In this episode of Wired Success, Sales Engineer, Mark Cessar, talks with George Allman, Liberty Electronics’ Manufacturing Engineering Supervisor to ask some questions about how OEMs can benefit from collaborating with suppliers during the design phase of a project. During their discussion, George shares what suppliers can bring to the table and the overall value this offers OEMs.
Mark Cessar: Hi. My name is Mark Cessar and I’m here with George Allman for another discussion on Wired for Success presented by Liberty Electronics. We are here to talk today about the benefits of collaborative design. George has been working here at Liberty Electronics for twenty-three years as a manufacturing engineer. So we’ll just get started. My first question is “why should an OEM collaborate with a contract manufacturer like Liberty electronics? Are you saying that they don’t know what they’re doing? Are you saying that they don’t know their own design?”
George Allman: Not at all Mark. Our customers, OMS, that we work with are very well-versed in the product design that they’re trying to achieve. However, with Liberty Electronics and our 35 years of experience in manufacturing, we can sometimes bring more to the table that they may not be aware of. Sometimes that’s component selection, sometimes it’s methodologies, sometimes it’s the way that the product will fit together with something else.
MC: You mentioned your unique focus and following expertise. Can you provide some examples of how this could benefit any OEM?
GA: Sure Mark. Again, with their 35 years of experience in this industry, there’s oftentimes when an OEM or customer may suggest a component. However, again with our experience and working in military aerospace at commercial energy sectors, we can oftentimes recommend an alternate, something maybe that’s a little bit more suitable for the intended purpose that the customer may not be aware of.
MC: But won’t this take too much time in an already aggressive product schedule?
GA: Well Mark, it’s been our experience that usually solving issues and situations the earlier in the program that you can, it equates to saving time and money downstream throughout the entire project. And so what we see is the earlier that we can get involved with a project, the earlier that engineering here at Liberty Electronics can get involved in a project, we can oftentimes find solutions quicker, easier, and in a more timely manner and that’s to help the customer.
MC: Well, thank you, George. I appreciate your time. And thank you for tuning into this discussion on Wired Success presented by Liberty Electronics.
With the news of backlogs at record highs this year, industry OEMs and suppliers are looking for ways to ramp up production to meet demand. Meeting these needs can become challenging when fulfillment issues arise. According to forecast experts like Deloitte, manufacturers in 2019 should be focused on strengthening their supply chains, more effectively managing projects, and leveraging advanced technology to increase efficiency. As OEMs and suppliers both contemplate ways to meet demand, here are a few things all procurement professionals should look for in suppliers to prevent fulfillment pitfalls.
Agile and lean manufacturing
Agile manufacturing is all about setting yourself up for speed, efficiency, and convenience. Customer demands can fluctuate, and when manufacturers are agile they can quickly and nimbly pivot with these adjustments. Lean manufacturing is the sturdy and strong foundation required in order for agility to be possible. Small batches, continuous flow production, and quick changeovers are all key components of lean manufacturing. Agile manufacturing builds on top of lean processes and implements four key elements: modular product design, information technology, corporate partners, and knowledge culture.
When demand rises but the supply isn’t available to fulfill that demand, the entire manufacturing process comes to a halt. Inventory management is one of the key components of fulfillment success, and one of the ways to stay at the top of your inventory game is to maintain safety (or buffer) stock. Maintaining safety stock of key items can reduce the likelihood of out of stock supplies, but space and budget can both be an issue. The good news is, many reliable suppliers will keep safety stock. Whether they decide to order larger amounts for an OEM in case the order increases or the cost is less to order in bulk, suppliers often strategically maintain safety stock to be prepared for these pitfalls and have the controlled areas to store it.
The right ERP
Reliability, customization, and accuracy are nonnegotiables for OEMs and suppliers when it comes to streamlining fulfillment. Comprehensive Enterprise Resource Planning software can foster clear, concise information across a business as well as manage expectations for a variety of departments. The right ERP can integrate every facet of a project; from product planning and design to manufacturing and marketing. Designated individuals have access to relevant information through each phase of the lifecycle. The ability to cost-effectively customize the software is critical to the support of customer-specific requirements as well as evolving standards and regulations.
