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.
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!
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.
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.
The Bill of Material is a critical component of the planning process in manufacturing for any industry. In this episode of Wired Success, Mark 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
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.
Insulation materials provide wiring harnesses with a layer of necessary protection in a variety of ways, depending on the specific requirements the product must meet. Insulation helps protect the product mechanically, electrically, or environmentally, meeting particular needs according to the product’s application. Additionally, a variety of materials used in wiring harness insulation ensure the various functions of cable harnesses are carried out in the best way possible using the best materials for the job.
Insulation designed for mechanical protection ensures wiring harnesses will hold up well against wear and tear. This type of insulation will either be very flexible or very rigid depending on the needs of the assembly, and will often be resistant to extreme temperatures. Teflon is commonly used for these applications due to its durability and resistance to extreme temperature.
Electrical protection assists wire bundles in being more effective in their purpose. This includes equipping the product to carry the necessary voltage, or insulating specific wires from the electrical current of surrounding wires. The thicker the insulation material, the higher the voltage rating the assembly will have and more capable the wires will be to carry high currents of electricity.
Insulation from the environment will protect the product from outside damage, reducing the possibility of water, microorganisms, or heavy chemicals compromising the effectiveness of a wiring assembly. Neoprene is often used in these cases where damage from biological factors is possible.
Depending on the function of the wiring harnesses and the needs of the client, a variety of materials can be used for insulation purposes. Coverings made from high end polymers, silicone, FEP, XLPE, and PTFE materials are often used in aircraft and spacecraft applications because of their durability and lighter weight. These more rare and expensive materials are crucial in assemblies that must decrease as much weight as possible in the finished product.
By contrast, some more common materials like PVC, neoprene, and nylon are useful coverings for harnesses in which excess weight is not of huge importance. This includes end products such as automobiles, trains, and appliances. These materials are more cost-effective to process, while still providing resilience to the cable assembly.
Both higher and lower end insulation materials offer companies like Liberty a variety of ways to tailor wiring harnesses to their client’s needs. This combination of mechanical, electrical, and biological protection goes a long way in protecting an assembly. Insulation equips wiring assemblies with the durability needed for the increasingly high performance needs of our customers.
As noted previously, Liberty Electronics has remained open as an essential business. We are under Federal mandate to work on all Department of Defense related contracts according to the rating systems priorities.
Average labor availability for the current week has been slightly below normal expectations. The coming weeks and months may see increased variation in the availability of labor and materials as the pandemic infection rates change and the overlap with cold and flu season.
Where possible we are planning for lower availabilities in our capacity planning in an effort to make commitments to you that are dependable. As we do this our lead times may be extended by a few weeks on new commitments more than usual during this unprecedented event.
We continue all possible mitigation efforts from multiple temperature screens to enhanced cleaning protocols, to 100% mask requirements and barriers/social distancing. All quarantine issues to date have been outside of Liberty exposures.
Most overhead positions are still either working from home or on a rotation.
We will continue to provide information as it becomes available.
FRANKLIN, PA, OCT 28, 2020 – Liberty Electronics is pleased to announce the purchase of an additional state-of-the-art production facility in Franklin, PA. This facility had been leased by Liberty previously, but the purchase includes 56 acres to support future expansion plans. The purchase has also enabled Liberty to invest in a significant upgrade to the facility’s insulation and heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems.
The purchase of this new production facility and the additional property positions Liberty to better serve our customers and to support their growth. The purchase is also part of a strategy to support US customers that are transitioning from offshore to domestic suppliers.
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.
As noted previously, Liberty Electronics has remained open as an essential business.
We are under Federal mandate to work on all Department of Defense related contracts according to the rating systems priorities.
While stay at home orders are in effect in places around the globe, we continue to engage with the supply chain to maximize material availability of parts & services. Component suppliers in India, for example, are still subject to closures while some operations based in Mexico are now resuming activities at a reduced level. Per our previous update Liberty has already invested significantly in material inventory to help offset any delays that might be caused by these manufacturing disruptions. Of course this is still a developing situation which could change rapidly without notice.
