By David Fallon, Internet Marketing Strategist, L-com
November 20, 2012
Specifying the connectivity equipment in an electronic or wireless system has always been a tricky process. Many standards organizations have helped by providing a common set of specifications to which all similar cables and connectors must adhere, but there is no way one standard can meet the requirements of every application that arises in the real world. Because of this, many manufacturers in the United States and abroad offer custom manufacturing services to meet the unplanned-for needs of their customers. If you have an application that can’t be satisfied with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, here’s what you need to know before having a custom product built.
Before anyone makes anything, you must get a quote from the manufacturer proposing the three common factors for any job: price, lead time, and minimum order quantity (MOQ). It helps if you can get quotes from a couple of different vendors, and plan to go deeper than just a simple description when you draw up your request for quote (RFQ). Because this is a custom product, different manufacturers may interpret your instructions differently, and so comparing quotes may not be apples-to-apples. Here are some tips for your RFQ to ensure you receive the right quotes back.
With more and more companies offering custom production services, you have more options in choosing your custom manufacturing partner, but always beware of working with an unfamiliar vendor, no matter how good the quote looks. Some manufacturers are better at some products than others, and they may quote something they’re not as good at just to be able to respond to your request. Look at the COTS products they already make, and if they don’t make anything remotely like your custom product, be a little wary of their reply. It’s often a good idea to ask for a sample or first-run proof, but sometimes even this can be misleading. Some manufacturers will spare no expense making the perfect proof, but cut corners in the actual manufacturing process.
Usually, after receiving the purchase order and before they start building, the manufacturer will create a 2D engineering drawing or spec-sheet and bill-of-materials (BOM) document and let you approve it. If that is the case, make sure all of the specifications you have are called out. Once you approve the drawing, that document will guide the production process more than any other, and will be the document that any quality control (QC) measures will use in evaluating the finished product. It is essential that the manufacturer does NOT start work until the drawing is correct.
A complete QC process is also important. Ask the manufacturer about their QC measures and if they will provide a certificate of conformance (CoC) before they ship the finished product to you. Even if they do provide all the documentation of a good QC process, make sure you do your own QC when the product arrives. Custom products are notoriously prone to manufacturing problems because the engineers, technicians, and production personnel are not used to building exactly what you need. However, if you’ve taken all of the steps above and have a tight QC process, your order should produce the product you need even when no one has it off-the-shelf.
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David Fallon joined L-com in 2002 as a member of L-com’s award-winning customer service department. After proving to have a technical aptitude for connectivity products, David moved to and eventually rose to supervise L-com’s technical support and custom product support groups. Today, David works to communicate L-com’s brand advantages to customers and potential customers through online media. David has a B.A. in philosophy and communications from the University of Massachusetts.