Demand-driven material requirements planning (DDMRP) is causing many OEMs and suppliers to take another look at the way they approach and use their Bills of Material (BOM’s). DDMRP relies on examining inventory levels through the lens of existing supply and pending orders, adds buffer stock strategically into the equation, and determines the level of demand and appropriate response. Strategic buffer stock is considered within the BOM based on the frequency with which a particular part is usually used, ever-changing lead times, and the phase at which certain supply could potentially run out of stock. When supplier procurement professionals examine their needed and existing materials through this more expansive lens based on demand, they’re less likely to face unexpected depletion.
Fewer sourcing partners
This might sound counterintuitive, but OEMs wanting to lower the risk of fulfillment pitfalls might want to consider the benefits of partnering with a few key partners or even a single source supplier for manufacturing needs. When you select a long-term partner, a relationship can be built and strengthened from an earned trust. You can also take the time to create the rapport that allows more integrated systems and streamlined communication. Not to mention, trends and habits learned over time spent together can become the foundation for intuitively predicting and anticipating inventory needs.
Imagine notifying your two largest customers that their lines will be down because you won’t be able to deliver their products for 16 weeks. Imagine the daily conference calls, site visits, audits, and over-time costs while your organization is turned upside down trying to deliver product, all for one simple reason: a key part of the process was never formally documented on an assembly that is newly outsourced, or outsourced from a new supplier.
No matter how well-equipped a manufacturer is, it is often cost-effective and convenient to outsource certain parts to another supplier. Reliability, quality, capacity, and cost are some of the reasons why a manufacturer might choose to outsource an assembly. Outsourcing can be a great strategy, but it can also reveal problems associated with tribal knowledge: key process elements that somehow escaped official documentation.
Usually, a problem with tribal knowledge arises when the previous manufacturer makes a change to a part during manufacturing without proper documentation. These changes include: a difference of settings on tools utilized, alteration of techniques, or the change, addition, or omission of parts. These seemingly small modifications remain hidden throughout the manufacturing process until the assembly is outsourced to another supplier. The assembly is ordered and received, only to find that, while it meets the print, it does not fit into the upper level assembly, or even worse, it fails in service. Now your customer is unhappy because it has taken months to diagnose the problem, get the documentation changed, and have the new, usable assemblies delivered.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to avoid problems that tribal knowledge can cause. Early collaboration between manufacturer and supplieris paramount so that both parties can discuss, witness, and document the manufacturing process. Product and process photography should be employed to ensure that the entire process is captured. Physical “gold standard” assemblies that have been built previously and that are known to be correct are also useful for the new supplier.
It is crucial that manufacturers recognize and avoid unethical suppliers, who often purposely keep information from their customers in order to inhibit them from switching suppliers. And be wary if the supplier also manufactures components for the assemblies–this often provides more opportunities to leverage these practices. Instead, a company should seek suppliers who operate with transparency and integrity. A supplier with such qualities will demonstrate rigorous configuration management and process controls, thereby developing better documentation and products. And if you’re already being held hostage by a supplier, it may become necessary to find a supplier who will re-engineer the designs to lower cost, shorten lead-times, and give the you the option to have another company manufacture the assembly if desired.
Problems associated with tribal knowledge are a common issue in outsourcing, but they are also preventable. By working with ethical suppliers who communicate well and document their processes and products, a manufacturer can avoid the pitfalls of tribal knowledge that lead to products that, while built to the documented specifications, do not meet your form, fit, or function requirements.
Reduce Supply Chain Issues With a Relationship-Focused Supplier
OEMs rely on successful partnerships to improve performance, especially when supply chain issues are top of mind for many businesses. It’s crucial to consider how successful long-term relationships can ease supply chain delays through reduced lead times and expedited problem solving.
Building individualized relationships creates better access to products and helps meet specific needs. Manufacturers can reap the rewards in a complex, constantly evolving environment by working with suppliers who personally know their purchasing, engineering and quality departments.
What Sets a Relationship-Focused Business Apart
Relationship-based businesses focus on engaging customers through information and resources that connect directly to their audience and provide value. Once you’ve established familiarity, open communication channels lead to a beneficial relationship with tone and language that both parties easily understand.
