

So as Americans celebrate Independence Day this year, many US companies are declaring independence from offshore supply chains.  The Thomas Industrial Survey, for example, recently reported that 64% of manufacturers are likely to bring production and sourcing to North America, and this number has been growing.  The Institute for Supply Management reports that nearly 75% of companies are reporting supply chain disruptions due to the coronavirus.  It’s no wonder more and more firms are reshoring.

Numerous case studies reveal that manufacturers that reshore can expect to reap improvements in a number of areas, including product quality, lead times and delivery, inventory costs, innovation and faster product development, and reduced threat of theft of intellectual property and supply interruptions, among other benefits.  As a result, manufacturers are looking to achieve a reduction in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the products that they begin to source domestically.

In our experience with our customers, reshoring, and even changing suppliers within the same country for that matter, can be a daunting task.  There are tools and methodologies, however, that we find make the process much less susceptible to potential pitfalls, and minimize both the cycle time and cost of the project.  

Robust configuration management and ERP systems, for example, are essential to get the right products at the right time.  Hundreds, thousands, and even more parts need to be ordered and delivered at the correct revisions and at the right times in order to ensure supply continuity.  Early collaboration, gold standard assemblies, both physical and digital, and even reverse or re-engineering can be key, especially to uncover and address “tribal knowledge” that is not captured in the technical documentation.  Both the ability to quickly scale capacity, and rapid tooling development, including using 3-D printing, can also help ensure a smooth process.

Ultimately, we’ve found that our commitment to your success is the key factor in getting your products moved from an incumbent supplier in a timely and cost-effective manner.  If you are looking to reshore your products to a US EMS contract manufacturer, we invite you to consider Liberty Electronics.  Let freedom ring!



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How the Right Contract Manufacturer Can Benefit Your Bottom Line

by Liberty Electronics

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.

Contract manufacturing allows businesses to shift their focus away from fabrication and assembly and place more emphasis on core business-related tasks such as design, development, integration, and testing. Contract manufacturing is especially ideal for companies that do not possess:

  • In-house capability and/or expertise to reliably produce a certain element or multiple elements of existing or planned products
  • Sufficient capacity to keep up with demand
  • Contingency in the budget to accommodate unforeseen circumstances during production
  • The ability to coordinate the different variables required for product creation, including raw material procurement, design, fulfillment, and delivery

Although contract manufacturing is a beneficial and valuable tool for businesses, specific steps still need to be taken to ensure the outsourcing process is as cost-effective as possible.

Is Outsourcing Tactical or Strategic?

Tactical outsourcing and strategic outsourcing are driven by different factors.

Tactical outsourcing is an approach usually employed by organizations that are seeking a short-term fix and or limited cost reductions. Companies that use tactical outsourcing tend to do so based on criteria such as cost and available delivery dates. This type of outsourcing also allows businesses to hand off limited scopes of work to gain expertise and or capacity.

Tactical outsourcing is viewed as relatively straightforward, as it is based more on immediate need. For example, an OEM may outsource overflow manufacturing to keep up with demand. A company may also outsource to free up capital funds being spent on non-core functions.  Such a move can prevent the need for expending capital on additional floor space and equipment.

Strategic outsourcing, on the other hand, is much more involved, and much more impactful. In contrast to tactical outsourcing, which can be reactive and often short-term in nature, strategic outsourcing involves a more long-term focus. This type of outsourcing allows businesses to hand off functions that either cannot be performed by their organization or are difficult to control and manage.

During this type of outsourcing, decisions are made based on myriad factors and can be considerably more complex than tactical outsourcing. For instance, it often involves the restructuring of an organization based on core competencies and external relationships. Strategic outsourcing might also entail retraining certain employees to do more value-added work.

A strategically outsourced contractor is not just a vendor, but is also a partner in many ways. In a strategic outsourcing partnership, both parties have a significant stake in the relationship. The client frees up money and resources to focus on core business concerns, while the contract manufacturer offers their own core expertise that can improve the production process and maybe even the product itself. In such a relationship, the partners share risks and share investments, ultimately reducing the negative, and amplifying the positive effects on both parties.

Other benefits companies gain from a strategic outsourcing partnership include:

  • Lower internal department handling costs
  • Reduced inventory
  • Increased capacity
  • Access to state-of-the-art processes/technology
  • Increased market competitiveness
  • Reduced training/workforce costs and responsibilities
  • Access to a lower cost structure

One of the primary goals that strategic outsourcing seeks to achieve is a reduction in the total cost of ownership (TCO).