As our world continues to navigate the COVID-19 health crisis, countries’ efforts to quarantine and isolate are taking effect to protect their citizens. We are seeing the curve begin to flatten in countries, with some reopening with no signs of the virus altogether.
The United States continues to make health decisions state by state, with many working from home and only certain businesses reopening. Essential workers remain working in their workspaces. Just as every citizen is advised by the CDC to wear proper face covering in public, essential workers in Pennsylvania are mandated to wear proper face masks to help provide another germ barrier on top of social distancing. As this mandate came rather quickly, many companies are still working to obtain proper masks, with many employees having to make-do with fabric such as scarves or other fabric material. On the other hand, some companies with proper equipment were able to take advantage of their industrial machinery to fabricate face coverings for their employees.
A phrase that has become familiar to those that are accustomed to air travel, “Please, put your own mask on before helping others,” has become deeply personal and significantly more meaningful to our society today. It represents the idea that in order for us to be the best and most effective that we can be in helping others, we must not lose sight of the importance of caring for ourselves and those that are in our most direct lines of responsibility. By endeavoring to provide PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to our employees, where none is readily available for purchase during this critical time, the engineering team at Liberty has endeavored to ‘re-tool’ and ‘re-purpose’ resources and materials to help meet the need.
Just like our engineers utilized 3D printers to create the “Sneeze Guard” to wrap around our receptionist’s desk in the main lobby, our engineers also utilized their design skills to manufacture individual face guards for employees. These face guards and hat clips mitigate the risk of germs spreading between employees as they work on assemblies.
The company arranged engineer Sheila Nettles’ schedule so she could sew handmade face masks for employees from home. While the company waited for masks to be ready, our engineers used the Stratasys Fortus 380MC and 450MC to create 80 face shields and hat clips, which were originally distributed to one specific company location and have expanded as required from there.
The two-step process was performed in just one weekend to produce the majority of the face shields components required. With both industrial machines running almost non-stop for nearly 48 hours, it was nearly continual production process.
The process consists of placing a clear material in the machine to use as a foundation for the masks. The material would be printed on until all surface area was used up. Engineers then take .020 polycarbonate sheets and repurpose them for the shields rather than relying on the availability of stock material. At the time of production, that specific material was not available for distribution anywhere from Pennsylvania to Michigan.
The actual shields themselves look like a curved piece of polycarbonate glass that covers the whole face—adding an extra barrier to the face and face mask. The top of the shield has an elastic band to wrap around the head. Engineers even made a version with clips to clip to a baseball cap for those who work with hats on their heads.
In the meantime, Liberty has also offered these services to other companies in the Pittsburgh region to aid in the safety and health efforts during this time.
With diligence and effort, we can sometimes find the materials are often right under our noses to create something unique and innovative. During this time where citizens everywhere are taking this health crisis day by day, it is gratifying to use our passions and talents to help better the situation.
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.
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.
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 also3D-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.
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.
Liberty Electronics to Host Open Lobby Night for Manufacturing Day on October 4th, 2019 for the local community
Franklin, PA — Liberty Electronics, a manufacturer of electronic wiring harnesses, cable, cabinet, panel and electromechanical assemblies, will be celebrating Manufacturing Day 2019 by hosting an event at their facility. The open lobby night will be held on October 4th, 2010 from 2:00 to 6:00pm at 190 Howard Street in Franklin. Liberty welcomes the community to stop in and see what they do as well as talk about career opportunities. “Sometimes people express surprise at the capabilities they find when they first visit Liberty”, explains Scott J. Anderson, Director of Business Development. “Some comment on the level of technology used and some about our products supporting such critical systems in the aerospace, transportation, nuclear and defense markets. Some are also pleasantly surprised to learn about the flexible work schedules, profit sharing and employee stock ownership plans, and the excellent healthcare coverage that the company offers. We’re happy to be able to invite people in for Manufacturing Day and hope to see you there”.
Visitors will get to see a 3D printer in action as well as learn more about the company and what they offer. Employment applications will be available for interested candidates. Snacks will be provided.
