Part Customization and Standardization in the Glass and Glazing Industry
In today’s innovative, technologically advanced glazing world, very few single parts can possibly handle all of the relevant applications, particularly when it comes to glazing products. Somewhere down the line, you’ll be forced to compromise. How do you choose between a standard of custom part? What do you need to know to make the best decisions?
Advantages of standardization
The push for standards in today’s marketplace does have its advantages.
- Inventory: Using standard components makes it easier to manage inventories, facilitate technical support and streamline customer service. If you have only one type of glazing seal in your assembly and a customer calls to say he is missing a few thousand feet, you’ll know exactly what to send him without needing to guess the specs. Going standard can also help streamline your parts vault. It can be a very good idea to follow business books’ advice to adhere to the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
- Risk: Industry standards also tend to limit risk, since commodities are always available from multiple sources. Furthermore, a standardized approach mitigates the risk of product inconsistency, short product lifecycles and overall reliability, since standard parts tend to have a proven track record among many different applications.
A closer look at customization
However, while standard products are more readily available than customized solutions, they may not always be cheaper or the best solution for your particular application. Especially when you have talented designers and engineers to work with. Why not make full use of their expertise by moving to a truly custom solution?
Glazing types vary widely, with technological advances happening so rapidly that standard manufacturers can’t always keep up. It only makes sense that a custom or semi-standard solution would fully meet a company’s needs. Custom solutions are often best suited to providing enhanced features and functions that match exactly with the manufacturer’s equipment and application requirements, without compromise.
Do you need to lower your standards?
Standard parts involve compromises of some kind, either in efficiency, quality or another critical element. They are designed to handle a wide range of applications, with both technical and economic considerations in mind. But no single part can possibly handle all the relevant applications.
Whether it’s a glazing seal or any other element of your building components, ask yourself if the specifications you’re looking for are just “nice to have” or if they are critical to the part and its application. If you answer the latter, you’ll have to forego the typical advantages of a standard part (such as a proven track record and faster delivery) and opt for a custom-built solution.
Do I need to go full custom?
In a word, no. Custom parts don’t always have to be built from the ground up. It is often possible for your supplier to adapt a standard solution to meet your application’s specific needs. These are referred to as “semi-standard” parts.
- Standardized custom parts: Many of today’s custom-built parts have some standardized features—a growing trend that may well save you some time and money. It only makes sense to see if a standard solution can be adapted before opting for a fully customized alternative.
- Adaptable custom parts: Ease of reconfigurability is another issue to consider when weighing your options. It’s important to know whether the standard part you’re choosing can be adapted to accommodate changes during production. Let’s say you are evaluating parts from two separate manufacturers (X and Y). Both can handle your application, but part X is cheaper. Part Y, on the other hand, is more easily adapted to handle changes in the part and/or changes in the final product. Which one should you choose?
Deciding between custom or standard parts
The following considerations will help you assess your needs.
- Pseudo-collusion in some industries keeps prices stable, even though their costs may be decreasing. So keep in mind that the price you are costing at might not be fair market price and may just be the “going rate.”
- Standards usually mean maintaining stock, which in turn means increased cost. Procurement and supply chain professionals know this as the carrying cost. It encompasses the cost to warehouse, heating, cooling and insurance for the product you want to buy off the shelf. On average, this could mean a direct cost increase of approximately 20–30%, not including the mark-up on top of the inflated base cost.
- Standards may limit your design and hold you back from coming up with something new and creative. One of the top objective among design and engineering departments these days is innovation. But it’s pretty difficult to be innovative when you’re told to spec standard parts “fit, form and function” and to make sure you get them at the lowest possible price.
- Custom parts usually require tooling to create whatever it is you have designed. Since tool ownership remains the intellectual property of the designer, you may be able to trademark or patent any new design or product improvement. Keep in mind that custom parts can provide a competitive advantage, deliver benefits to your customers and improve your company’s overall image.
- But tooling costs can be high in certain cases, and so the volume of parts purchased must outweigh the up-front costs of tooling and engineering. The advantage of this, however, is that these charges can be written off as a tax-deductible R&D expense.
|Exact requirements for applications are precisely met at little or no added cost.
|Designed to satisfy a broad range of applications and industries. Flexibility is limited to only what is useful for the most common applications.
|Product Life Cycle
|You determine its product life cycle and obsolescence. In addition, you can ensure compatibility and full functionality with past and future equipment requirements.
|Product life cycle may be short and is dictated by the supplier. Product/control migration is often difficult when a selected device becomes obsolete.
|A custom part is yours, with your brand name and part number. Replacement parts are ordered from you, not from a third party. Future orders ensure an ongoing relationship and dialog with customers.
|“Off-the-shelf” component suppliers may receive replacement part sales. The equipment manufacturer can lose valuable customer feedback on product performance or problems that could put their product at risk and affect future orders.
|Service and Support
|A strategic partner will ensure they understand your exact requirements. They are a single source throughout the entire life of the custom part from design specification to obsolescence and the next generation of products.
|Service and support personnel from “off-the-shelf” suppliers typically have very little knowledge about your specific equipment and requirements. This makes configuration and troubleshooting extremely time consuming and frustrating.
|Custom parts often provide a lower total cost of ownership. Cost savings come from:
|Direct material costs may be lower, but total cost of ownership is often higher after accounting for engineering, customer support, inventory and managing the supply chain.
|A custom part carries your brand name and company image.
|There may be no brand identity other than the brand of the “off-the-shelf” device supplier. The overall equipment brand is often overlooked.
Source : BTR Controls Inc.
You’ve decide to go custom? Now what?
- Lead times and worst-case scenarios: Depending on the type of tooling or product you are looking to customize, you can expect lead times anywhere from two weeks to six months depending on the complexity of the project. A longer lead time usually delivers the best value, so you will need to plan for it.
- Cost analysis: Your custom part may cost more in the end design, at the component level. But do a cost analysis on the completed assembly a few levels up your BOM (bill of materials), and if you have “standard processes” instead of “standard parts,” you will definitely see that the cost is competitive, if it wasn’t already from the start.
- Design strategy: One of the sure-fire ways to have a new design accepted is to consolidate numerous existing parts as retro-fits into your design, and then convert your new custom parts into standards in your parts vault. These strategies will help turn your “standard assemblies” into micro niche products without much effort in the long run.
Partnership pays off
Be sure to choose a strategic partner, and not just a supplier. They should be willing and able to work with you to choose a standard that meets your requirements rather than changing your requirements to meet the standard. Ultimately, a custom part may be the best choice. A partner can also mitigate the risks of source of supply and longer lead times through just-in-time delivery methods.
To sum up, it is advisable not to go “off-the-shelf” just for the sake of standardizing, unless you’re sure it’s the best solution for your application. Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful organization, so how will your company distinguish itself in a world of carbon copy products?
Since 2004, we have been designing and manufacturing custom rubber parts for companies and industries around the world.
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