Team Diversity Leads to Patent Innovation

New Continuation-in Part Non-Provisional Patent Application
Title: Wire Harness Assembly Holding Device
Application Serial No.: 15/670,556

Design Ready Controls is defined by innovation. We don’t just look for ways to improve on existing processes; we reinvent them. That means going beyond continual improvement to creating a culture of innovation. The secret to cultivating that culture is team diversity. We embrace the next generation’s creative flush, their diverse points of view and fresh relationships with technology, and combine them with industry experience and expertise. Our more experienced people mentor the next generation to ensure high quality results while tapping into young perspectives. We don’t sacrifice one for the other. We create teams and build environments where creativity and innovation can flourish.

Relationships with Technology 

Each new generation has its own unique relationship with technology. As we engage with them, we learn how to relate to technology from their perspective. If you tell your software developers to create a button, they’re going to create a button, and that’s all you’re going to get. But if you let them loose, they have the potential to create something better. Something novel. You have to motivate them. Show them where the solution needs to go. Point them in the right direction. Let their creative energy off the leash. With an experienced employee to add structure and pacing, it’s a basic recipe for innovation.

We used this method successfully to create signature innovations, including our patented Automated Panel Expert-system (APE®) and Automated Manufacturing Expert (AME®).

Our latest New Continuation-in Part Non-Provisional Patent Application— Application Serial No.: 15/670,556 for the Wire Harness Assembly Holding Device we’re calling the Alpha—resulted from the same method. The project team included Kaitlin Hansen, our Lean Coordinator and Manufacturing Engineer, and Zach Rausch, our Software Development Engineer, and an electrical engineer with years of industry experience. Kaitlin’s background in data and statistical analysis helps to provide that diverse perspective in our group of electrical and manufacturing engineers.

The Alpha

The Alpha holds wires at proper position and tension, allowing a robot with grippers to grab and route those wires. Because routing wires takes the longest portion of time in wire harness assembly, automating the process will increase our productivity. One particular wire harness we manufacture takes seven minutes to do by hand. With automated wire routing, that time drops to one minute. The operator would then only need to zip tie, label, and plug the wires.

The original Alpha was based on an old vise, shimmed to create tension on the wires. Its current form is taller, allowing it to grip more wires at one time, and has flippers to hold wires at the precise tensions needed. It is also entirely 3D printed, thanks to our Mechanical Manufacturing Technician Chris Mackedanz and the Ultimaker 3. This allows for flexible, inexpensive design changes. Providing a team with new technology and advanced facilities also helps foster creativity.

Improve the Existing Systems 

We pride ourselves on moving beyond improvements to existing systems. Since our beginning in 1989, we have fundamentally disrupted the control panel manufacturing industry. We saw the market had room to advance, changing how control panels were made, and we used that opportunity to grow. Design Ready Controls is, in some ways, the future of manufacturing. There’s an art to it, to managing creativity. Use diversity. Build it into your teams. Create a space for innovation. Disrupt. Innovate. Reinvent. Keep fueling that creative engine. Always ask, “What can we do next?”