Manufacturing Day is an annual national event executed at the local level supported by thousands of manufacturers as they host students, teachers, parents, job seekers and other local community members at open houses, plant tours and presentations designed to showcase modern manufacturing technology and careers.
Liberty Electronics provides electrical cable assemblies, wire harnesses, and box builds for demanding defense and commercial OEM’s looking to grow their business by teaming with a competent outsourcing partner committed to success. For more information visit www.libertyelectronics.com
Every community is impacted by the companies that operate within. Companies of all sizes create a ripple effect, creating a variety of touchpoints and connections within their communities and beyond. This is especially true of a company like Liberty Electronics. Although a small business by definition, Liberty is actually one of the largest companies in the small town of Franklin, Pennsylvania. Franklin is a picturesque, Victorian era community of hard-working families that work together, play together, learn together, worship together, and succeed together.
Liberty’s Ripple Effect
Liberty’s ripple effect starts in the center with the employees who are invested in their corporate mission through Profit-Sharing and Employee Stock Ownership (ESOP) plans. Their care and skill reflected in their workmanship sparks a sense of pride within each individual. Liberty’s flexible work schedule options allow employees to work and still be with their families when it suits their lifestyle and obligations best. This flexibility helps to provide a more balanced lifestyle for the employees, their families, the company, and for the community at large. Liberty Electronics contributes to its community and takes care of its employees, in turn inspiring them to positively impact the local economy and well-being of the city of Franklin and the surrounding communities.
Supporting the larger community on an individual and personal level, a large percentage of Liberty’s products ensure that light rail transit and commercial aircraft systems around the world operate without issue. Liberty’s employees do their part to see to it that these systems will safely carry a multitude of people throughout their busy week of work, school, and recreation with the confidence of reaching and returning from their intended destinations.
Let’s expand this community impact out another layer. In support of our national defense, a large number of Liberty’s products leave our facility and move on to become components of defense weapons, and support systems that are required to meet the needs of the warfighters protecting our nation and so many others around the free world. Some of these warfighters are from our local communities, and a number of those are from families within our own company. In addition, many of Liberty’s employees have made the admirable decision to support their country by serving in various capacities within the military.
On perhaps an even greater scale, Liberty Electronics contributes to a variety of energy generating systems that literally touch and affect the lives of millions of people each day.
From mining operations and renewable energy applications such as solar and wind power generation, to the assembly of electronic safety systems that ensure fuel rods move in and out of nuclear reactors without fail. All of these systems work seamlessly together to produce the energy necessary to satisfy the demand of electrical distribution grids throughout the world.
The Reach of Our Products and Our People
Liberty Electronics is made up of so much more than just products and processes. We’re made up of people who have a passion for making a difference within the company, the community, and the world. Our values and visions create touch-points within our local region, and our skills create products that expand our reach beyond our small town to make a global impact. For Liberty Electronics, culture is more than just the dynamic within our walls, it’s the difference we make in the world.
Every day, every hour, every minute, the products produced by Liberty Electronics touch and impact the lives of people around the world, and beyond. And it all starts here, in a small community of dedicated and caring people living and working together for a common purpose in northwest Pennsylvania.
Liberty Electronics, provides electrical cable assemblies, wire harnesses, and box builds for demanding defense and commercial OEMs looking to grow their business by teaming with a competent and caring outsourcing partner committed to success.
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.
The autumn of 2001 found Liberty Electronics’ employees full of confidence in the future. Years of developing strong customer relationships and providing high quality products had solidified Liberty’s reputation within the manufacturing community. The company had built on this foundation by attaining the International Standard Certification ISO9001 three years previously, shifting from a narrow focus on military quality assurance to an international quality system that allowed its work to branch out into the global market. And employees looked forward to moving into their new facility in just a few months’ time, a space that would allow them to fulfill contracts for General Electric, Siemens, and their first international order for an Israeli tactical air-launched decoy designed to fool enemy radar systems.