Knowing the ins and outs of OEMs can lead to quick resolutions and proactive awareness of potential order issues, faster turnaround times and a deeper familiarity with product lines. Liberty’s team caters to your needs to help you and your project succeed, especially when the supply chain is experiencing shortages or long lead times. Here’s a deeper look at those benefits:
More familiarity with product lines: By knowing customer requirements, suppliers don’t have to start from scratch and can plan on meeting certain specifications ahead of time, potentially shortening the turnaround time for initial units.
Reduced lead time: Suppliers could choose to stock components that may have a long lead time, even if there is no current demand. With knowledge of the customer’s product and specifications, suppliers can also plan builds around those requirements to react more quickly.
Quicker resolutions: Suppliers would know exactly who to contact about specific issues or concerns. For example, an order could be flagged if the customer typically orders items as sets, but they only order part of the set. Suppose there are engineering questions or quality concerns. In that case, they could go directly to that person to manage the issue more quickly rather than contacting a buyer and waiting for contact information.
While transactional business models succeed in driving sales, this is also true with relationship-focused business models. However, the benefits from the relationship model are longer term vs. short-term financial gains. Ultimately, a strong relationship with suppliers allows OEMs to create systems to stabilize demand for parts and reduce shortage risks.
A Partner, Not Just a Supplier
From your first interaction with a relationship-based business like Liberty Electronics®, you can tell we operate differently. Our team prioritizes building relationships with customers by learning your specific needs and delivering customizable solutions. By immersing ourselves in our customers’ business, we develop a 360-degree understanding of what success looks like. Ultimately, you’ll feel heard and understand we aren’t just a supplier — we’re your partner.
This type of partnership results in more success, better performance and a higher quality standard for both the customer and supplier. With few signs of improvement in the disrupted supply chain, finding a supplier who focuses on building relationships can strengthen your operations.
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
Electrical cable assemblies
Electrical cabinet assemblies
Electrical panel assemblies
In addition to our dedication to 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 ourwebsite or viaemail about working together.
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.
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.
Information technology can promote the development and productivity of a business. That is why IT is a core competency at Liberty Electronics and plays a key role in satisfying our customers. Rather than using off-the-shelf software, which is often a “jack of all trades and master of none,” Liberty employs a different approach.
In the past, using commercial software applications has forced Liberty to make sacrifices and compromises due to the different limitations of these products, which ultimately was inefficient to the company. Instead, Liberty strategically customizes robust applications in order to achieve our customer-driven requirements as an electronic manufacturing services contract manufacturer. As customer and industry requirements evolve, our software also evolves through updates by our IT department. Our self-sufficient approach to IT ultimately reduces cost and lead-times, speeds up simple actions through automation, and improves customer service. Here are a couple of examples:
Liberty previously spent tens of thousands of dollars in annual license and support costs for off-the-shelf software that met just a portion of the company’s needs. On top of the annual outlays, periodic six-figure bills for mandatory software updates also came out of Liberty’s pocket—all for software that was not able to perform in some important ways. The workarounds themselves were both time-consuming and expensive. Rather than putting out more money for a time reporting program that always fell short, Liberty decided to create its own.
Our IT department developed an in-house system with customized time clock rounding rules that better suited our needs. The new-and-improved time-reporting software has the ability to schedule cell-to-cell personnel changes and vacation time, providing a faster and easier communication system. Seamlessly integrated with payroll, the system eliminates redundant data entry, which reduces the risk of errors. The system also deploys biometric readers for improved ease of use and security. Most impressively, the new system freed up the equivalent of over one full-time overhead person, allowing them to do actual value-added work.
In the estimating department, we previously created quotes to our customers using off-the-shelf software. While the old system did provide us with the ability to quote items, the process of getting there was laborious and time-intensive. The old software was a stand-alone package that required manual data input and intervention in order to identify the best prices and lead-times. When an award was made, the items and bills of material had to then be entered into the ERP system, adding another time-consuming and costly step. Because the estimating and production systems operated on separate databases, evaluating performance proved to be a complicated task.
One option was for Liberty to purchase a new estimating system. We found these systems to be expensive and not a good fit for our requirements in our commodity and markets. So, we ultimately decided to write our own estimating module application that is now a part of our ERP system. This yielded a number of benefits over the old system.
