Mueller Electric Blog

Selecting a Supplier to Build your Custom Cable Assembly

Posted by Tim Ulshafer on Jun 19, 2018 10:35:30 AM
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Many believe that taking a “least cost” approach is best in sourcing a supplier for the building of their custom cable assembly. What does that approach guarantee? Well, it guarantees a low price but does it guarantee on time delivery of a high quality product? Unfortunately, when accepting a low price as the main driver for supplier selection you usually get what you pay for, a great price, but, also long lead times and a product of marginal quality. Custom assemblies are usually unique in their design and are quite involved when it comes to design and assembly. To effectively source a supplier to build your unique custom cable assembly you should consider many factors on the way to your final decision. These factors are:

  • Reputation
  • Experience
  • Ability to provide prototypes
  • Willingness to provide samples for test
  • Ability to adjust to design changes quickly
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Ownership and financial stability

When you start your search make sure you look for companies who have a reputation of supplying quality products. You will avoid unnecessary risks by limiting your search to those who know how to deliver quality products. Make sure your selection originates from only those with a great reputation for quality. This will provide a great foundation for making the proper supplier selection. Within this group of potential suppliers find out which have experience in building and supplying cable assemblies. If you are looking for complex harnesses make sure you look for those with harness expertise. If you are looking for more simplistic assemblies such as grounding assemblies, for example, go with a supplier who has expertise in supplying quality grounding assemblies.

brainstorming 1When it comes to having a uniquely designed custom cable assembly it is always best practice to have a prototype made from the original specification for your consideration. This will allow your engineer(s) and possibly your customer a chance to review the original assembly build to insure it meets everyone’s expectations. Product modifications can usually be spotted at this time. Very few first articles are perfect right from spec. If a potential supplier will not agree to provide a prototype, move on and find a supplier who will.

Once a final version of the prototype is established it may be necessary for a number of samples to be built for testing purposes. If this is the case for your assembly make sure you find a supplier who is willing to provide test samples of the assemblies you need. Testing is usually necessary to insure the assembly can perform as expected from the prototyping phase. Like prototyping this too can lead to additional design changes. This is a critical step in the process of cable assembly development. Like prototyping, if your prospective supplier is not willing to provide samples, consider moving on with your selection.

Another important consideration is your prospective supplier’s ability to ship on time and meet deadlines. We’ve all been involved with projects that are held up due to longer than expected lead times. Yes, sometimes things happen that are beyond your control, but, many suppliers eager to get the business often quote shorter lead times simply to win business. When this occurs, nobody wins as lead times often stretch well beyond project deadlines bringing the project to a halt. During your selection process ask your prospective supplier how they quote lead times. Additionally, always ask what their on-time delivery performance is for the type of assembly you are sourcing.

Finally, supplier ownership and financial stability is key for a prospective supplier producing a critical piece of your project. Why take the risk of having your supplier potentially struggle to buy parts and raw materials for your assembly; or even worse, suspend operations altogether leaving you at square one. Nobody wants to be in this position so make sure you check out your prospective supplier’s financial credentials before entering into a contract.

It’s not as easy as you might think to choose a supplier to manufacture your customer cable assembly. Make certain you do your due diligence. This will allow you to make the appropriate selection for a supplier perfect for your project. Although this may take some time up front, it is far better to take the time to learn rather than suffer the consequences of poor judgement after it’s too late.

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Topics: custom cables