What Should You Measure?

Knowing what metrics to use also plays a substantial role in contract manufacturer selection. Financial and operational (or non-financial) metrics represent two particular parameters that need to be considered.

  • Financial metrics

Outsourcing essentially boosts economic value added (EVA) by significantly reducing operating and capital costs, while inventory reduction, increased turns, and reduced equipment, facility, and personnel costs affect the return on assets (ROA). Financial metrics are used to predict, capture and assess the economic impacts of the outsourcing initiative. They should also be used to evaluate and select the right contract manufacturer. Examining the strength of their bottom line and balance sheet, for example, is a crucial element of selecting the right outsourcing partner.

  • Operational metrics

Money isn’t everything when it comes to metrics. Manufacturing success may be further evaluated by measurements such as on-time delivery, cycle times, quality, and reliability. These parameters can ultimately affect time-to-market (TTM), and overall customer satisfaction with the final product.

A Trusted Contract Manufacturing Partner

Selecting the right contract manufacturer can free up precious resources for more challenging or pressing tasks, which can ultimately improve a company’s productivity and ability to innovate. Liberty Electronics draws on decades of experience to solve complex challenges related to manufacturing, engineering, and quality. We work closely with our clients to offer superior contract manufacturing services, making us a true consultative partner.


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How to Successfully Switch Suppliers [Video]

by Liberty Electronics

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Scott Anderson of Liberty Electronics shares best practices and the importance of a multidisciplinary team in the process of switching suppliers. This includes ensuring adequate production capacity, consistent OTD, and dual-sourcing supply to avoid supply chain disruption. To learn more about how Liberty works with customers on supply chain management and switching suppliers, check out our blog and video below.

Mark: Welcome to another episode of Wired Success presented by Liberty Electronics. Today I’m here with Scott Anderson. My name is Mark Cessar.

Scott is the Director of New Business Development here at Liberty and we are here to talk about switching suppliers. So, Scott, why are we talking about switching suppliers today?

Scott: Well, thank you, Mark. It’s good to be with you again.

There have been a number of studies recently that show that actually a majority of O.E.Ms are considering switching to new suppliers. In some cases they’re looking to avoid tariffs or supply disruptions, and in other cases they’re looking to increase capacity or improve quality. Unfortunately, switching suppliers, though, is a risky business.

Liberty has worked with a number of customers over the years who’ve transitioned business to Liberty from an old supplier, and we’ve learned some lessons and developed some best practices that we’d like to share today.

Mark: Is there any one thing that stands out above others in terms of best practices in switching suppliers?

Scott: Well, I’d say, like much of manufacturing, it is really important to focus on the process and also in having a multidisciplinary team that’s responsible for and accountable for the process.

Mark: So, let’s talk about the process. What are some key elements?

Scott: Well, first, one thing that’s critical in contract manufacturing is getting the configuration right. Does the finished physical product match the technical documentation? Unfortunately, some suppliers make changes to the product without updating the documentation. So, for example, they might substitute a component without updating the bill of material, or they might switch out a tool or change a tool setting without updating the documentation. So, we found it’s critical to have a gold standard of the finished product. So whether it’s a physical gold standard or whether it’s a digital gold standard, something to validate the configuration against and also having a multidisciplinary review of the technical documentation and the process.

Second, sharing forecast information with the supplier and having a supplier that has a robust ERP system is important to making sure that the components are arriving when they need to be there to support the transition and also to ensure that there is adequate production capacity to meet the demand. Then, third, it’s also important to have some type of supply redundancy so whether that’s some safety stock to cover a few months of the transition or possibly some parallel production with the old supplier to cover that period it’s kind of a belt and suspenders approach that might not be necessary, but there’s really little downside.

Mark: Is there anything else that Liberty has picked up over the years that could help an O.E.M. in this process of switching suppliers?

Scott: Well, Mark, there are a couple things that we’ve picked up on that are key, and one is the ability to be nimble. Invariably in these transitions something unforeseen pops up and it’s important to have lean processes to be able to respond quickly and also to minimize the cost impact. Second, and probably most important, is commitment on the part of the supplier to the success of the transition. In other words, having a supplier that’s willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen for the customer.

Mark: Well, thank you for your time today, Scott and thank you for tuning in to another episode of Wired Success presented by Liberty Electronics.

