Halfway through 2012 at PCS

Wow!  That went really fast.  It seems like we were just setting our 2012 Goals and writing our Performance Plan Appraisals, and now we are at the 6 month review mark.  This is the first year that we have documented goals for all departments (not just Engineering), so I am excited to see where the teams are at.  In the Engineering department, we will be reviewing our PPA’s as a group and I am happy to say we are making steady progress.  There is a lot to be said about putting your goals on paper.

Things are feeling a lot more normal now at PCS.  Our Harness department is as busy as ever and we were able to double capacity with some LEAN improvements (without needing to increase footprint).  Our customers gobbled up that capacity before we were even finished, so we are continuing to look for improvements in efficiency.  We are still waiting on some approvals for our Lead Free product for the Automotive customers, but are confident that we have found a cost effective solution.  Fortunately,  it seems our customers are back in full swing as well, so unfortunately Engineering time comes at a premium.  Finally, we have had a couple new product launches in our Molding department, with a really cool R&D project underway which we hope will greatly reduce low volume tooling costs.

In the beginning of July, we officially stopped running dual ERP systems, and went “Live” with Epicor 9.  There was a considerable effort from Andy Gahr to get us to this point, and our customers should start to see the value in this new system.  You should start seeing improved leadtime predictions, better pricing (via improved costing), and a more streamlined approach to accounting.  So far, the feedback has been very positive!

We hope you are having just as good of a year as we are.  We are starting to see many more opportunities to come in via the web, so we encourage you to use the Contact Us portion of the website.

TE Connectivity (Tyco) acquires Deutsch

Here is some connector news that has been flying under the radar, but may have significant implications with regards to harsh environment connectors in the future.  TE Connectivity has acquired Deutsch from Wendel.  I am not a financial analyst by any means, but I expect the uncertainty in the European markets made this an attractive acquisition.  It is important to note here that the acquisition includes Ladd, which is the single source distribution partner for Deutsch.

http://investors.tycoelectronics.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=209396&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1634437&highlight=

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2105afbc-1b4c-11e1-8b11-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1fl52pmdV

If you are unfamiliar with Deutsch, they hold a large marketshare when it comes to connection systems on heavy equipment, from construction (backhoes, dozers, graders, etc.) to more industrial (man lifts, telehandlers, truck bodies, etc.).  TE Connectivity has had some success breaking into that market with their AmpSeal line, but Deutsch is still the king.

This will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  • What will happen with Amphenol and their recent introduction of the Amphenol Sine AT Series (which is a direct replacement to Deutsch DT Series)?
  • Will there still only be one place to purchase Deutsch components?
  • Will TE Connectivity use their leverage to increase pricing, or will they use their breadth to reduce pricing?
  • Will there be consolidation and how will that affect Quality and Reliability?

All questions that you can be sure we are asking of our contacts within the industry.

By the way, has TE Connectivity gained a firm footing in anyone’s lexicon yet?  It still feels awkward to say it, and every time I typed it in this post, I typed Tyco, backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace, TE Connectivity…

Blog Reorganization

If you check the blog often, you may have realized that we have changed a couple things.  I will try to provide a quick summary of what has changed:

  • Name – We have changed from PCS Engineering Blog to The PC Systems Blog.  This is because we have added contributors and hope to round out the content.
  • Theme – We changed our blog engine to WordPress so it required a change in theme.
  • Categories – We are going to start organizing our posts a little better using categories and tags which should help direct you to the content you want.
  • Content Strategy – With the addition of team members willing to contribute, it is our hope that we can develop a schedule and update the blog on a regular basis.  Also, we hope to develop additional content, such as whitepapers.

We appreciate your patience during the transition!

A QUICK Q4 UPDATE

As predicted, the end of 2010 has proved to be a very busy time for the Engineering and Product Management teams.  In addition, our Production group has been extremely busy as well, which was somewhat unexpected.  Looking at our order log for the next couple months, it looks like none of these teams will get a break as we move into 2011, which is great news for us as a company.

You would think that with all this activity, there would be a flurry of blog posts.  Unfortunately, I am fast becoming aware that it is difficult to blog about custom product as it is often confidential in nature.  Our customers’ confidentiality is very important to us, so it limits what I can share with the world.  That being said, here are some things we have been working on:

1) New Products: We are seeing many new Heavy Equipment harness designs being proposed and also being converted into quick orders.  In addition to the normal work instructions and paperwork, every harness order requires at least one layout board and mating test harness to be built.  This has kept our Quality and Engineering teams busy.  I expected by this time I would see a larger number of harnesses eliminating Deutsch components and using the Amphenol AT series as replacements due to Deutsch delivery problems in early 2010, but that has not been the case.  You should be aware that we are happy to use either of these manufacturers on our harnesses.

2) Research and Development: We have begun to dedicate a significant amount of time to generating a lead free alternative for soldering electrical connectors to automotive window glass.  This has traditionally been a RoHS exempted solder joint due to poor performance of the traditional SAC (Tin/Silver/Copper) solder alloys in this application, but that exemption is due to expire soon.  We at PCS are focusing on identifying a much more cost competitive solution when compared to the current alternatives available commercially (for example, alloys containing high content of Indium and/or Bismuth).  We are hoping to get through some very important testing in early 2011.

3) Innovation: We are working on an alternative design using flat flexible conductors for an automotive customer that is stretching the boundaries for how we have used this product in the past.  Although this doesn’t look to be an extremely profitable project, we hope it will open doors for us.  In addition to that, who doesn’t like to read about their products on automotive news blogs?

4) Continuous Improvement: We are writing CNC code for our machine shop so that we can replace some of the existing tooling in our equipment.  In the past, we have used mostly manual equipment for maintaining our tooling and building new test fixtures.  With the completion of  recent training, we have successfully started writing our own CNC code to replace some of this tooling, which should provide better costs for our customers and a more standardized product.

5) We are implementing a new ERP system, Epicor 9, which has been an exciting adventure.  Anyone who has upgraded such a major database such as an ERP knows how overwhelming it can be.  The amount of data that needs to be transferred is absolutely mind-boggling.  We intended on doing the implementation in Q4 as it typically is our slowest time of the year.  It has been difficult, but we are finding time to fit this into our daily schedules.  There is high hope that this system will provide better cost models (thus better pricing for the customers), better real-time production data (more accurate lead-times) and a more user friendly quote module (faster turnarounds on RFQs).

That is a pretty good cross-section of what has been going on here at PCS.  As always, if there is something in this post that catches your attention and want to talk more about it, contact us for further discussion.