Benjamin Franklin coined the proverb; time is money. As one of America’s greatest product developers—he would know. The journey from concept to market is long and arduous, and the closer a product gets to the finish line, the more costly mistakes and “surprises” become. There are dozens of pitfalls at every turn, but none are as detrimental as finding out that one seemingly small detail is enough cause for a recall. Just ask Ford, who recalled 550,000 vehicles in July of this year because of a poorly designed shifter cable bushing (a tiny piece that connects a car’s shift cable to the shift linkage). A month later, they recalled another 50,000 car charging cables over fire risk. It makes no difference whether you develop electrical products for transportation, medical, industrial or any other type of industry—these four truths apply to every product team:
1. Lives are in your hands.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), electrical receptacles are involved in 5,300 fires every year, resulting in over 100 injuries and 40 deaths. The design details of your product’s electrical assembly (especially wire gauge and ampacity) should not be taken lightly. If the wrong cable assembly or connector are selected, it could be the difference between life or death for your end user.
2. A recall could kill your business.
The cost of a significant recall starts at about $12 million and can easily rocket into the billions. This doesn’t take into account how a recall will impact your reputation and future business opportunities. As you might have guessed, the automotive industry is the leading recall offender. The food and beverage industry is a close second. And some of the largest recalls in history ended in bankruptcy or severe financial strain.
Peanut Corp of America recalled over 3,000 products after a salmonella outbreak, which cost them about $1 billion and put them out of business.
General Motors racked up a $4.1 billion recall bill after pulling 30.4 million cars off the road because their ignition switches were malfunctioning. At least 124 people lost their lives.
Samsung’s diversified presence in the market saved them from going up in smoke in 2016 when they had to recall 2.5 million smartphones that were overheating and catching fire. It cost them $5.3 billion, and permanently scarred their reputation in the mobile device marketplace.
3. Electrical details should be addressed near the start of a project.
With so much financial and legal risk riding on the electrical performance of your product, this is one detail you shouldn’t leave for last. There are several factors you need to think about before making the right selection, and these considerations take time, including:
- Specific use cases involving the product’s electrical components
- Environmental conditions under which the product will operate
- Housing materials needed for safety and protection
- Integrations and customizations required to meet compliance regulations
- Inconsistent labeling and conflicting information
- Price points well below the market average
- Deals that sound “too good to be true”
- Materials that look or feel “off”
- Sellers with a poor online presence
In many cases, product teams opt for a customized solution, which may also require adequate time to produce. However, thanks to rapid prototyping, engineers can create and test customized connectors and overmolded cable assemblies early in the process to save time and money that might otherwise be spent correcting issues and iterating electrical plans.
4. Counterfeit cables are real
Online shopping is chancy. You gain access to hundreds of vendors and vast inventories, but vetting suppliers is challenging, and purchasing products that you only see on screen makes it easy to accidentally buy into false advertising. This is why working with a reputable cable assembly manufacturer is your safest bet. Here are some ways to tell if a cable is counterfeit:
Partnering with a professional connector and cable assembly manufacturer early in the development process will alleviate stress and ensure the electrical performance of your product is safe, reliable and optimal. However, not just any cable assembly company will do. Incredible value can be found in the way a company supports customers and manufactures products.