When 19 al-Qaeda terrorists flew four commercial airliners into U.S. civilian and government targets on September 11, “It was like watching a movie, completely surreal,” recalls Liberty President John Dumot.[i] Employees gathered around computer screens in shock, trying to understand the events unfolding in front of them. The full horror of thousands of lives lost and injured quickly became apparent; the economic toll soon followed. With over $10 billion of damage inflicted and an enemy to pursue, the federal government shifted its focus to Homeland Security and Liberty’s government contracts dried up. The nation’s airline and rail markets contracted severely as well. With “more pilots than planes,” no one was buying aircraft repair parts.[ii] Across the U.S. and at home in Franklin, things looked bleak.
Liberty, however, had never flinched in the face of a crisis, and it had no intention of doing so in the difficult days of the early 2000s. Employees gritted their teeth and hung on, remaining true to their company’s ethos of hard work, innovation, and integrity. When Liberty secured a contract with Westinghouse in 2004 for its nuclear power generation segment, the impact was enormous. With the new facility’s focus on cellular manufacturing and six sigma quality, an initiative driven by Liberty’s vision for lean and efficient production, the company was perfectly poised to meet the needs of its customers in the new millennium. Its state-of-the-art wire processing facility mirrored the 1986 clean-room production floor, a tradition of investment in high quality technology that best served Liberty’s customer base.
Liberty’s work came full circle as it re-entered the aerospace sector during the Iraq War. Starting with a Honeywell Urbana contract, then Honeywell Albuquerque, “it was like dominoes” moving into the field.[iii] Tactical ground equipment also came into play. In 2007, BAE Systems came to Liberty under pressure and behind schedule to get its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to troops overseas. Officials told Liberty in no uncertain terms, “Delivery is king, quality is queen.” [iv] With the military estimating that MRAP usage would reduce IED attack casualties by up to 80 percent, and with the knowledge that Liberty employees, their families, and friends were deployed in the Middle East, the burden was intense.[v] Liberty quickly got the program back on schedule, shipping 26,000 assemblies in nine months, peaking at 5,300 in one month alone. The subsequent years saw the company attain certification to the AS9100 standard (an aerospace quality management system more rigorous than ISO), and NADCAP (National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program). In 2012, Liberty was named the Raytheon TOW Missile Supplier of the Year, a “very significant” honor.[vi] It was, perhaps, fitting that Director of Business Development Scott Anderson’s son Ben, a Marine Corps lieutenant, was training with the TOW missiles that very year at The Basic School.
In its 22 years of operations, some things have changed at Liberty: the company has over 300 employees working in four local facilities, which boast a combined manufacturing space of 150,000 square feet. However, its core values of innovation, integrity, and service have not altered. They remain as a constant guiding light, providing Liberty the will and the means to produce the highest quality wiring harnesses, cable assemblies, and electrical cabinet assemblies in the industry.
[i] John Dumot (President, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[v] Senator Joe Biden, speaking on MRAP amendment to the U.S. Senate, on 28 March 2007, 110th Cong., 1st sess., Congressional Record 153, no. 54.
[vi] Dumot, interview with author.
Great accomplishments often have small beginnings, an idea with which Liberty Electronics is more than familiar. Once a business concept found only on paper for a university research project, by the early 1990s Liberty was a fully formed corporation coming into its own. The company had deliberately focused on defense programs since its 1986 founding, meeting a specific need during the late Cold War and the Gulf War to provide high quality wiring harnesses and cable assemblies to the defense industry. That, however, was all about to change.
In 1994, Liberty President John Dumot visited General Electric’s rail plant in the nearby town of Grove City, observing as Liberty wires were put into GE locomotive engines. “It really started with just a few wires, a pretty small job,” he recalls.[i] Liberty’s management saw the need to diversify the company with projects like the GE assemblies and, working with Franklin businessman John Reib as CEO, they sought to stabilize business after the whirlwind start-up period. But they didn’t have a specific plan, until Dumot pointed out a potential issue with GE’s assembly design during his visit to the production floor. GE turned the issue right back to Liberty and challenged the company: “Can you do something better?”[ii] Liberty could indeed. Initial work brought the cost of the assembly down from $1,900 to $1,100. Unfortunately, there were 4,200 engines already in the field with the defective design, and it was only months before all of them had failed or were failing. With a disaster on its hands, GE tracked down Liberty’s Vice President of Sales Robert Hoffman while he worked out at the local YMCA to request 4,200 replacement harnesses.[iii] Liberty’s production team swung into action, putting the GE engines back into working order.
