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Information and Education: A Roundtable Discussion About the Front End of Membrane-Switch Production

(July 2007) posted on Mon Jul 09, 2007

Membrane-Switch production can be challenging work once you get past the roadblocks to production that customers place in your path. Here a panel of experts reveals how they work with clients to arrive at products that satisfy all.

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Brad Root Every situation is different. We try to look at the concept of what they want and give them up front ideas on potential cost savings. But at the same time, we have to look at their specifications and what the product needs to hold up to, and we have to—based on us being the experts—tell them what’s going to have the best chance of meeting the specifications. Cost is somewhat secondary.

Dennis Webster Cost does become second, and it comes down to a take it or leave it eventually. If we’re not able to feel good about the design that we’re proposing for the specifications, we simply can’t do it. They’re always looking at their pricing options.

What other tips can you give membrane-switch producers to help them improve their interactions with customers?

Jeff Arbogast Find reliable suppliers—suppliers you can count on to deliver consistent product.

Gene Baumgartner Collect the information up front. Make sure you have the correct information and understand the customers’ needs.

David Gintzler When you get a membrane switch, there’s generally anywhere from $500-3000 on the front end of it before you make piece one. One of the beauties of membrane switches is once you get a switch, you tend to maintain it as long as the product runs because you’re holding the tools and dies. Our company policy is whatever dies, tooling, and art you’ve bought and paid for is your property. We will give it back to you. The only caveat is don’t owe us any money. There are other screen printers who won’t cough it up, no matter what. Some are honest enough to tell you that what you bought is their property— you’re paying for it, but they own it. Make your policy clear.

Hemant Mistry Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Some are so eager to please the customer that they try to do something they don’t have the capability to do and maybe try to learn on the job. I strongly encourage people not to do that. If you want to expand your capabilities, do it on an R&D project, not on a customer’s dollar.

Brad Root Sometimes we’ll get involved with two-way non-disclosure agreements so if we do make design recommendations, they are supposed to be proprietary to GM Nameplate. If we’re working on design options, our ideas that will help save money and still meet requirements are supposed to be unique to GM Nameplate. For somebody to take that information and shop elsewhere is, in theory, covered by the two-way non-disclosure. You always deal with some customers who are not as ethical as others. You always take a chance with that.

Dennis Webster Get involved a lot earlier than you have in the past. It’s nice to review what customers are doing early on; otherwise, they’ll box you into a corner and make something very difficult to produce—and it becomes very expensive for them.



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