Safety First: How Liberty Prioritizes Safety in the Workplace

by Liberty Electronics

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.

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Solving Problems With Root Cause Corrective Action

by Liberty Electronics

Solving Problems With Root Cause Corrective Action

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

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

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

Implementing Root Cause Corrective Action

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

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

You should also ask questions like:

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

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

Ensuring Team Buy-in

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

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

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

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

How the Right Contract Manufacturer Can Benefit Your Bottom Line

by Liberty Electronics

Lack of capacity, along with rising operating costs and increased competitive pressures, have caused companies to explore the option of contract manufacturing for their products. Contract manufacturing outsources certain manufacturing operations to a third-party, passing on the responsibility for materials, capital, equipment, staff, and software.

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

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

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

Is Outsourcing Tactical or Strategic?

Tactical outsourcing and strategic outsourcing are driven by different factors.

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

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

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

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

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

Other benefits companies gain from a strategic outsourcing partnership include:

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

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

What Should You Measure?

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

  • Financial metrics

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

  • Operational metrics

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

A Trusted Contract Manufacturing Partner

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

 

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Benefits of a Relationship-Minded Supplier [Video]

by Liberty Electronics

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.

Mark:

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?

Troy:

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.

Mark:

You talked about increased speed. Can you elaborate a little bit on this topic?

Troy:

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.

Mark:

Related to increasing speed, can you talk about how a relationship-minded approach can decrease lead times for our customers?

Troy:

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.

Mark:

Can you talk about the commitment that we show to our customers?

Troy:

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.

Mark:

Finally, can you talk about the commitment that we have to our customers?

Troy:

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.

 

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Special Delivery: Boxing and Shipping

by Liberty Electronics

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.

Contact Liberty today with any questions that you may have.

 

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3D Printing: Ergonomic Benefits in Productivity

by Liberty Electronics

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.

1. Donaldson, Brent. “Empathy in Engineering: 3D-Printed Accommodations for the Workforce.” Additive Manufacturing. 23 February 2018. https://www.additivemanufacturing.media/articles/empathy-in-engineering-3d-printed-accommodations-for-the-workforce

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Safety in Numbers: How Process Metrics and Certification Drive Quality

by Liberty Electronics

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.

Sources:

  1. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit AuthorityQICO 2018 Internal Review.
  2. George Allman (Project Engineer, Liberty Electronics), phone interview, 16 August 2018

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Have questions about process metrics and our quality standards? Contact us for more details.

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