The project was Liberty’s first non-military contract, and its quality provided the foundation for the next decade of business. The early 1990s concentrated primarily on GE and rail, but as the decade wore on Liberty expanded into the larger transportation field. From its founding, Liberty focused on being “the finest, most technically competent wire manufacturing organization ever assembled.”[iv] The ambition was proved out on multiple occasions, such as in 1997, when a Bombardier division shut down its own internal wiring capabilities and handed over all its wire assembly needs to Liberty. The work was incredibly important for Liberty’s 1998—2001 period, along with other major projects like assemblies for Siemens’ light rail vehicle program for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and Atlanta’s MARTA trains.[v]
Transportation took Liberty across the United States and even into international ventures, from close at home in Pittsburgh, to Taipei, Puerto Rico, and Toronto. The company’s future looked bright as the new millennium began. Liberty prepared to move into its new Franklin plant, doubling its manufacturing space to 30,000 square feet and increasing its production capacity.[vi] The decision to stay in Franklin was a deliberate one. Despite many attractive offers to move out of state, as well as the challenge of cleaning up environmental waste from an old foundry in order to build its new facility, Liberty was committed to Northwestern Pennsylvania. Local companies and individuals were still stockholders, invested in Liberty’s success just as they had in the early days. And 256 employees started 2001 ready to continue Liberty’s 15-year tradition of quality.[vii] No one could envision the radical changes coming to the company and the entire country in the months to come.
[i] John Dumot (President, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[iv] Larry Snow, “Letter from the President,” Liberty Electronics prospectus, c. 1986, Liberty Electronics archives.
[v] Mark Jacoby (Marketing Manager, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[vi] John J. Dumot (Vice President of Operations, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 2 October 2018.
[vii] “Employment Levels,” Liberty Electronics archives.
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.
In the spring of 1986, Liberty Electronics could look back on a wildly successful year. Its founders had taken the company from a research project to a living, breathing corporation. The community of Franklin, Pennsylvania, rose to the occasion to make this innovative new enterprise welcome, through financial backing and filling production team roles. Work was underway on various military contracts, such as the Navy’s CANTASS Towed Sonar Array and ADCAP torpedo and the Army’s Chinook helicopter.
Given its no-nonsense work ethic and will to succeed, it is perhaps no surprise that Liberty prevailed when tough times greeted it the following year. By March 1987, production contracts were elusive and work on the assembly floor was temporarily halted. Numerous bids and proposals were sent out, but to no avail. Liberty’s stakeholders, however, were friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Its team refused to let them down. “It was all about community,” recalls Brian Barnett, Liberty’s vice president of manufacturing at the time.[i]
Going without pay, hanging on to hope by their fingernails, Liberty’s remaining employees gritted their teeth and went to work. Current President John Dumot mortgaged his house twice to cover payroll. More financing was secured from local businessman John Reib, president of ConAir, who also helped navigate the company through its difficult time. Marketing Manager Mark Jacoby drove and slept in his own pick-up truck on a trip from Pennsylvania to Florida, intent on securing a bid for the LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting InfraRed system for Night) targeting and electronics systems used in F-18 fighter jets. “We knew if we could get through a few months, that there was something at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “It was a testament to our dedication.”[ii]
That dedication carried the day. Liberty won the LANTIRN bid, and within six months put the project to rights after delays and failure from two previous contractors had left it two years behind schedule.[iii] In June 1988, Liberty stood on firmer footing, with a new management team led by Dumot. Work on LANTIRN secured the company’s reputation in the aerospace industry as one of quality and trustworthiness. It was so influential that, in 1990, Liberty was awarded the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Award for Excellence, a high honor.[iv]
The LANTRIN program, along with the TADS-PNVS (Target Acquisition Designation System-Pilot Night Vision System) assemblies for the Apache helicopter, kept Liberty busy throughout the early 1990s. Both projects were crucial to the U.S. military during the First Gulf War (1990-1991), and used specifically against Iraqi tanks in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.[v] The work echoed later defense programs, such as the MRAP armored vehicle assemblies done for the U.S. Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002. In a county with ten percent of its population listed as veterans, the programs resonated with Liberty’s leadership and its workforce.[vi] These wiring harnesses and cable assemblies went into equipment used by their families and neighbors, and the production team came to be “regarded by the Department of Defense as one of, if not the finest, groups of specialized workers in the business.”[vii]
