Fourstar Connections Blog

Upstream Testing for Cable and Harness Assemblies

Posted by Tom Barczak on Jul 15, 2016 1:27:04 PM

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Operator-Based Quality Is the Key

Since when is paddling upstream ever fun? Usually, it’s not, but when you are a company committed to Operator-Based Quality, it is energy well expended. It also helps when you have all oars in the water rowing in the same direction.

Cable_and_Harness_upstream_testing.jpgCable and harness testing has, for a long time, been based on having: 

  • Engineers designing
  • Operators building
  • Inspectors testing 

This model has been the backbone of many cable and harness assembly companies for decades. The only problem is ... in today’s world, it just doesn’t work anymore. 

We found that when you have different groups controlling key parts of core processes, the core owners can get disconnected from the work. These disconnections promote slow feedback, quality complacency, increased scrap due to batch build, as well as potential liability and labor hour competition if there are problems with production. Heck, by the time inspection gets to provide feedback, the operator could be one or two jobs down the schedule. At Fourstar, we recognized that we had to approach this situation differently. We had to get LEAN. 

What Changed 

Here’s a look at the old and new cable and harness testing resource chains: 

Old: Operator batch build + Queue + Inspector + Batch test + Queue + Group leader, Operator feedback

New: Operator build + Test + Instant feedback 

As you can see, the old chain is long, involves a number of people, and has committed much or all the material and resources before having any idea if the cable or harness product is electrically correct. This is hardly a recipe for success. But what do you do, especially if you are not building thousands of products at a time that make dedicated lines practical? 

The Solution: Push the Power Back Upstream 

Fourstar has done just that. By outfitting all of our cable and harness associates with state-of-the-art Cirris tester capability, then amassing over a thousand test adapters and back-wired harness boards, we have given the testing power back to the people. Our modular test fixture approach means that an operator can configure any test setup per process in minutes. Our associates are fully plugged in—from online documentation and testing programs to electronic requests for corrective actions from our technical staff on process problems or “roadblocks” (we’ll go into roadblocks in another blog). 

How’d It Go? 

Getting folks to change their thinking and not fear minor setbacks in the cable and harness testing process was the hardest part. I’d like to say that it was a slam dunk, but like all good things in life, it takes hard work and perseverance. The time spent working with all stakeholders to “Find a Better Way” has paid off. 

Some of the overall benefits:

  • Instant feedback to operators
  • Operators having a better understating of the products’ electrical characteristics
  • Reduced resources due to a leaner process
  • Most importantly, a higher overall quality and value to our customers 

We still do some end-of-line testing, but this is mainly used for our very intricate work (we do some pretty complex stuff) that needs an extra set of eyes and skillset. In the final analysis, pushing test capability back to the operator is better, faster, cheaper. In the end the paddle upstream by the team allows for a virtually obstacle-free coast to the end of the day. 

Stay tuned for more as we find a better way for your cable and harness needs. The key to finding timely, cost-effective solutions is to collaborate. You might be interested in this case study with Samtec, which was in the testing phase for the re-design of a PESS cable assembly. Learn about how we met Samtec’s time to market requirements—saving Samtec time, money, and resources. Read about it now!

Download the Samtec Case Study




Topics: Custom Cable Assemblies, Cable and harness assembly testing

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