The military and defence markets are major consumers of interconnection products and place huge demands on the specifications of these components. However interconnection specialist Amphenol UK is well equipped to respond to the needs of such high reliability applications, as Michelle Winny, Editor of Electronics finds out during a trip to Whitstable to visit the company and to take in a touch of English seaside air
Whitstable is famous for its oysters, which have been collected in the area since Roman times. It is a seaside town in Northeast Kent and is home to interconnect specialist and manufacturer Amphenol UK where the company has facilities for design, manufacturer and customer services.
The company specialises in interconnect products, cable assemblies and electronic packaging for the Military Aerospace, Defence and Transport industries. Andy Bragg, MD at Amphenol UK, advises the company is part of the US quoted Amphenol group which has some eighty years experience in the industry with accumulated net sales in the region of $4bn, in 2011, and over 40,000 employees worldwide, with sales offices in 53 countries. As a result it has huge capacity to handle the demands of the world market for interconnect products.
It is quite remarkable to comprehend the volume, capacity and demand of the connector market and just how integral these small but mighty devices are, but given the mass operation that companies such as this are undertaking then you start to get an idea of the major importance and market size.
Bragg advises: “The company has undertaken projects in a wide array of applications, including Military ground and marine, developing solutions for design into soldier equipment, radar, UGV, command and control and various projects in the aerospace market including Mil air- frames, Civil air frames, Aero Engines and satellites.”
Speaking of the major industry projects the company is currently undertaking Bragg said: “The Eurofighter is the company's biggest programme with their products being designed and developed for wing, hull, engine and breaking system.” On the industrial side the company has involvement in automotive, renewable energy, oil & gas and many more pioneering fields.
Amphenol's facilities in Whitstable are pretty comprehensive, covering 130,000 sq ft equipped to handle connector machining, moulding, plating and assembly. The facility is a finely tuned operation with an army of dedicated staff who clearly enjoy, and are committed to their work.
This extends to the company's production lines where members of the team carefully hand assemble and test each device for faults or failure to ensure the products are delivered to the highest of standards. This is paramount to high reliability applications such as Military and defence where the reliability of equipment is critical.
Over recent years there has been a marked increase in demand for connector supply in the Military and defence markets. Perhaps this is due to the varying length of product lifecycles in these industries that is putting increasing demand on the connector market, or more recently due to an increase in terrorist activity which as a result is spurring demand for Military and defence product development.
However with increasing product lead times comes the pressures of supply and so it is important to establish key distribution partnerships.
To achieve this, Amphenol has key partnerships with major distribution channels including worldwide distributor, Farnell element 14, who has the capacity to maximise distribution of their products and technology for availability on a major worldwide scale.
Mike Buffham, Director of Supplier & Product Management at Farnell element 14, advises: “Farnell element 14 is a high service distributor with 75 percent of business transacted online.”
The distributor is part of a network of Value-Add Distribution Partnerships that the connector specialist has to enable the company to offer an ideal source for prototype sampling and is well equipped to assist in inherent market spikes. This is instrumental in supporting unexpected line shortages and increased demand.
To keep up with intrinsic flux in demand it was important for Amphenol to find distribution partners that have an excellent logistics programme, to ensure product availability in line with customer demand. As a result all of the company's Value-Add Distribution Partners are well equipped to offer product availability advice and many of which have order placement available via their websites.
The element 14 distribution porthole is an integral resource largely because the distributor is dedicated to developing its online community and though set up just four years ago has achieved major success in the industry and has rapidly come to establish itself as a key resource for sourcing electronic components as Buffham advises: “The company is the first online community dedicated to online electronic design engineering globally.”
However the online porthole goes far beyond this and has come to represent a community for design engineers to exchange information and ideas through online forums, with over 100,000 members. Buffham continued: “The site is a design registration community for design engineers to go online to swap ideas, visit forums and connect.”
The key enabler for this distribution platform in particular has been the revolution of the Internet that has changed the concept of product sourcing. The online resource provides a vital link between product, services and industry and is key to the development of the connector specialist, providing a bridge across the ocean of Internet, industry and customer.