Omnetics Connector Corporation are leaders when it comes to custom-designed micro-miniature and nano-miniature connectors for aerospace and defence industry applications. This has been the case since the company launched a little over 35 years ago. But recently, spurred by customer demand, Omnetics has been working hard on a new, much different product launch believed to be the biggest in company history. Eager to find out more about the new Kilo 360® product family, we spoke to Travis Neumann, Omnetics’ Special Projects Manager, and Phil Simonson, the company’s Vice President & CFO.
Simonson starts by explaining one of the ways the Kilo 360® launch differs from Omnetics’ previous focus. “Omnetics’ expertise has traditionally focused on custom, specifically designed and assembled components and connectors. Our challenge was to come up with a line of products, to do something that is an industry standard and bring that same level of quality and design that Omnetics’ customers have come to expect. There are three distinct styles of connectors that we’re working with, but if you look at all the permutations and combinations of options that we have, there would be many 10s of 1000s of different connectors.”
And for a connector company that built its success on miniature connectors, this new line of products represent a slight increase in size for Omnetics. So, what prompted the company to take this direction and launch it as a brand new business line, and what types of customers is it aimed at? “It’s something that our existing customer base has been asking us for years,” says Simonson. “It’ll overlap with existing customers that we have, primarily in the military and aerospace industries, as well as some industrial applications as things move down in power and size requirements. These will help miniaturise connectors that they’re already using, so we could see more growth in that area. Primarily, it’s something that our existing customers are currently buying from other vendors that they’ve been requesting us to provide as well.”
Solving customer pain points
A long time before engineers even started on designs, Omnetics had been closely observing the existing market for this style of connector, paying particular attention to any common problems its own expertise and efficiencies could help solve for customers. Neumann believes that two critical pain points for customers are lead time and quality. “One of the biggest pain points for us to solve for people is having them available and being relatively flexible to adjust to a different plating type, or something similar. We have a plan for stocking, much like a number of vendors. We also do the majority of the machining in-house. And we’ve done some things in the design of our product lines that allows us to use one machine part for a variety of finishes. So, in manufacturing we can stage raw materials to some extent or have a combination of those raw materials. Then, as customers order specific finishes, we just take from that and send it out. It saves us a few weeks of lead time on the front from machining; we basically go straight to plating and then we’re ready for assembly.”
Another customer pain point that Omnetics identifies is the “intermateability” of the connectors. Simonson explains that intermateable connectors haven’t always been the case with these styles due to a lack of official standards. “Our challenge was to provide Omnetics’ level of quality to a connector that is truly intermateable with the others in the field, not just another connector that you throw out there that may or may not fit correctly or serve the needs of the customer,” he says.
Neumann agrees, adding: “People have basically been purchasing these connectors from one vendor, primarily. Other vendors have approached it in terms of the marketplace. As we found out when buying these connectors to integrate into solutions for customers, they don’t necessarily match up. What that may mean is that you could take two different vendors’ connectors, and when you fasten them together you see damage at some level on the threads, for example. We’ve also seen issues where customers use Company A’s connector for one side and Company B’s connector for the other side, and they have sealing issues. So, it’s all about us working through whatever those issues are and integrating solutions for that into our design.”
By focusing on solving these issues for customers in the defence and aerospace industries, and thereby providing these clients with the best quality and most reliable connectors, Omnetics has recognised a real opportunity in this area. “It’s all about us getting into the game with these styles of connectors,” says Neumann. “We don’t want to come out with our version and then experience the same pitfalls as other vendors have, where our customers are saying ours don’t mate, or they leak, when they’re already using the front-runners for connectors”.
Omnetics believes that the success of the Kilo 360® launch will follow as a result of this. Neumann concludes: “When we do a good job, it’ll take care of itself. Customers will know that we’ve listened to what’s going on in the marketplace, and that we’ve taken care of the headaches they‘ve been experiencing.”