First, we eliminated manual component pricing entry via automation. Next, we addressed minimum-buy and multiple-buy quantities, which are an all-too-common fact of life in our industry. Our custom system will break these costs out where they can be noted but ignored if there is ongoing business, highlighted for a non-recurring charge, or amortized into the unit prices if required. Similarly, non-recurring charges for things like tooling and mating test connectors are also captured.
The system now automatically selects the best component pricing for various price breaks that are either independent of or at a specified maximum lead-time. It will even check to see if it costs less overall to buy more material than needed at a higher quantity at a higher price break, or if it is more cost-effective to buy only what is currently needed at the lower price break. Making decisions like these is what ultimately can make or break a company’s material portion of a bid, and material can typically make up more than half of the total bid price. In addition, the redundant data entry required to transition from Estimating to Production was eliminated.
Proprietary checks have been implemented to identify erroneous pricing. A significant benefit of creating our own estimating system is that it enabled the switch from a standard cost system to an actual cost system. As a result, component purchase price variance is now a comparison of the actual price paid to the quoted price used in the bid, rather than to some potentially meaningless standard cost.
Simply possessing the ability, resources, and intelligence in our IT department to write our own software systems allows us to create systems that correlate directly with the company’s needs and better suit our customers’ requirements. Not only can our money be directed towards more worthwhile resources that will actually improve our daily processes, but each system function is intentionally designed to our specialized requirements. Customers can better depend on a company that has control of its own software.
If you are interested in learning more about how information technology can help Liberty Electronics meet your requirements click here to contact us.
Strategic sourcing processes allow manufacturers to choose the best vendors based on more factors than cost alone. By evaluating other characteristics such as quality management practices, efficient operations, design capabilities, and sustainability, purchasing managers are using strategic sourcing techniques to look at the “bigger picture” for long-term growth.
Strategic Sourcing vs. Traditional Purchasing
During the traditional purchasing process, purchasing managers often make supplier decisions based on the lowest cost per unit and discounts provided for high-volume orders. However, this often results in selecting multiple vendors to work on the similar projects — meaning more complex procedures for your internal team.
Conversely, strategic sourcing:
Evaluates the best possible value through the total cost of business
Agrees on quality standards for fewer inspections and waste reduction
Invests in select suppliers for simplified ordering and invoicing arrangements
Why Does Strategic Sourcing Matter?
Statistics show most businesses spend over 60% of their revenue on purchasing goods and services, while implementing strategic sourcing practices can result in as much as 70% of potential procurement savings. In fact, strategic sourcing often comes with immediate returns for procurement managers by freeing up resources to expand the core business and allowing staff to spend more time doing what they were hired to do.
For example, as manufacturing technology continues to become more automated, engineers have more time to dedicate to creative thinking and design. The same goes for purchasing managers and strategic sourcing.
Strategic sourcing procedures offer three significant and immediate benefits:
Financial Incentive – Streamlining procurement operations frees up resources, reduces costs, and increases the overall value of purchases.
Decreased Risk – By evaluating more than cost, purchasing managers reduce operational risk by taking factors such as financial stability, sustainability, and innovative momentum into consideration.
Goal Alignment – Gaining a partner in business operations helps to ensure that a company’s business goals align with those of their vendors. A robust, trustworthy relationship is paramount for success.
Strategic Sourcing Applications within Aerospace
Growth in the aerospace and defense market has increased the need for electronic manufacturing services and suppliers. Although military specifications were once regarded as the most rigorous compliance standard, these regulations have recently been upstaged by modern commercial quality standards. Since the acceptance of IPC6 Class III standards, most electronic manufacturing services (EMS) companies now maintain the required quality standards necessary for military-spec manufacturing.
As such, there is a growing acceptance of EMS outsourcing, and nearly all U.S.-based aerospace and defense contractors outsource at some level. Some aerospace and defense leaders who are currently outsourcing include:
Sourcing & Consulting Services with Liberty Electronics
As your strategic business partner, Liberty Electronics takes pride in our commitment to quality with vendors that choose us for strategic sourcing. We are ISO 9001-certified and AS9100-certified, and our inspection process is rigorous. Our staff is dedicated to providing a competitively priced, world-class product that will exceed your expectations and your standards.
