There are several trends in the connector industry that are no big surprise. As with many components and industries, everyone is looking for products that are smaller, lighter weight, and can do things faster. End products are getting smaller, and signal throughput is increasing as more demands are put on processing capabilities. And, of course, cost is always a factor. The more cost-effective a product, the better it is perceived by the market.
While current trends are always a consideration, connector suppliers today are looking for advances in technologies and materials that will change how products are produced and technologies which will expand connector capabilities. While there will be advances in these areas, how do you go from being a company that manufactures “me-too” connectors to one that develops the next innovation? The key is listening to the voice of the customer and then developing a unique solution that exceeds customer expectations.
Voice of customer (VOC) provides connector manufacturers with important insight into potential trends that may not be readily apparent, or new innovations that are being pursued by customers in defined markets. Meeting VOC requirements isn’t simply implementing the customer’s stated parameters; but rather, taking those parameters further and dissecting factors that may be hidden or perhaps unknown to the customer. Developing solutions that respond to a customer’s needs from a different perspective, and are innovative as compared to the other solutions available on the market, ensures not only added value for the customer but increased growth in the connector industry.
The future of connectors is also impacted when a product is targeted to a specific application but has the potential to become a next generation standard product platform. This transition is driven by the component’s capability to reach a number of customers in a broad reach of markets. For example, ITT Interconnect Solutions developed similar custom solutions for both a military and medical customer. Due to this versatility and success, this product is now in development for a complete circular product line to reach industrial and commercial applications as well. The development of the new product and subsequently the complete product line was substantiated by the initial custom “wins.”
Internally, it is imperative to look at applicable data when developing a new product or expanding upon an existing product line. Specifically, at what point might there be a drastic change in technology that completely eliminates the need for a historical or traditional product? For example, RJ45 connectors are most often used in Ethernet applications. However, in upcoming years when many products and infrastructure needs transition to wireless technologies, traditional RJ45 connectors will become increasingly obsolete. The future of interconnects is largely dependent upon the growth of technologies in other industries which hold the potential to supplant traditional products.
A successful strategy in realizing and capitalizing on the growth of connectors is to focus internally on what the data is telling you and externally on voice of customer. Trends like size, weight, speed, and cost will always play a role in the development of connectors; but the future lies in what the customer is telling you, overtly or covertly, and the impact technologies may have on existing connector designs and future interconnect innovations.
By Keith Teichmann, ITT Interconnect Solutions
About the Author:
Keith Teichmann is director of marketing and global product management, ITT Interconnect Solutions.