Q&A on customer-focused connectors
This Q&A article covers ODU's Application Manager Thomas Neuburger and Design Engineer Stefan Seibuchner's thoughts on customer service in connectors.
For many customers, standard connector solutions are not an option. Plus, not all products are included in the standard range or listed in catalogues. Specific project requirements demand custom solutions.
Often, at the start of the product development process or a specific project the respective parameters are not yet fully defined. A cooperative partnership between customer and supplier is therefore necessary to ensure a high degree of customer satisfaction. ODU makes this possible through custom solutions and an open exchange of ideas.
The Q&A below shows what Thomas Neuburger and StefanSeibuchner had to say about customer service in ODU's distribution of connectors.
What happens at the first meeting with the customer?
Thomas Neuburger (TN): Ideally, before the first consultation with the customer we will have already received their basic requirements for the connectors. This allows us to create a rough concept for the initial meeting.
It is often helpful to discuss possible solutions on the basis of an existing connector. Ideas are generated and concepts developed via interdisciplinary collaboration, whereby the Product Design Center and Application Center work hand in hand.
Is it possible to generate a tailor-made custom solution for all customers?
Stefan Seibuchner (SS): Due to our vertical range of manufacture and experience, we try to develop the best possible solution for every customer. However, customer requirements must be reconciled with technical feasibility. This often presents us with challenges.
Therefore, we try to work directly with our customers’ project stakeholders and technicians. We discuss specific options and wishes with those concerned and create implementation options for both parties.
What are the prerequisites for this process?
TN: Technical feasibility aside, the project must be appealing for both sides. We won’t satisfy our customers by putting a lot of work into a heavily customised solution – the cost-benefit ratio must of course be maintained. Producing a small quantity at a very high price is not expedient.
What are the biggest challenges with custom solutions?
SS: Like us, our customers operate in a highly dynamic market. Technical changes, new requirements, shorter product life cycles and increased competition are just a few key attributes. It is therefore necessary to develop suitable and technically feasible solutions in the shortest possible time frame.
Furthermore, the resulting solution must also be attractive from an economic point of view. The task is to reconcile the different goals – which is not always easy.
We mentioned technical feasibility before – what needs to be considered here?
SS: Especially with complex requests, the technical feasibility can’t always be confirmed from the outset. In these cases, in addition to the theoretical considerations, we try to validate critical sub-functions at an early stage by means of initial functional samples.
For this purpose, we can quickly and easily fall back on our prototyping and, for example, 3D printing. This allows us to point out any complications and react accordingly.
You have an Application Center that serves as an interface. Why is this interface so important?
TN: The Application Center is the point of contact for technical customer support. As a first step, we check whether our special connector portfolio already includes an existing solution or whether there is a reasonable business case for a custom solution.
If we choose a custom solution, we define a project for which our application manager then also acts as the project manager.
To what extent are customer involvement and working in partnership important?
TN: They are indispensable: projects only ever succeed or fail jointly. Every single cog in the process and every person involved in the project is crucial to its joint success. Everyone is equally important.
We all share a common goal and this is what we work towards. Changes or problems may arise on the customer side and the better the cooperation, the easier it is to find solutions and make adjustments.
What makes ODU stand out here?
SS: Our high vertical range of manufacture is what sets us apart. This reduces the number of subcontractors and consequently the lead times. Direct contact with the customer, especially in terms of finding technical solutions, allows us to better understand and consolidate the requirements.
A broad portfolio of different connectors, the associated experience, and the possibility to flexibly choose between different solutions. This is what ODU stands for.