Close Support – Designing for Growth

By Assemtron Ltd
schedule4th Aug 23

Assemtron Ltd, was engaged by its long-standing customer to assist in the redesign of their market-leading product. Smoke Control Systems Ltd, has been at the cutting edge of fire and smoke control in high rise and multiple occupancy buildings for many years. Almost a victim of its own success, the growth in the demand for its leading-edge control panel meant that the time-served manufacturing methods were struggling to keep up with demand. Pressure on component prices in the post Brexit era squeezed margins and production processes that worked well in lower volumes were not best suited to meet the growing demand for product. Whilst there was a good marketing case for a product redesign no one wanted to make changes that might be detrimental to the original design and its perception in the marketplace.

Smoke Control Systems had developed the electronics and firmware that meets the EN12101, BS9999, BS9991, and Approved Document B requirements for smoke and fire control. The design brief was to revisit the product design and the manufacturing processes with a view to improving the styling, usability, and manufacturing efficiency without undermining the winning attributes of the core product.

Assemtron is the contract manufacturer of the product and actively manages the supply chain, logistics, assembly, and testing. Smoke Control Systems procures key items and together the supply chain has evolved into a fluid and efficient process. However, the increasing demand meant that the manufacturing methods used to create the external casing were not suitable for the growing numbers. Equally the manufacturing labour element was due an overhaul. This was the one area where cost savings could be achieved to mitigate the rising cost of outsourced components.

The design overhaul was carried out as an open book, close cooperation where all aspects of the design were challenged.

External design expertise was included in the mix with the support of Birmingham University. The product review determined the elements that frankly we didn’t want to disturb and then Smoke Control Systems provided valuable feedback gleaned from many years of site installation and technical support work. Features that the installers liked, were preserved and aspects that caused frustration on site were revisited.

On top of this, the sequence of box building, and electronics assembly were reviewed. The proposed changes were fed into the design team and the new product was created in CAD form.  The CAD drawings were 3d printed at Aston University. Prototypes were fully assembled with the revised electronics and the ensuing prototypes were evaluated. The process involved a few turns around the design circle with various tweaks and changes incorporated. The final stage was to invest in injection moulding tools for volume manufacture.

The close collaboration meant that there were no surprises, everything was there to be challenged and the final product met the requirements of the different stakeholders.

From Smoke Control Solutions’ perspective, the unit cost of the product was reduced as was the manufacturing lead-time.

From Assemtron’s perspective, the redesign meant that the product could be assembled from one direction and built up in logical steps. The need to assemble from different faces simultaneously disappeared. There was a reduction in handling as the unit could be assembled in one position. Labels were replaced with screen printing and the mounting locations for key components were incorporated into the outer body. This removed the need for loose components such as mechanical fixings and cable ties. Sub-assemblies could be made offline, and testing could be carried out on sub-assemblies prior to final assembly. This reduced the technical risks along the critical path.

From the end user’s perspective, the product can be installed and tested as an operational device prior to fitting the aesthetically enhanced, outer cover. The unit is much easier to access and position during installation. The installation time is therefore shorter, and provision has been made to facilitate cable management and onsite testing. The end customer benefits from the cutting-edge technology whilst realising a reduction in installation time and product costs.

The hidden benefits include a reduction in field support and servicing costs and the ability to stack enclosures prior to assembly. Fortunately, within the Midlands, there is a plethora of technical and academic bodies that can work together to achieve a common objective.

Assemtron actively encourages collaborative projects as these can deliver cost effective and robust solutions. Most importantly there are no unwanted surprises along the way and the clients know the status of their projects in real time.

For more information on product innovation and product rejuvenation please contact us through the contact page or via [email protected]

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