Custom electronic modules have a ton of details to make them operate right. A classic development process includes several cycles of back and forth between a supplier and an OEM, whereby the typical exchange is the supplier writing code, telling the OEM that it’s finished, and the OEM saying “no, this doesn’t work.” Then the code is changed, tested, submitted to the OEM, and it still doesn’t work and the process goes again. Sometimes enough cycles of this can provide a solution that finally functions, and other times the process results in acknowledgement that the supplier doesn’t understand what the OEM needs – and sometimes the OEM’s needs are not known until there is a prototype to try out.
This “old-school” process requires a lot of time and resources, and often there are months of development and testing. This wastes the OEM’s time and increases the cost of development.
Many companies try to circumvent this challenge by creating a detailed specification. Purchasing departments love them so that all potential suppliers can be considered equal from a technical perspective. However, the specification is part of the product description, but it does not encapsulate all the issues that go into designing a custom-engineered solution.
While we love a good spec, we realize that there are many needs that are not captured there. And the OEM’s technical team will be the ones living the experience of a spec that may be met but a solution that still needs work. Many times, there are differing interpretations of what is written in the spec – often a complicated technical environment is being described, which can lead to problems.
For many years, Marlin Technologies has used a much more intimate approach to speed things up and keep costs down. At the outset of projects, we often send either our Field Service team or our Engineers to meet with the customer to go in depth into the application and work through details. Having produced custom electronics for 50 years, we have seen what it takes for applications to be developed well, and we know where the pitfalls are. We have seen the intersection of inadequate specification, ineffective communication, varying priorities, and distance. Our team tears those conflicts down and gets the solution working.
In today’s world, we can do this remotely – though our preference is a visit to the customer to gain a deep understanding of the environment. The more of the OEM’s team that can be involved the better, as a variety of perspectives often combine to create the best, most expedient results. The Marlin team pays extra attention to the electrical demands and electronic signals that the operating environment presents – there are often small details that sensitive equipment can identify that will make the difference between a successful solution and a troubled implementation.
The relationships involved are invaluable. It’s amazing how future discussions can be handled quickly when the OEM’s team knows our Field Service team personally. Within Marlin, our Field Service team becomes the advocate for the customer’s needs, which is very powerful when we are making decisions about design features and approaches.
The outcomes for OEM’s are real – faster time to market, less back-and-forth discussing exactly how the product should work. In more complicated control situations, there is less time spent debugging issues once trials are underway, and more OEM resources can be spent on other activities getting to market faster. At the end of the project, the OEM has a relationship in place with a team that can function as an outsourced electrical engineering team – and extension of the OEM. It’s powerful. Try us on your next project, you’ll like the results.