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Advantages of Moving Up the Bill of Materials [Video]

by Liberty Electronics

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The Bill of Material is a critical component of the planning process in manufacturing for any industry. In this episode of Wired SuccessMark Cessar talks with Liberty’s Programs Director, Troy West about what moving up the Bill of Materials is and how this approach to procurement can benefit OEMs in terms of ease of installation, capacity, costs, and inventory reduction.

Hi, my name is Mark Cessar and I am here today with Troy West for another discussion on Wired Success presented by Liberty Electronics. Troy has worked for the company for 19 years as our Programs Director. He is from Butler County, Pennsylvania. So, today’s topic for discussion is “advantages of moving up the bill of materials.” So to start, why would a system supplier want to outsource a higher level assembly as a strategy, versus cable and harness assemblies?

Well, the main reason a supplier would want to source a chassis or box build as opposed to a harness would be the ease of installation. So, when they get a harness or cable assembly, they have to take that assembly and install it in whatever their unit is: the chassis, the box… and that can be a fairly labor-intensive process. So by having it come to them as a completed unit, then they may simply have to bolt that chassis into their assembly that they will sell to an OEM and it’s already tested; it’s already inspected, and therefore it helps save on their labor costs.

So let’s talk about capacity. How can this approach help this area?

Well for a system supplier, you know, if they’re able to outsource the chassis for example– if I can give an example– there is a customer I know of that had a large harness they were procuring from us that had about 90 wires going to a single terminal block. And the original intent was that they would terminate to that terminal block at their facility. However they did not have the labor available for that. So after a couple months of receiving assemblies that way, they decided to have the terminal block included in our bill and have us do the termination. And it saved them– according to them– about six hours per unit for the installation.

All right, what about cost? What are the implications there?

There are several factors that can be impacted by this for cost. One of which would be a reduction in inventory for the system supplier to carry, as well as the number of PO’s that would be issued by the supplier, as well as the receiving and warehouse activities to manage all of those components.

You mentioned inventory reduction. Can you explain that a little bit more?

Yeah we can work with the system supplier to potentially have a pull or vendor-managed inventory system set up so that they would only need to pull those items as required. As well as it would reduce the number of part numbers that they would need to carry in their inventory and the cost associated with having them in their inventory and purchasing them.

So last but not least, what effect can this strategy have on the design process?

Well, if the system supplier is able to modify their design to make it easier for installation, that can impact quite a bit. Their remaining labor, for example, they might have the harness at present exit the chassis and go to switches or terminal blocks or whatever that would need to be hooked up afterward, and they might be able to modify the design so it’s connected and to make that chassis a plug-and-play type assembly. So,drop it in, hook up a few connectors, and you’re done with it as opposed to installing it and then running a bunch of wires wherever they need to go.

Well thank you try thank you for tuning in to another episode on wired for success presented by Liberty Electronics. Thanks again, Troy

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Wire Braiding: Machine Versus Premade Options

by Liberty Electronics

Braided coverings and shieldings are an excellent way to make wiring configurations neat and uniform. Braiding gives wires more flexibility and a longer lifespan and can also offer a layer of electric protection or abrasion resistance. Although there are two different types of wire braiding widely used in the industry,  machine braiding and premade (or slide-on) braiding, machine braiding offers more versatility, cost savings, and consistency, and should be something a contract manufacturing partner should be able to do in-house.

Braided covers, made from materials like kevlar, polyamide, and nomex, provide abrasion resistance and protect the wiring configurations inside from damage. Braided shielding, made from nickel or copper plated with tin or silver, offers electrical protection by providing electromagnetic or radio frequency shielding. Braided covers and shields can be obtained either commercially, in pre-cut and pre-sized sleeves, or in-house, using braiding machines that weave over the product to fit its exact specifications.

Each type of braiding carries its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, slide-on braiding can be convenient and cheap, as it comes prepared and already sized. Slide-ons can be applied to an assembly quickly and easily. Some complicated or unusually-shaped assemblies, however, may not fit into a standardized size or they may not have a free end to slide the premade braiding onto. These premade braids limit the manufacturer to only being able to cover or shield certain assemblies.

In these situations, machine braiding is a better option, offering the ability to custom size the braiding around a wiring assembly. This creates a perfect fit every time, not limiting the manufacturer to standardized sizes and is often ultimately more cost effective, providing exactly what is needed and producing a more secure and durable product.

Sometimes, the manufacturer can even utilize a slide-on braid and finish the needed modifications with machine braid, should the fit of the slide-on not be adequate. This can secure premade braiding into something more neat and customizable, and offer extra protection for the assembly.

