Transition: From Development to Production
The transition from late stage development to production can often be a bottleneck in the product realization process. It is not uncommon for an engineering group to be overstretched between finalizing drawings, producing work instructions, establishing quality plans and providing technical support to vendors. Even if the engineering group does a great job with finalizing design, there can still be challenges relating to manufacturing capacity necessary to meet the rapid demand common in upstart products. Zepher has structured operations to provide support at this critical stage, offering a faster, cleaner and less costly transition to production. Variable capacity allows us to quickly ramp according to our customers’ product demand.
Manufacturing Legacy Products
Zepher has taken on production of several legacy products suffering from incomplete documentation, out-of-date designs and little or no work instructions. In these situations, communication becomes critical to achieve what we consider complete deliveries. Zepher begins the documentation process early and will supplement provided design packages with quality plans and build instructions that ensure a consistent product delivery. Zepher is open to sharing this documentation and helping transition legacy products up to a customer’s current standards.
Zepher regularly receives expedite requests from customers, both in full rate production and in the development phases. This is often achieved without additional cost to the customer. In Zepher’s experience, the key to successfully expediting a project is to have lead times and sub-tier risks clearly mapped out and accessible. Zepher starts to gather this information at the bid stage and incorporates specific component lead-time information into Zepher’s proprietary planning software. After bringing the longest lead-time vendors into the required timeframe, consistent follow ups and thorough quality inspections feed our risk management plans, eliminating factors that jeopardize expedited timelines. In one recent example, Zepher was providing assembly labor for a complex trailer based assembly. This assembly was slated to be discontinued, the documentation was incomplete, and the prior units had taken a minimum of 10 months to complete. Due to an urgent pop up demand, Zepher was able to work with the customer to deliver the first of these 300-hour assemblies in three months, with the following unit less than a month behind, and Zepher purchasing all project materials.
Partnered Manufacturing Approach
Zepher’s experience as a contract manufacturer has demonstrated the value of flexibility. Zepher’s partnered manufacturing approach is designed to provide affordable, flexible solutions that scales with production demand. Zepher has a broad specialized vendor base with established working relationships that aid in effectively scaling demand. Zepher can quickly pull together this vendor base for a very broad range of integrated assemblies. As product scales up, Zepher works aggressively with vendors to achieve quantity discounts. When necessary, we are also willing to bring processes in house to achieve further affordability. Zepher retains in house experts in multiple disciplines that allow for effective technical communication across the supply chain and set clear expectations for delivered quality. Ultimately, Zepher views the entire supply chain as a partnership in producing the final product. Effective partnerships necessitate trust, which should extend throughout the chain. Zepher provides complete transparency, traceability, reporting, and access to required information to its customers and vendors.
At Zepher, we’ve seen both the positives and negatives of contract manufacturing. We offer sustainable manufacturing solutions and exceptional customer services because our interest lies in the long-term success of our clients. Our customers take significant risk in outsourcing their production and we take the associated responsibilities seriously. Our success is entirely dependent on our customers’ success and our ability to retain their business is dependent on performance.
Beyond producing at the highest levels of quality, we feel a responsibility to limit the liability of our customers. Rather than controlling the intellectual property of our clients, we strive only to improve it. By utilizing the knowledge we attain through direct production experience, we are able to fine-tune final documentation packages. In doing so, we tie up loose ends and offer our customers peace of mind, knowing that by choosing Zepher, their brand values consistently from design through delivery.
Our ability to create new tools lies at the heart of productive innovation. At Zepher, we build custom products. In turn, we build custom tools, spanning the gap between crude and precise methods to suit internal goals and our customers' needs. These pervasive tools are constantly under development at Zepher, serving both production and administrative purposes. Along with the physical tools that allow Zepher build technicians to perform at the highest levels of precision and efficiency, software driven innovations serve as tools for our administrative teams. Customized production planning and accounting software interface with Microsoft Virtual Studio and SharePoint to increase the accuracy and efficiency of Zepher’s purchasing, quality management, document control, and project management. This gives Zepher a significant advantage over other small companies that can’t afford the six and seven figure software packages used by larger firms.
Complex compliance requirements are notorious for generating migraines. At Zepher, compliance is never an afterthought. Years of experience working with government contracts, aerospace customers, and specialized consultants has supplied us with the broad base of knowledge necessary to achieve 100% compliant deliveries. This knowledge is applied to each product we build and shared with the customer, setting expectations to be met with every delivery. Serialization, traceability, certificates of conformance, individual job costing, and rate justification all come standard, allowing us to address complex flow down and special contract requirements with ease.
When working on collaborative design projects, our goal is to create drawings that can truly be built to print. Configuration management, bill of materials management, technical drawing updates and revision controls are critical to efficient design development. Vast experience in this field has helped Zepher to excel in collaborative design projects. As our customers have grown, they have sought Zepher services to push stale projects through to completion, knowing that our dedicated team will keep the ball rolling on a clear and straight path. Zepher has most commonly worked in a supporting design role, providing manufacturing leadership and design review for development projects. Zepher’s design capabilities can work in a leadership role or provide practical manufacturability support to a customer’s design team.