Successful in the military sector, Liberty soon branched out into commercial areas. Starting in 1994 with General Electric Transportation Systems assemblies, Liberty has now completed hundreds of high-reliability commercial contracts. With both military and commercial ventures, one thing remains constant, from the founding to the present day: Liberty’s work ethic and commitment to quality has built lasting relationships in the industry. Its contracts are based on the trust that “Liberty will get the job done, and done well.”[viii]
Liberty Electronics set itself apart from its very foundation, by focusing on innovative technology produced with integrity and hard work. No matter the circumstances, Liberty’s leadership and work force has practiced this ethos to the benefit of itself, its customers, and its community. At no time is this more evident in the company’s history than in its earliest days. In fair weather and foul, Liberty remained true to its character, and each year built on those traits with a spirit of determination. In the words of one of the founders, “Some people may believe it’s a question of guts or lack of brains, but I believe it’s the grand adventure. It’s going to work.”[ix] And so it has.
[i] Brian Barnett (Programs Director, retired, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 21 May 2018.
[ii] Mark Jacoby (Marketing Manager, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 21 May 2018.
[iv] Tom Eldred, “Liberty Electronics’ time has come,” The News-Herald (Franklin, Pa.), 18 July 1991.
[vi] U.S. Census Bureau, “Quick Facts: Venango County, Pennsylvania,” https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/venangocountypennsylvania/PST045216, accessed 25 May 2018.
[vii] Eldred, “Liberty Electronics’ time has come.”
[viii] Mark Jacoby, interview with author.
[ix] Judith Etzel, “Native Son Finds Challenge Here,” The Derrick (Oil City, Pa.), 30 September 1985.
After a pell-mell race to form a company, choose a site, and secure financing, Liberty Electronics started the new year of 1986 enthusiastically readying its Franklin building and marketing its products. The founders envisioned an innovative company working in state-of-the-art facilities to produce much-needed cable and wiring assemblies for military and commercial industries. They had materials and a sophisticated cleanroom environment in which to work. The next piece of the puzzle was the investment that continues to pay dividends to the current day—a well-trained, dedicated, local workforce.
When one of the founders visited family in neighboring Oil City during the spring of 1985, he was shocked at the region’s economic hardships and the toll they had taken on the community. Looking at his boyhood home, he told the local press, “There was a sadness I felt because of the depressed area and the belief I had that it didn’t have to be that way.”[i]
Once prosperous thanks to the oil and gas, steel, and lumber industries, Northwest Pennsylvania was feeling the vice-like grip of the 1980s’ Rust Belt economy. As the nation trended away from those sectors, areas along the Rust Belt were left behind, triggering high unemployment and poverty rates, declining populations, and economic malaise. From 1976 to 1986, over half of Venango County’s manufacturing jobs were lost.[ii] Area companies had either shut their doors or downsized their workforces, and the view from inside was grim. Liberty’s Human Relations Manager Linda Shouey vividly recalls standing in the unemployment line, pregnant with twins, hoping and praying for an opportunity to help support her family. “There was no work, there were no jobs. Anywhere.”[iii]
Optimistic about Liberty’s future, management put out the call for employees before financing and building were complete. Area newspapers excitedly reported that 600 applications would be handed out, of which less than 60 would be considered. Of that 60, only 30 to 35 would be hired. Mark Jacoby, Liberty’s marketing manager, had recently returned from a job-hunting trip when he heard about Franklin’s latest business venture. He arrived to line up at the Job Service office the night before, and he wasn’t the first one there.[iv] The local press estimated over 600 people showed up to claim an application, though Jacoby argues the final tally could well have reached over 1,000.[v]
The determination to find and maintain a steady, fair wage showed in the dedication of Liberty’s newly hired workforce. Before even finalizing their first contract, Liberty’s 39 employees went to work, putting in a full day at the office and then headed to the Venango County Area Vocational-Technical School to train in electronics and soldering. For weeks, Jacoby remembers working until 10 p.m. each day to finish the required 200 hours of training.[vi] They completed their training in December 1985, hoping to put their skills to use in the new year. The company’s directors had not taken a pay check for months. The new production team waited as bids were considered and negotiated. Liberty was poised on a knife’s edge. Then, the work arrived. Liberty’s team put their training into action, significantly working with the United States military on the Navy’s ADCAP Torpedo and sonar systems, as well as communications assemblies on the Army’s Chinook helicopter.
