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.
Gene Baumgarten We’ve identified what we call quality suppliers. We don’t want to put a bad product out there, so we stick with them. We have a source for metal domes, LEDs, adhesives, overlay materials, and other components. On complex jobs, very rarely do we see problems related to pricing. By complex, I refer to value-added requirements, such as making a membrane switch that will then be applied to a touch screen—and we’re asked to quote that entire project. There are instances where we actually have to get quotes from offshore to be competitive domestically or to meet customers’ needs. We have the ability to go offshore for projects with our many partners.
David Gintzler Materials costs have made membrane switches much more expensive in the last five years. The costs of adhesives and plastic films have gone straight up. Silver isn’t that expensive on a per-switch basis. But there’s a lot of control involved in medical work, so you can’t use stuff after a certain amount of time. We can explain these things, but it all comes down to dollars. You have a buyer, he has three quotes in front of him. One is a dollar, one is 90 cents, one is 80 cents. He buys the one that’s 80 cents. He doesn’t care whether it’s right or wrong. We quote doing it as a firstclass job, so our price is right, but the buyer doesn’t know. The buyer doesn’t care. Ultimately, I think price is the only determinant factor nowadays, and we get paid very little for quality. For example, you’re doing an overlay, it goes on a switch, and the background is a light tan. If you hit one layer of light tan, you can actually see the circuitry through it. You have to hit a second layer of tan, or white, or white with a little grey filler in it so you can hide the circuitry. All those cost. The guy at 80 cents doesn’t do that. But the buyer doesn’t care.
Hemant Mistry If we see there’s a potential problem, we’re not going to take the risk and hope it works out. We’ll point it out to the customer and say, ‘Look, if you do it this way, you’re going to have problems. If you do it the other way, it’ll cost you 10 cents more, but you won’t have the liability issue.’
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