Behind the Scenes: Prototyping

la_lougiuPrototyping has been key to winning major projects because it displays our engineering capabilities, sharpens our price proposal, and gets us in front of the customer. We deliver prototypes in 65% of all new projects and generally win two times more of those projects when we are involved with the designs. Our objective is to acknowledge all inquiries as quickly as possible, to state a preliminary game plan to you and the customer, and to identify team members assigned to the project. A lot happens, and many people are involved with the process.

Rick Barthel, our prototype engineer in the Twin Cities headquarters, coordinates among the customer, design engineer, manufacturing and quality to ensure that designs are produced quickly and meet the customer’s requirements. He relies heavily on La Lougiu, our long-term prototype technician, to go through the iterative process of producing a manufacturable part. Rick and La work closely with the design engineers to avoid problems and find the best way to achieve the customer’s goals.

When you hear that “the sample request has been submitted to the factory”, it means that our design and manufacturing engineers in Colorado and Asia are on the project. Brett Jelkin coordinates engineering designs in Colorado, and L.T. Koo evaluates production in our Asian facility. They are validating proof of design and rick_barthelmanufacturability, as well as sourcing any special material s.

Custom parts require more activity and therefore more discipline and collaboration than standard parts, and production in low-cost countries does not, by itself, ensure competitiveness. As reps for Precision, you are key to the entire system, and our successful rep agencies are active collaborators.

The activities begin with the NPD form, which may include the customer design; in other cases, the customer tells us what they need and we create the design. An engineer with product expertise creates a spec page including schematic, dimensional drawing, and other design criteria for customer approval. The engineer then creates a prototype document consisting of the spec page, a BOM, and a labor page that includes a winding table, wire sizes, insulation layers, number of turns, soldering, lead configuration, coring, stacking, and any needs for special tooling. This document lets us purchase materials, establish work orders, and enter sales orders into the ERP system. It is also used to build the prototype.

Typically, we send one to five prototype parts, along with data sheets, to the customer for evaluation and approval, hopefully to be followed by an order. Common to all projects, the gating items are the sourcing of special (and local) materials and tooling and the need for adequate information. According to our prototyping staff, “It’s a collaborative process. We can do the best job for the customer when we understand as much as possible about the application: what the part is going into, how it’s going to be used, and the agency approvals—UL, IEC, and CSA. For example, regarding UL insulation systems, if we know in advance what’s required it will help us choose the right bobbin and materials for the job. The right information helps us create the best prototype, build it quickly, and earn the customer’s business.”

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