The company focused on creating an innovative work environment as well, using a four-day work week schedule, profit-sharing incentives and the privately funded LEEF (Liberty Employee Emergency Fund) program to help workers during personal emergencies. The Employee Stock Ownership Plan was implemented during the company’s earliest days, and today Liberty is 34 percent employee-owned. Liberty’s investment in its employees and vice versa is a direct reflection of its founders’ Christian faith and their hope to focus on people, not just products. They desired “a highly motivated employee population with the highest standards of integrity, professionalism, and competence.”[vii] From its very first year of business, Liberty delivered just that and set a standard of quality for its more than three decades of service.
[i] Judith Etzel, “Native Son Finds Challenge Here,” The Derrick (Oil City, Pa.), 30 September 1985.
[ii] Venango County Planning Commission, “Venango County Three Year Development Plan,” 45.
[iii] Linda Shouey (Human Relations Manager, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 21 May 2018.
[iv] Mark Jacoby (Marketing Manager, Liberty Electronics), interview with author, 21 May 2018.
[v] Ibid. See also: “600 Line Up for a Job,” The Derrick, 8 October 1985; Peter Scierka, “Hundreds wait in line for shot at high-tech job,” The News-Herald (Franklin, Pa.), 7 October 1985.
[vi] Jacoby, interview with author.
[vii] Advertisement, Liberty Electronics archives.
The morning of February 17, 1986, dawned cool and rainy in Franklin, Pennsylvania. Despite the chill in the air and the fog hovering over French Creek, there was an undercurrent of excitement. After months of intense pressure, tight deadlines, and hundreds of man-hours of work, Liberty Electronics, the town’s newest business, was set to open in a gala event. Liberty offered Franklin and the nation a new solution to an old problem: manufacturing wiring components for military and commercial aerospace industries at the highest level of innovation and workmanship. An entire community came together to put this forward-thinking company on its feet. And now it was time to celebrate .
The journey began less than a year previously with Larry Snow, a veteran of the aerospace industry. A Northwest Pennsylvania native, Snow graduated from Oil City High School in 1961, then served in the U.S. Navy before taking a job with McDonnell Douglas. Working his way from foreman to engineer, by 1985, Snow was a supervisor with Hughes Aircraft in Fullerton, California. [i] His 20 years of experience taught him that many aerospace and defense contractors needed help in creating cable assemblies and wiring harnesses. At first, the idea for a specialized business was only on paper, the subject of a senior research project at LaVerne University.[ii] But, when Snow visited his family back in Oil City in the spring of 1985, he saw opportunity in the midst of economic stagnation: old manufacturing sites stood empty, an unemployed population yearned for decent jobs, and community leaders were committed to bringing in new industry. It seemed a perfect chance to launch his pioneering idea. Snow went to fellow Hughes employee, Brian Barnett, with his plan, and the offer to join him when he made his pitch to local investors in one month’s time. “I reminded Larry he was crazy,” recalls Barnett.[iii] Pulling together a sales presentation for a non-existent company in such a short time seemed “impossible.”[iv] But the whirlwind schedule of investor meetings and site tours paid off. Barnett signed on as Liberty’s Vice President of Manufacturing, and a corporation was formed.
