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Mil/Aero cable assembly challenges require “out of the box” options

As avionics and military vehicle control systems continue to become more and more complex, many military and aerospace manufacturers and customers have faced the challenge of having to create increasingly sophisticated cable assemblies, wiring harnesses, and test cables to satisfy the specific interconnect and testing needs of various aircraft, military vehicles, and ground-based control systems. In many cases, these cable assemblies involve hundreds of feet of wiring, dozens of different styles and types of connectors from multiple manufacturers, and the use of specialized tooling and equipment. In addition, the finished cables must be tested to ensure compliance with all current specifications and standards. Consequently, overcoming these design challenges costs manufacturers time, money, and productivity, as it requires additional production steps and materials, as well as the reallocation of a portion of the available labor force.

The current manufacturing environment has become increasingly geared toward automated processes and mass production with lean inventory. As such, the typical military/aerospace systems manufacturer is not set up for the efficient, economical production of low volume, high complexity, and labor-intensive cable assemblies that require multiple connector types, as these assemblies typically equate to higher procurement, inventory, and production costs. Consequently, when manufacturers must produce complex cable assemblies in-house, it is often at the expense of delivery schedules and inefficiencies to the manufacturer’s core business.

Fortunately, though, there is a proven alternative to sourcing and producing such complex cable assemblies in-house. An experienced connector distributor with specialized manufacturing skills, dedicated production space, access to extensive inventories of qualified parts from a wide range of vendors, and testing and quality assurance facilities can serve as a strategic partner to such manufacturers, delivering a wide range of value-added services — including virtually any level of cable assemblies, wire harnesses, and test cables — that also typically provide significant savings with regard to cost and delivery times.

The rise of the connector distributor as a source for complex mil/aero cable assemblies and test cables is a natural evolution for those distributors who have chosen to specialize in sourcing MIL-spec connectors, as it builds upon the value-added services they already provide, such as attaching cabling to individual connectors, assembling kits of related connectors and accessories, and final testing and quality assurance services. Plus, their ready access to extensive inventories of qualified connectors from multiple manufacturers dramatically shortens the lead times for delivery of the finished assemblies.  

By selecting a distributor to provide completed cable assemblies, mil/aero manufacturers are able to order a single part number and receive a tested, packaged cable assembly that is ready for use, saving significant inventory and procurement costs.

For example, a specialized mil/aero connector distribution company was recently approached by an engineer from a large aerospace systems manufacturer that needed to source connectors and accessories to quickly manufacture test cable harnesses for their customer. Due to a number of reasons, their design and approval process had slipped from the original plan and was threatening to delay their delivery schedule.

The customer had specified the overall test cable harness details, including the connector types, plating finish, overall cabling dimensions, and the requirement to provide EMI protection on the cable assemblies using shielded heat shrink. Since the customer required an accelerated timeframe for delivery, it became apparent to the manufacturer that it was more efficient to take advantage of the distributor’s on-site stock and specialized capabilities and allow them to procure the connectors and other components, assemble them in their 24-hour assembly area, select suitable backshells and adapters, and assemble and deliver the test harnesses for the customer to complete the order.

This partnership created an ideal situation for the end customer, who received their completed-to-specification order on time, and for the engineers and procurement staff at the aerospace systems manufacturer, who were able to focus on the project at hand rather than on specifying part numbers, searching for suppliers and identifying alternate components. Leveraging the connector distributor’s specialized resources and capabilities allowed the OEM to deliver a completed cable assembly to their customer on time, at a significantly reduced cost, and with a shorter production time.

As illustrated, the most effective solution to the challenging requirements of supplying complex cable assemblies for increasingly intricate avionics and military vehicle control systems is a specialized connector distributor with a wide range of MIL-spec interconnect products and the capability to rapidly respond to orders using in-stock inventory and a specialized workforce of connector experts.

BTC Electronics is an authorized connector distributor and manufacturer of cable assemblies and wire harnesses with more than 35 years of experience in supplying high reliability connectors from the leading connector manufacturers to military/aerospace and commercial industries. www.btcelectronics.com

This article was originally published on Electronic Component News (ECN). Web. 11 March 2015 Click here to view the original article.