Maintaining the highest quality means ensuring our manufacturing personnel receive continuing education for on the job requirements and achieves the following certifications:
IPC/WHMA-A-620 + Space Addendum
IPC J-STD-001 + Space Addendum
Liberty Electronics’ team works with top defense and commercial OEMs who want to expand their capabilities through teaming with an outsourcing partner — including Bombardier, General Electric, Northrop Grunman and Raytheon. Subscribe to our newsletter today to learn more about how Liberty Electronics can help drive efficiency in your aerospace supply chain with enhanced strategic sourcing processes.
Most companies work to ensure a maximum standard of safety in a workplace environment. There are several unique ways that Liberty makes employee safety and security a priority, by getting not only employees involved, but their families as well.
Workplace safety starts with aptly training the workforce, not only in day to day safety practices, but also in proper emergency response. In addition to each employee learning safety policies and procedures, Liberty conducts annual mandated safety training along with providing certification for a group of associates trained as workplace first responders for onsite safety. This demonstrates a collaborative effort that ensures the company is not only operating in a safe and healthy manner but is also providing for a rapid response to individual concerns and conditions.
To highlight the importance of continuing workplace safety, Liberty staffs a dedicated safety committee. This committee is composed of individuals from each department or business unit within the company. The committee meets at least monthly, and discusses safety concerns. Members of the committee also typically engage other workplace associates by reinforcing and affirming company directives, safety protocols, and best practices.
During the month of June, the company also celebrates Safety Month, providing incentives to promote safety awareness. This includes games, fun contests, and questionnaires and puzzles that award prizes. These all intend to further educate employees on safety issues and to create camaraderie as everyone works together to prioritize safety. Even the families of employees can get involved, with family picnics, silent auctions, and children’s coloring contests.
Liberty ensures a commitment to safety by not only following the letter of the law (OSHA, city ordinances, and state workplace laws), but also by engaging with each employee on a personal level. The goal is to value the company’s employees and associates by being intentional about safety protocols, so that when employees come to work each day, the precautions are in place to ensure the smooth and safe operation of everything Liberty does.
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
Electrical cable assemblies
Electrical cabinet assemblies
Electrical panel 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Driving performance through successful partnerships is a critical component of the OEM supply chain. Liberty prides itself on being a relationship-minded supplier, knowing the ins and outs of our OEM partners. Quick resolutions and proactive awareness of potential order issues, faster turnaround times for new orders, as well as a deep familiarity with product lines are all benefits of these relationships. This investment in our partnerships results in better performance and a higher standard of quality for both customer and supplier.
In this episode of Wired Success, Mark Cessar asks Liberty Electronics’ Program Director, Troy West, about the benefits of partnering with a relationship-minded supplier.
Thank you for tuning in to another episode of “Wired for Success.” I’m here with Troy West, my name is Mark Cessar and we are here to talk about the benefits of a relationship-minded supplier. Liberty Electronics was established in 1985. In these years, we have developed numerous relationships with companies and Troy, can you talk about the benefits that these years of familiarity can have for these companies?
Sure, Mark. Some of the benefits would be knowing who to contact about certain issues or concerns that you might have regarding what’s going on with your customer. For example, you may see that a customer that typically orders items as sets, they’re only ordering part of the set instead of the entire set, you can bring that to their attention almost right away and say “Hey, you know, we think you’re missing a part. You may need to go back to your planning, or your engineering to make sure that the parts list is correct or the planning is correct on that item so that all three items get ordered together as they should.” Also, if there’s an engineering question or a quality concern, you might be able to go directly to that engineer, or to that quality person, and have them brought into the loop essentially right away as to what the issue or concern is and have it dealt with much more quickly than having it go to the buyer, and then having the buyer have to figure out who to talk to next, and how to resolve it next.
You talked about increased speed. Can you elaborate a little bit on this topic?
Sure. There’s several components that we can use to increase speed, or turn around time, for something. One of them would be as you’re more familiar with a customer you can know what their requirements are. You don’t have to start from scratch on those. So if you know for example, they have to have certain specifications that they’re going to have to meet then you can plan on meeting those in advance. And then you don’t have to go back and ask those questions; “Hey you know do we need to have three reterminations for every terminal that’s on your wires?” You just know in advance that you have to have that and you don’t have to go back to the customer for it that can aid in the development of the first units planning on these requirements to be met so that it shortens your turnaround time for the initial units which usually are the longest ones. And as you become more familiar with the customer– and we may have you know long-term contracts or some sort of agreement with them– we may come into a stocking position on commonly used components that may have a long lead time. And you can then use that stocking situation to shorten turnaround time for new orders.
