Early Engagement – A Critical Success Factor in Manufacturing

Whether it’s a connector or a solution, it is important to consider the use case of the final product and ensure you scope manufacturing and testing requirements accordingly. At Molex, we often find that customer requirements are over-specified, and costs are elevated because products are being tested in much more severe environments than they will be used in. This adds cost to testing and reduces the likelihood that the product will survive those tests, thus increasing the end price and not contributing to the reliability of the final application.

During internal reviews of project and manufacturing and testing requirements, Molex offers customers its perspective as a components supplier turned electronic solutions provider, explaining why a specification is not typical of industry requirements and could impact product reliability or manufacturing costs while also offering options to the customer that they may not have been aware of previously.

“A customer may have multiple field returns for a particular application from PCB shorts caused by liquid spills or something shorting out the circuit board, so the design engineer may have a focus on exploring opportunities to prevent that type of failure,” said Jim Hines, Principal Engineer PCBA/Electronic Manufacturing, Molex. “To prevent this failure type, the design engineer may specify thicker conformal coating coverage or a specific conformal coating material that they believe is going to help to solve that challenge without understanding that the new material requirement could require special processes or equipment in the manufacturing line or additional fixturing or inspection and testing that increase manufacturing costs.”

As part of its multi-stage product development process (PDP), Molex highlights any manufacturing or testing requirements and specifications that appear to be outside of established industry practices and provides feedback early in the process to the design engineer or customer before the application or the final design is done. This early engagement with customers feeds back to the Molex advantage of being both a traditional component supplier and full electronic solutions provider.

“One of our customers can have multiple groups with each having different project requirements, expectations, and goals, and we may have an established relationship with specific business units or groups within a customer’s company who may have already had the same challenge that the new project faces,” Hines said. “Often, we will leverage our experience and relationship with other units or groups within the customer’s company to support our suggestion or recommendation.”

Hines, myself and our Molex colleagues Frank Ruffino recently spoke with SMT007 Magazine about the challenges of getting from design to successful manufacturing. Check out the January 2020 interview here or see the entire issue