Custom, in-house machine braiding is a process an experienced supplier will be familiar with. With eight braiding machines currently in use, Liberty, for example, works to ensure the best protection for its products. These machines allow the company to produce either coverings or shieldings with all standard materials, including nylon, ceramic, and metal.

The versatility and cost-effectiveness of custom machine braiding creates flexible, long-lasting cable assemblies that might otherwise be difficult to shield, generating products that are uniform, protected, and secure. Liberty’s ability to provide these assemblies to clients shows the company’s own commitment to excellence, and its desire to fit the customer’s exact needs from the initial design to the finished, braided details.

What braiding issues have you seen with either machine or premade wire braiding? Let us know in the comments below. For questions about out braiding process or our quality standards, please reach out for further details.

2021 Industry Outlook – Aerospace & Defense

by Liberty Electronics

Liberty Electronic’s Industry Outlook series analyzes the market for trends suppliers at all levels of the supply chain should watch. In this installment, we break down Aerospace and Defense trends. 

With a difficult 2020 behind us, this year’s relaxed COVID-19 restrictions herald the airline industry’s long road to recovery with returning travel. Though the commercial sector faces some challenges, there is hope for aerospace manufacturers and suppliers with solid industry projections in the defense sector due to defense spending remaining largely unaffected in countries across the world. The global political climate and recovering pandemic economies will mean there is much to be seen in 2021, but aerospace and defense (A&D) companies and suppliers can be on the lookout for three major trends this coming year.

Space exploration and military activity is projected to remain stable.

The pandemic did not shake any eyes from space with lots of activity planned for 2021. After a tough year for space exploration with many launches postponed, this year will be busy as space programs across the globe adapt to delayed launch dates and declining launch costs. Space investments remained steady at 25.6 billion in 2020, meaning more contracts can be expected in 2021 after some large deals in 2020. June saw a 187 million dollar deal between NASA and Northrop Grumman to begin design and execution of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost projected to launch in 2023 and a 160 million dollar deal between the Pentagon and SpaceX to launch two Falcon 9 rockets by the end of 2023. Multiple contracts have been awarded to A&D companies for defense projects in spite of a decrease in deal activity due to the pandemic, though that is expected to increase as 2020’s uncertainty abates. Already the industry has seen some major contracts such as the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin for F-16 Fighting Falcon, the U.S Army and Honeywell for CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Flight Control Systems and Aerovironment for Raven unmanned aircraft and more. From these contracts suppliers can expect a steady revenue stream from continued military and space exploration efforts.

Commercial air travel anticipates a slow and steady recovery.

Though it may be several years until air traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels, there has been an increase since the beginning of the pandemic and as an effective vaccine becomes available. This adjustment in the market means 2021 will be an adjustment year for this side of the industry. Now, leisure travel appears to be leading demand as the business sector continues to refrain from any kind of travel, though overall travel is still 50 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels as of April 9. This cut in passenger traffic has caused airlines to cancel or postpone investment projects, narrowing their focus on near-term cash flow in order to pay off debts and create a security fund for the future. Fewer deals will be made with aerospace and defense manufacturers in 2021, though this number may continue to grow as airlines transition into this new type of market left in the wake of COVID-19.

Aerospace supply chains can expect accentuated focus on resilience.

With only 60-70 percent of aircraft utilized around the globe since the pandemic began, manufacturers will be hard pressed to win contracts for new projects. This means companies will need to try new methods of ensuring the supply chain’s efficiency. An outlook report from Deloitte suggests that companies can use strategies like reshoring, vertical integration and an increase in cyber defenses as methods of transforming the supply chain into a more resilient network. The continued restrictions on international traffic could see reshoring as a preventative measure in the instance of another pandemic wave shutting down borders, while increased cost competition for commercial contracts could see a push for offshoring. A push towards the digital appears to be inevitable if A&D companies expect to succeed in future sustainability. This means the industry will be more data-driven, have a focus on implementing and creating new technologies and develop a more collaborative atmosphere to achieve these goals.

Moving Forward in a Post-Pandemic World

With a continued transition in the commercial sector, aerospace and defense manufacturers and companies will increase their focus on space exploration and government contracts. Increased military and technological investments from government entities will mean a consistent market from government spending while the commercial sector gets back on its feet. Because of this market shift, companies will need to ensure the supply chain’s resilience and dynamism in order to stay relevant. Implementing different and creative strategies will be the industry’s way to identify top players and solidify their leadership in the future. In the meantime, there remains much to be seen in 2021 as the effects of the pandemic continue to surface.

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