Connectors: How to reduce costs while increasing flexibilityFollow article
In today´s competitive environment any solution to increase flexibility that adapts to a customer’s needs is highly appreciated, especially if it is not just supporting business from a technical perspective but also on the commercial side.
As more and more applications need to be adjusted to customer specific needs we have identified a trend in the connector industry: a design either uses a greater variety of connectors, with fewer of each being required, or fewer part numbers are being used, allowing a customer to buy each in greater volume.
The first approach allows for quicker implementation - a customer simply selects a specific connector for each task, resulting a proliferation of part numbers. The second approach is more sustainable, more cost-efficient, and saves valuable time - especially in R&D and purchasing departments.
It would seem that this second approach is more desirable, it will require more thought and planning in the initial stages. The first step should be to evaluate the status quo from a technical and commercial perspective. Applied to connectors, the table below is a great start:
Table 1: Evaluating the status quo
Most of the columns are self-explanatory, while material costs need to be seen as the total cost of installation - including contacts, accessories, tooling and consumables. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is the aggregated value of the material and labour costs for assembling the connector.
As there are more and more part numbers added to the table the big picture becomes clearer: a foundation to segment the connectors is built. By having an overview of the basic requirements it is now possible to form cluster. Therefore the connectors having as much similarities as possible are put into a cluster. Depending on the number of the part numbers involved and the range of complexity this can be done manually or by algorithms (e.g. k-Means-Algorithm or agglomerative cluster methods).
As a starter it may already be sufficient to just have a look at the variety of options and break it down manually. Applied to column “Contacts” this may result in forming three clusters: “up to 5 contacts”, “6-10 contacts” and “11-15 contacts”. Once the clusters are formed the basic requirements for each cluster can be deduced. Therefore the highest requirement of the cluster is established as minimum. Once a connector solution for each cluster is found it is made sure that it replaces any part number within the specific cluster. To be able to form the clusters you need to adjust at least one parameter.
This may result in increasing or decreasing features. As you want to make sure your solution is prepared as good as possible to compete in a global marketplace we rather favour increasing than decreasing. If applied correctly this approach can be used to increase the capability / features while reducing costs.
As soon as the connector solutions for each cluster are formed the total volume per cluster is linked to it and enquiries are sent out. When evaluating the Total Cost of Ownership of the previous solution vs the new arrangement a reduction in inventory levels, improved availability and better pricing to higher volumes needs to be considered. Furthermore it will also reduce quality issues and set up time in the production line due to less variety in part numbers.
The R&D department will also be able to focus more on adding unique value to the application as there is already a set of clusters available that cover the whole range of requirements. Your customer will benefit from a increased price/feature ratio as you will either improved the features or reduce costs.
The eco-mate series of Amphenol offers perfect products for this approach. It consists out of four product subseries that can be summarized as followed: up to 300A, up to 630V, IP65 - IP69k and up to 48 contacts per connector.