Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quality in the components: How a single capacitor or process can make a HUGE difference.

-Deacon Wardlow

It’s the little things in life which can make a huge difference. Reaching into your pocket and finding a dime which makes for exact change at the coffee shop or being glad you paid that little extra to buy the nicer watch which has lasted for years when others have long been retired to the back of the catch-all drawer. Over time, electronic components have become more versatile, more reliable and cheaper. The difference between a high-end and a low-end capacitor can be a few pennies. It doesn't seem like much, but those pennies make a big difference to a manufacturer who buys hundreds of thousands of them.

if you’ve ever had to run a home DIY project, you’ve gone to the hardware store and picked out the bits and pieces you needed. Maybe you noticed a few different types of nails and you buy a bunch of the cheaper ones to save a few dollars on a project that is already going over budget. If you’ve been there, you’ve probably also noticed how those cheaper nails bent, wouldn’t go in easily, and (in many cases) just didn’t get the job done. You go back and spend a few dollars more and find the slightly more expensive nails really made a difference. The same thing occurs in manufacturing.

A manufacturer will look at the overall performance and the failure rate of a component. Component X costs 5 cents less than Component Y, but it’s prone to a 5% higher failure rate. The manufacturer looks at how many they’re buying, how important to the performance of the system that component is, and will decide whether it’s worth the cost savings to put the cheaper component in and put up with a few RMA replacements vs. the greater expense of the more reliable (and costly) unit.

How much attention to detail is paid by the manufacturer of choice? You have to ask them. How do they source their parts? How much of a failure tolerance does the manufacturer have? When they look at processes which could extend the lifetime optimal performance of the system (for example, conformal coating on power supplies), do they see the value added for the end-user or do they see an expense they don’t want to be burdened with?

When a manufacturer is pinching pennies, it doesn’t always mean those savings are passed along to you. They likely sell the same system at the same price (and often a higher cost) than the competition and you’re stuck playing a game of chance to see if the components will function for the projected lifetime of the system or if “Warranty Deadline” day comes and goes and things start falling apart well before their time.

Make sure you’re being told, up front, what really goes into the system you’re investing in. Make sure neither you, nor the manufacturer are saving a few pennies now which will cost a lot of dollars to fix later. Usually the axiom “penny saved is a penny earned,” is a good one. In this case, the manufacturer reaps rewards and the buyer ends up with the risk. You’re investing in them by choosing the manufacturer as a partner, make sure they’re making the right decisions to ensure your investment and trust are well placed.

*I invite you to comment here and/or email me directly with requests at deacon@vantageled.com. Vantage LED has white paper resources and more educational material on the website (http://www.vantageled.com), please check it out when you have a moment. Note all posts/thoughts/writings are strictly the viewpoint of me and me alone and do not reflect nor speak for Vantage LED’s beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, etc. unless specifically stated.

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