Related to increasing speed, can you talk about how a relationship-minded approach can decrease lead times for our customers?
Several items that could be impacted by being relationship-minded. One of which is on a long-term customer, we may elect to stock certain components that may have a long lead time even if there is no current demand for them. That will help us to shorten our lead time to them for orders consuming those components going forward. Another potential area that we could reduce the lead time would be when we have a good knowledge of the customer’s product, and the customer’s specifications, we can plan our builds around those requirements, and that will help us to be able to react more quickly, and more completely to their requirements.
Can you talk about the commitment that we show to our customers?
We want to be a relationship-minded vendor to our customers. We want to have a personal relationship with their purchasing, their engineering, and their quality. We want to be able to help our customers succeed, which in turn, will help Liberty to succeed. In turn that gives us more access to our customer, to their products, to their needs, so that we can hopefully expand and develop that relationship further.
Finally, can you talk about the commitment that we have to our customers?
Liberty Electronics endeavors to build relationships with our customers, purchasing, engineering, quality. What we find, Mark, is that these relationships help us to be able to resolve/issues concerns more quickly which is a benefit both to our customer and to Liberty itself. The knowledge that you gain by dealing with the people over the years, knowing who to talk to at a customer’s location for whatever the issue or concern is, basically speeds everything along, makes it all go more quickly and is mutually beneficial to the customer and Liberty. The years that we invest in our customers results in, I believe, better performance for them and for Liberty.
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.
Before the final product is even prepared for shipment, various measures are taken during manufacturing to ensure that the components meet or exceed the client’s specifications. These product validation efforts can be used in support of the packaging process. Articles can be photographed or videotaped in an undamaged state before transit to facilitate root cause corrective action necessitated by shipping damage. It is after these measures are taken that the various packaging options come into play.
ESD protective packaging shields components from external static charge. This is different from standard anti-static foam, which protects the product from static within the package itself. ESD packaging is available in foam sheets or shipping boxes, as well as bubble wrap and metallic film bags. ESD packaging is typical in the industry, meeting the requirements of MIL-STD-3010 4046, EIA 541, EIA 625 and ANSI/ESD S20.20 certifications.
3D-printed covers are a unique way to protect components during shipping. Covers, caps, clips, and other items can be custom-fitted to fragile parts of the assembly, printed in house, and applied to the product during the manufacturing process. This not only ensures the components are protected during shipping, but also during the manufacturing process itself.
Of course, more traditional packing materials–bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and shipping foam–are also used, depending on the requirements of the product and client. As for the shipping process, standard commercial services such as UPS or FedEx are usually adequate to satisfy the contract with a client. Occasionally, common carrier freight lines or special delivery options may be explored, and at times, products may be transferred via a dedicated company vehicle directly to the client to ensure simplicity in the shipping process.
The use of various packing materials, inspections and additive manufacturing all come together to ensure one objective: that customers receive products in the same condition as they left the manufacturing facility. The variety of measures taken toward this end ensures not only the best manufactured product, but the best received product.
In the nearly five years since Liberty Electronics has utilized 3D printing in its manufacturing processes, the company has not only increased offerings to its clients, but also improved the lives and careers of its own employees. Through the use of additive manufacturing to provide worker accommodations, Liberty has solved several common problems relating to accommodations and disabilities in the workplace. The results have been exceptional and the company sets itself apart from its competitors with its innovative approach.
On any manufacturing floor, no two workers are going to do a job exactly the same way. Each person is a unique individual who holds tools differently and has different needs. Unfortunately, this creates variability in the parts a given team of workers produces. Even the difference between a left- or right-handed worker can impact how the job is done.
This variability is especially marked in workers needing accommodations due to disabilities. With an awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and a desire to adapt the job to fit workers’ needs, Liberty has made accommodations for workers in the past by ordering custom tooling, jigs, and fixtures to assist individual employee success at work.
