A Harman Corporation Custom Solution   

The Situation:

One of Harman’s customers is a Tier 1 supplier to a large automotive company. They had a small manufactured part with a “ball and socket” that needed to be powder coated; however, the “ball” portion of the assembly couldn’t be coated.

In simple terms, the manufactured part, tightly fitted to protect the “ball” from being powder coated as the piece traveled through a high-temperature powder coating operation. At the end of the powder coating, the cap would need to be removed to leave a clean, uncoated portion of the “ball” to fit into the “socket”.

Business Challenges:

There were several factors that needed to be considered during the process that made finding our unique solution both interesting and challenging. Some of the challenges included:

  • The part to be powder coated is a custom part created by the manufacturer to be used in specific automobiles.
  • There was no off the shelf cap that snuggly fit the custom ball portion of the part that needed to be covered during the powder coating process.
  • Harman needed to design, engineer, prototype and test a custom cap for the customer.
  • For safety reasons, the specifications for this particular manufactured part were very exacting on what must be and, more importantly, what must NOT be powder coated. There were no leeway or “wiggle room” during the entire process because the specifications were so exacting.
  • The cap needed to be put on quickly and easily at the powder coater, it had to cover correctly, couldn’t be blown off or moved during the coating process, be able to withstand high heat and, at the end of the process, must be easily removable in a plant setting.
  • During the powder coating operation, the part and the cap are exposed to temperatures up to 600 degrees.
  • As with many automotive plants, this manufacturer works with “just in time” inventory so very little stock is carried at the plant. If the cap is late in arriving at the plant when ordered, the entire assembly line is in danger of shutting down.

Our Solutions:

Harman engineers designed a custom cap for this automotive application using state of the art CAD systems. Once the CAD drawings were complete, the engineering team milled a custom mandrel to be “hand-dipped” at Harman, creating a prototype of the required cap that the client could use to judge “fit” and “function”. 

The prototypes were delivered to the customer who found them to be effective in every way. A Purchase Order was received at Harman, additional mandrels (molds) were created, and the part went into production.

Initially, the specs called for a high-temperature vinyl to be used for the cap because the temperature would not have exceeded 400 degrees Fahrenheit. At 400 degrees, high-temperature vinyl works well and the cost of the vinyl cap is exceptionally low. This wasn’t the only job running at the powder coater and because they were running multiple jobs on many days, there were times the ovens were set to temperatures higher than 400 degrees.

With that, Harman made a recommendation to the customer to switch to a silicone cap that can withstand temperatures up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Silicone and vinyl have very different characteristics so another cap was designed for the injection molding processes.

Prototypes were again delivered to the customer and additional tests were done to make sure the newly designed silicone cap worked as well as the former vinyl dip molded cap. Adjustments were then made in the design and material as needed and ultimately, the new silicone cap provided the same superior level of coverage and protection as the former vinyl cap. 

The big difference is that the silicone cap can withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit so the ovens used in the powder coating process have much more flexibility with temperature. This has made the overall powder coating process easier for the customer and sped up the process.

Our Results:

The automotive company using this particular part found the quality met their exacting standards. This year they doubled the original volume ordered. In addition, the automotive manufacturer is incorporating this part into another one of their vehicles. With that, our customer has quadrupled their sales of this part which of course means that Harman has quadrupled our sales of this custom cap to that customer. 

We like how that works!

What started as a handful of pieces for a prototype grew into the tens of thousands of caps needed and has now grown to millions of custom caps required annually for this one application.

The combination of designing custom solutions and making timely adjustments as business conditions changed has been a win-win-win combination for the automotive manufacturer, their supplier (our customer), and Harman.

What can we build for you to help you grow your business? Whether it’s product protection like the product made for the Tier 1 supplier, or product finishing with caps, grips, or plugs, Harman can design custom solutions to help you succeed.

You can get a free sample of anything on our website by clicking here, or call us at 248-651-4477 to discuss your needs with a product expert and find how Harman can help you with a custom cap, plug or grip.