Pre-Production Builds: Komponents, Kits and Konsternation


About one half our projects revolve around coordinating “first builds” of new products. Our
staff are the midwives of new products being born on the fly. Producing proof-of-concept
models, Alpha and Beta builds and implementing the changes and tweaks that are common
and expected in every manufacturing launch is interesting and satisfying work for engineers
that love to build things.

Having said that, there’s a piece of the launch process that causes heartburn for all involved.
Assembling the bill of materials (BOM) needed to build these small runs is a major headache.
While contract manufacturers are pleased to build units in low volume, (so long as the project
leads to mass production) the NRE charges that they bill don’t cover the effort necessary to
research and collect kits of discrete components, sub assemblies and materials.

Suppliers would gouge their eyes out rather than be tasked with building these kits. Many will
no-quote a project if they’re required asked to take on this piece of the NPI puzzle.

It’s simply too hard to put together kits to support a build of 200 units when many of the
components are sold in reel form in a minimum of 10,000 pieces.

So what happens? In some cases, you the client are asked to “customer supply” or airlift kits
of components to the supplier. In most cases, it falls to EastBridge ( to build
these kits.

Does purchasing a broad range of discrete components, most of which cost a fraction of a
penny sound easy? It isn’t… How about a cable harness when you only need a dozen or a
lens assembly when the build requires fifteen? All heavy lifting.

As there’s no local branch of Heathkit in Asia, we need to become clever scroungers, traders
and shop the informal hardware markets of Asia. We can’t buy from the manufacturer or
a Tier I distributor… In some cases we must purchase from Tier III or IV distributors or
component brokers. In other cases we ask if we can substitute an alternative part. [This is
really tricky when we’re working on FDA compliant products… More on this in a later posting.]

So, be prepared when approaching a manufacturing launch to grapple with the Kit


Jack Daniels

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