Circular connectors are essential in many industries and many applications — and that need has created relationships between end users and connector suppliers worldwide. While these partnerships have long existed, current business realities have shaped the dynamics of these relationships.
Ever-changing market demands have created an environment where faster delivery times aren’t just seen as an advantage, but a necessity. Yet, supply chain disruptions due to labor shortages and other variables have made products harder to get in a timely manner, while adding to their overall cost.
All the while, the intricacies of the connector applications themselves are evolving. With more unique applications emerging, there is a growing need for customization to enhance or even sometimes replace off-the-shelf connectors.
Using the current state of the industry as a jumping off point, we’ll help you understand if it’s time for you to switch connector providers — information that you can then funnel up to your colleagues to build the case for making the move.
Reasons to Switch Circular Connector Providers
Sign #1: You’re Overextending Your Connector Budget
In Q1 of 2021, reports show that the cost of materials typically used in connectors — copper, steel, and thermoplastics — increased over 31% compared to the previous year. At the same time, wages for U.S. manufacturing workers steadily increased by 6% in 2021 to help retain workers in a competitive marketplace — with wage increases also seen on an international scale.
In light of these industry dynamics, many connector manufacturers and their suppliers have increased the price of their products to protect their margins. Understandably, these spikes in price have raised concerns for budget-conscious businesses dependent upon connector products to power their applications. While cost minimization has always been a core focus of supply chain management, the current state of the connector market has brought this need to the forefront.
Sign #2: Delays Are Impacting Your Product Development
When applications rely on circular connectors, the product development life cycle isn’t complete until connectors are delivered into the hands of customers. So when there are delivery delays, the end customer feels that financial impact, as a slower time to market can lead to missed profits.
Per industry reports, the connector industry’s backlog was six weeks at the end of 2019. That number climbed to 8.7 weeks in 2020, and then to 12.6 weeks in September 2021. These increased lead times can also be attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the more recent surge in demand as the economy recovers.
With connector lead times reaching all time highs, the need to combat these slowdowns is all the more important. One piece of this puzzle is supplier consolidation. Working with a single circular connector provider that can assist you with product sourcing, product engineering, quality assurance testing, and other critical steps in the product development process supports faster lead times. (Not to mention, it’s also beneficial from a cost standpoint.)
Then there’s the inventory management side of the equation. The flexibility of expedited delivery options supports faster turnaround times that help businesses keep product launches on track, as well as address more immediate needs in the field. Meanwhile, based on forecasted demand, inventory stocking programs help to ensure parts are on-hand when needed — without businesses having to sit on excess inventory — further expediting turnaround times.
Sign #3: Product Quality Falls Flat In Some Areas
As military-style equivalents, circular connectors are designed, manufactured, and tested to perform under the harshest environmental conditions. While this sets the standard for technically sound products, applications can evolve over time, as can the environments in which they operate.
These shifts can warrant the need to customize off-the-shelf products with added environmental protection in the form of overmolding, or replace them with fully customized connector solutions. When a circular connector provider offers these capabilities in-house, you’ll have the means to maintain product quality in the face of changing requirements without having to look for other suppliers.
The other layer of product quality ties back to visual appeal, an element that is less of a concern to the industrial space but matters to commercial businesses. Think about this in the context of a connector’s finish: Ideally, connectors will be equipped with a scratch-resistant surface so they can preserve their appearance, along with their functionality, in their operating environment.
Product samples can help attest to the quality of circular connectors. When providers offer this option, it’s a testament to the confidence they have in their products from both a performance and a visual standpoint.
Sign #4: Customization Options Come at High Costs
Customization is a need that many engineers have to align connectors with their end uses. Yet, the steps required to make it happen often aren’t cost-effective.
Let’s say you have an application that requires overmolded circular connectors. Oftentimes, the overmolding process takes place overseas, which increases shipping costs and introduces international tariffs and custom fees that are ultimately funneled down to customers. What’s more, because of these added costs, manufacturers and suppliers are likely to have higher minimum order volume requirements that tack onto the customization costs, and leave customers with unnecessary inventory to manage.
When a circular connector provider boasts in-house customization capabilities, they can better deliver product efficiency and price efficiency. Without travel time between overseas production facilities, a provider has the means to ship more reasonable volumes of custom connectors to customers, in a fraction of the time.
In the case of a fully customized solution, it’s also valuable to think about how working with one supplier bridges the gap between the design and manufacturing process. When a connector provider sees this process all the way through, there is less chance for miscommunications or design revisions that would delay product completion and
add to its cost.
As a Circular Connector Provider, Amerline Helps Fill in the Gaps
The decision to switch circular connector providers can be driven by various factors, from high costs and slow lead times to subpar product quality (or perhaps a combination of these elements). Whatever the reasoning may be, the engineers behind this decision take on responsibility for its business impact — for better or for worse — so it’s critical to find solutions and support they can depend on.