After two months of negotiations, the former Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company site in Franklin became Liberty’s home. Touted as an industrial incubator for burgeoning area businesses, the reality was far bleaker. Barnett remembers “blown out glass windows… water pipes…dripping inside…oil-soaked wood block floors…bats and birds flying around.”[v] Turning such a disaster into the high-tech cleanroom environment that was envisioned was going to take cash. Lots of it. Local businessmen and government agencies quickly rallied to the task. Liberty secured funding for start-up costs and the building site from a variety of city, county, and state redevelopment authorities.[vi] Further financing was possible through private security sales, turning locals into company shareholders. Barnett argues that, “All the CEOs in this town rose up to save Franklin.”[vii] The fundraising campaign took time and determination. With 12 minutes to spare before the midnight deadline on December 31, 1985, Snow submitted the final funding to the bank.[viii] Work could finally begin.
Liberty’s mission to be “the finest, most technically competent wire manufacturing organization ever assembled” was demonstrated in its gala opening two months later.[ix] Over one hundred individuals and businesses were invited, as well as Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh and President Ronald Reagan.[x] George Washington’s birthday was deliberately chosen as the date of the celebration, a reminder of Liberty’s patriotic character and Franklin’s colonial heritage. Area performer Linda Leisher opened the event singing “God Bless America,” and closed with the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”[xi] But while much of the festivities celebrated the area’s history, Liberty was looking to the future, not the past. Tours of the facility showed how an abandoned site could be transformed to a technical masterpiece, qualified to meet the high expectations of military and aerospace manufacturing. The venture was emblematic of a national tipping point, as the U.S. moved from making steel and iron to computers and telecommunications. Liberty wanted to take Northwest Pennsylvania into the future, and in the months and years to come, it would do just that.
[i] Larry Snow, “Letter from the President,” Liberty Electronics prospectus, c. 1986, Liberty Electronics archives.
[ii] Judith Etzel, “Native Son Finds Challenge Here,” The Derrick (Oil City, Pa.), 30 September 1985.
[iii] Brian Barnett, “Liberty Electronics—The Early Years,” unpublished memo, 21 May 2018.
[vi] See the following: “Electronics firm seeks start-up funds,” The News-Herald (Franklin, Pa.), 5 September 1985; “Factory Loan Pushed,” The Derrick, 7 September 1985; “Franklin Board Approves Incubator Funding Pact,” The Derrick, 10 September 1985.
[vii] Brian Barnett (Programs Director, retired, Liberty Electronics), interview with author , 21 May 2018.
[viii] “Liberty Electronics financing completed,” The News-Herald, 7 January 1986.
[ix] Larry Snow, “Letter from the President.”
[x] Gala invitations list, c. 1986, Liberty Electronics archives.
[xi] Gala program, 17 February 1986, Liberty Electronics archives.
As of June 15, Liberty Electronics became certified as a HUBZone Small Business Concern. The HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) program is offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The program seeks to promote small business growth in distressed areas by increasing employment opportunities and investing in economic development.
Liberty’s participation in the program allows for preferential consideration during government contract processes compared to businesses in full and open competition.
“We are appreciative of the potential opportunities associated with the HUBZone Small Business Concern Certification. Our participation in this program allows us to continue supplying the best quality products for our current clients and develop mutually beneficial relationships with new clients,” Liberty Electronics CEO John Dumot said.
“Not only will our classification as a HUBZone Small Business Concern help our business relationships, but will also allow us to continue supporting the local community and aiding the economy of Franklin and the surrounding area,” Liberty Electronics Director of Quality Assurance and Human Resources Marc McGill said.
Liberty qualified for the program as a small business in a HUBZone with over 35 percent of its employees living within the defined underutilized zone.
Liberty Electronics has been specializing in manufacturing electronic wiring harnesses and cable, cabinet, panel and electro-mechanical assemblies since 1985. Complying with stringent military and commercial practice requirements for electronic assembly, Liberty consistently satisfies customers with a track record of program cost savings and reliability improvement solutions. Liberty serves the rail/transportation, defense, aerospace and commercial varying industries.