With the development of its new Kilo 360® family of components, connector design and manufacturing company Omnetics is using all its expertise and industry knowledge to break new ground.
Bringing the Kilo 360® product family to life has pushed Omnetics to adapt its approach and modernise its systems more than ever before. With customers eager to get their hands on the new products, special project manager Travis Neumann, and vice president and CFO Phil Simonson, discuss how the company has risen to the occasion, and the lessons it’s learned in the process.
A new direction
“Normally our customers come to us looking for a unique solution and custom-designed products,” explains Simonson. “The Kilo 360® family is sort of the reverse of that. We’re going out and trying to introduce our version of products to an existing market.”
The development of the brand-new Kilo 360® business line was sparked by customer demand. “We wouldn’t have gone down this road if it wasn’t for the fact that our existing customer base was clamouring for us to provide these types of connectors,” Simonson adds. Neumann explains that this sets the product up well to enter the market.
Of course, a new venture can create hurdles. “One of the biggest in my mind is just the sheer scope of the project,” says Neumann. “This represent a much higher potential volume of products for us than our normal families of connectors,” Simonson adds. With Omnetics’ production lines used to handling smaller-batch custom orders, it was important to ensure that the company’s infrastructure could handle these bigger volumes. “We needed to make sure it wasn’t going to be too much of a burden on the existing assembly floor and that we weren’t going to lose any kind of production abilities on our existing product lines,” says Simonson.
The product itself is also a new element to be grappled with. “These connectors and their components are on the larger side than those which Omnetics traditionally makes,” says Neumann. “We did question whether this was something we wanted to get into – is it something that we can adapt our existing equipment and workforce to do as well?”
But the Omnetics team rose to this particular challenge. Describing the thought process the team went through, Neumann says it was a case of “figuring out how you’re going to manage all the permutations; how to handle all of the design work; how to manage the documentation of it.”
A unique approach
Omnetics’ efforts involved cross-team collaboration across the company. “We’ve had meetings with quality, documentation, engineering, you name it,” says Neumann.
Simonson adds that it was also important to think strategically. “Even within each one of those series or families there were so many combinations to decide where to start. And sometimes you just have to narrow your focus a little bit and just pick the ones you want to start with, and make sure to do those correctly.”
Omnetics’ approach was made in the interests of maintaining the quality that customers have come to expect from the company’s mission-critical and “ruggedized” components. It also involved keeping relatively quiet about the project early on during development. “We didn’t want to rush to the market with something that didn’t meet all of our standards internally,” says Simonson.
Adapt and evolve
It has been a process of learning and adapting for Omnetics, which has taken place over a number of years. “The ideas have been around for quite a while, for maybe five or six years,” explains Simonson. “Once we decided to do it, and actually put together a special team and allocate resources to it, it’s been a three-step process to move from design to manufacturing products.”
The extent of Omnetics’ new capabilities is unprecedented. “It’s the most technologically advanced we’ve ever been, and that includes bringing automation and technology into the manufacturing process to assist us along the way,” says Simonson, adding that the company also relied on external engineering, testing and manufacturing capabilities so as not to disrupt Omnetics’ other existing operations.
“There’s been some system changes, especially in terms of documentation,” says Neumann. “We’ve got a system in place for making some standards, some templates, that sort of thing to expedite the documentation process. And I would say it’s still developing.”
The Omnetics team is open to learning new things and pushing forwards. “Even though it’s essentially just another series of connectors for us, it’s really forced the company to mature and grow. In each department we’ve become a more modern-feeling company,” says Simonson.
All this presents an exciting opportunity for Omnetics, and one that promises to progress into the future. “It’s certainly a challenge for the business, but it’s something that hopefully won’t be the last time we try something new like this,” says Simonson.
Meanwhile, customers are keen to enjoy the results of the Kilo 360® development project. Simonson adds: “They’ve been anxious for us to get the project completely finished, and the product launched, so they can get our new components in their hands!”