Case Study 3

North American Industrial Automation Equipment Manufacturer

Supplier of electronic industrial controls and power distribution equipment



Our customer was (and is) a leading North American supplier of industrial controls and power distribution equipment. At the time of our projects their industrial control products included electro-mechanical relays, circuit breakers, motor starters, motor control centers, programmable controllers, display devices and drives controllers. The customer’s market position was that of a high quality, premium supplier of a wide range of controls solutions. Motor control centers were a significant part of our customer’s business. Motor control centers provide for the control of electric motors used throughout industrial and process applications. Such centers consist of motor starter units, disconnect switches, safety interlocks and metal cabinetry. Our customer desired an electronic input and output (I/O) module product line that would enable integration of motor control centers within an application. Such integration is needed for effective control in applications requiring multiple motors spanning large industrial or process applications.

Motor Control and Switchgear Centers

Customer Challenges

Our customer had started developing a line of electronic I/O modules for motor control center integration. Some of the needed products were done, but others remained to be developed, tested and manufacturing arranged. Although they possessed the engineering skill needed for product line completion, manpower was limited due to other projects. Another challenge existed relative to manufacturing. The existing modules were manufactured on the customer’s low volume electronics assembly line that was designed for pilot and prototype production, which are temporary types of production. The line was high cost, and was not capable of volume manufacturing. This resulted in our customer needing to find another manufacturing source for these modules. Our customer had used outside contract manufacturing for some other products, with poor results relative to quality and supply reliability. They had recently worked through several instances where contract manufacturers shipped products with quality issues, and instances where supply was interrupted due to quality issue correction. They did not desire to use similar contract manufacturing on this input/output product line.

Customer ‘Must Haves’

Based on the above background and challenges, our customer began investigation of design and manufacturing alternatives. Their objectives in this investigation were several, including the following:

  • Procure skilled engineering capability to complete designs of needed products
  • Obtain high volume manufacturing capability for future product sales growth
  • Obtain the highest quality manufacturing and engineering change control possible
  • Obtain consistent supply of products minimizing shortage and back order risk
  • Arrange for long term continuation engineering and product support

Why DENSO WAVE Was Selected

There were a number of reasons why DENSO WAVE was selected. The primary reasons for our selection included our business philosophy, our engineering capabilities and our manufacturing quality. In terms of business philosophy, our charter has consistently been to develop long term and broad reaching partnerships with a limited number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). To achieve this we offer development and manufacturing of products unique to each OEM customer, and sell these products only to that customer. We do not sell such products to other customers. In addition, it is required that we protect our customer’s intellectual property, preserving their market uniqueness. Such a business philosophy was perceived as beneficial to our customer, providing support of their growth in a highly competitive market.

In terms of our engineering capabilities, we had a 25 year history of successfully designing and manufacturing digital I/O modules, analog I/O modules and a variety of associated network adapters. These products incorporated a broad range of advanced design, packaging and manufacturing technologies. Of particular value to the customer was our experience developing high density I/O circuitry and adapters for a broad range of network protocols. Our experience included firmware and software development, with proven capability and success.

In terms of manufacturing quality, DENSO (our parent) has been recognized worldwide as a leading quality supplier. Our quality processes have been driven by the stringent requirements of high volume automotive components, which have been DENSO’s primary market for over 60 years.

What We Did

Our first project with this customer was to develop analog input and output modules. The customer needed these modules to augment their digital I/O line, as most applications required analog capability. We brought to these developments a great deal of experience with analog module design. Upon finishing these modules, the customer’s product line was basically complete relative to needed input and output capability.

Our second development was to add necessary communication (network) adapters. We developed four adapters, more appropriately referred to as gateways. These products supported connection to DeviceNet, Ethernet, Modbus and Profibus networks. Worldwide customer applications vary widely, and networks to be supported vary also – the above four networks represented most of the customer’s application connectivity needs.

Our third project was to assume manufacturing of the customer’s original digital I/O product line. As mentioned above, the customer’s production line was high cost and low volume. It was not well suited to on-going production of a growing and cost sensitive product line. We took our customer’s designs, made some revisions and assumed manufacturing. Our revisions were for newly available components and to accommodate our manufacturing processes.

Other projects we completed were to add I/O modules designed for Asian applications (sink/source modules), to add some network adapters for customer proprietary networks and to upgrade all designs to meet RoHS (Restriction of Use of Hazardous Substances) requirements. RoHS was a new requirement of many customers worldwide, with support needed in order to continue selling to these customers.

In our development projects we helped the customer complete detailed product functional specifications. We developed, tested and manufactured the subject products for our customer to sell. Our skilled engineers implemented product designs, formulated test plans and helped prepare manufacturing processes. During product developments we designed the required hardware, product software, mechanical packaging, labels, user manuals and cartons. We worked closely with the customer to qualify and test the developed products. And, as with all products we manufacture, we provided the customer with product support and life cycle continuation engineering.

The Result

Our partnership with this customer resulted in a full line of high quality, well engineered I/O solutions offered for sale. As a result, the customer was better able to support their important motor control center business and provide their customers with more complete solutions. Furthermore, their sales force demonstrated a higher level of enthusiasm and engagement in selling motor control center solutions across the customer’s markets. As a result, our customer was able to grow market share in a tough, highly competitive business.