Often times, however, these custom orders would take multiple weeks and a large expense, still not fit exactly to the individual’s specifications. Even with all the possible accommodations being made, workers with handicaps or disabilities still suffered the undue burden of lessened productivity or even physical pain.
3D printing has proven perfect for this application. Now, custom tooling can be designed and manufactured in-house in a matter of hours and can fit a worker’s needs exactly.
Modeling tooling to fit the individual creates consistency and doesn’t force the employee into a shape or movement that doesn’t fit their disability
With additive manufacturing, Liberty creates worker accommodations that do not currently exist in the marketplace, printing anything an employee needs to do their job more easily. This is like having an entire storeroom of custom tools at the company’s immediate disposal.
The results so far have been extraordinary. According to an article which originally appeared in Additive Manufacturing magazine, the use of 3D printing for worker accommodations has reduced process times by 50-65 percent and increased productivity in workers by 300 percent. Additionally, the cost to 3D print a custom part is 80-85 percent cheaper than outsourcing, and results in higher employee retention and increased precision and accuracy in the products made.(I)
Such a groundbreaking use of additive manufacturing seems like it would be commonplace in the industry, but Liberty is unique in this application. While most engineers use 3D printing strictly for design, Liberty utilizes the process throughout the production and manufacturing process. While some manufacturers have used 3D printing this way on occasion, it hasn’t happened nearly to the degree that Liberty has taken this approach.
As a result, Liberty has seen growth in its own company culture, one of care and support for its employees, demonstrating that the company does not merely value its employees for what they produce, but that it values the people themselves to a very high degree.
By utilizing additive manufacturing for ergonomic applications, Liberty has solved some common problems in the industry regarding the needs of workers who require accommodation. As a result, the company continues to see tremendous productivity, cost savings, and efficiency, all the while setting itself apart as an innovative manufacturer with a company culture built on appreciation and support for its employees.
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What aspects of additive manufacturing do you see the biggest possibilities coming from? Let us know in the comments below. Are there questions we can answer concerning our 3D printing capabilities? Let us know by contacting us.
Recently, the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in the nation’s capital was forced to decommission nearly 75% of its new 7000-series rail cars due to crimping defects. The rail cars had crimping defects that went undetected until WMATA’s quality inspectors discovered them. The WMATA’s Quality Assurance, Internal Compliance and Oversight office (QICO), estimates that the rail cars will take over a year to be repaired. Going forward, QICO is requiring that in-process quality checks and high standards of engineering design be more explicitly outlined in WMATA’s manufacturing contracts.(1)
According to George Allman, Project Engineer at Liberty Electronics, this instance underscores the need for stringent internal quality standards to guard against the tiniest malfunctions. He calls this concept “safety in numbers.” At Liberty, for example, many layers of process controls, workmanship standards, and overall company culture are factors which reduce the chances of a product failure like the one now facing the WMATA.(2)
To Allman, frequent and thorough process controls build a database for the company to learn what standards can be reached. The more known and predictable these levels of acceptability are, the less margin for error. For example, when producing wire crimps, Liberty practices “continuous monitoring throughout the process” to ensure the crimps are of the best quality. Additionally, Liberty utilizes pull-tests and crimp analysis sampling to test the strength of the crimp connections. (Ibid) By paying attention to the consistency in product quality and becoming accustomed to a certain level of acceptability in its own work, the company builds high expectations for itself.
Moreover, Liberty holds itself to the highest standards of workmanship. The company has multiple quality assurance certifications that create the highest levels of product acceptability, most notably in IPC 620, ISO 9001, AS9100, and NADCAP AC7121. Because of this, Liberty’s internal standards exceed industry norms and manufacturer’s guidelines in contract manufacturing.
These many layers of tests and workmanship standards create a company culture that is dedicated to excellence. According to Allman, the stringent company standards reminds employees that “everything we touch affects someone’s life.”(Ibid) This is something that employees, and by extension the entire company, do not take lightly.
Liberty’s products contribute to systems and infrastructure that the public relies on every day. By utilizing the highest goals for acceptability through tests, standards of workmanship, and a company culture dedicated to excellence, the company helps ensure that its products will perform reliably for those who depend on them the most. By utilizing these measures, Liberty Electronics shows that there is safety—and distinction—in numbers.