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issue: October 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Floor Care
Two Tales of Added Value

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In two separate instances, residential floor care OEM Tacony and commercial floor care OEM KleenRite turned to their thermostat supplier’s Value Added Department for easy solutions to complicated problems.

Selco’s custom thermostats are used in Tacony’s Riccar and Simplicity upright vacuum cleaner brands.

When Tacony Corporation’s R&D department designed a low-profile upright vacuum cleaner, it was up to Tacony’s manufacturing arm to find a thermostat that would not only meet the temperature requirements for the product, but also fit into a small pocket area in the design.
According to Jim Fleming, plant manager at Tacony’s manufacturing division in St. James, Missouri, U.S., the thermostat assembly became a design issue. Tacony needed a manually resettable, 1/2-inch disc thermostat, but regardless of the supplier used, the terminals would have to be modified to fit a small area allotted for in the design.
“With standard products, we couldn’t get at the electrical connections and we didn’t have room for the normal, off-the-shelf, 1/4-inch or 3/16-inch spade terminals,” explains Fleming. “Basically, we couldn’t grow the pocket and still keep the profile of the vacuum cleaner the way we wanted it. No off-the-shelf product would physically fit.”
Tacony turned to Selco for a quote on a 1/2-inch disc thermostat, as well as for a solution to the height issue of the standard catalog thermostat. Selco’s Value-Added Assembly Department recommended soldering wire leads where the terminals would normally go, using tabs. Soldering the leads solved the height issue and allowed Tacony to make the electrical connection.
Tacony evaluated pros and cons of doing the assembly work in-house or jobbing it out to Selco, taking into consideration the initial start-up costs for creating a soldering area, handling costs for the pieces and parts and labor costs for assembly, inspection and administration.
“When we looked at the extra material handling costs required, it became very complicated,” Fleming recalls. “We’d have to schedule it and keep track of it, both in the raw state and in the subassembly state. We’d have to order the wire leads or cut and strip the wires, and then terminate them. We’d also be handling several more pieces—the cut wire, the raw wire on the spool, the terminals, and finally the finished wire that has to go to the soldering assembly area. There’s also QA costs to consider. Somebody has to inspect the terminals and make sure the machine crimp heights are set correctly, and verify and inspect the solder joint.”
Additionally, Tacony would need to purchase cutting and stripping equipment, running between U.S. $2,500 to $3,000. The soldering area would have to be set up away from the main production line. These costs were a factor in Tacony’s decision-making.
Tacony also considered the impact of in-house assembly on its primary production process. With in-house assembly work, several more production steps would be needed prior to actual assembly of the appliance.
“First, you have to check to see if there is any raw wire on hand or if any are already cut and stripped,” Fleming explains. “If not, you have to schedule the cut and stripping machine and then make the terminations. And then, finally, you solder the leads. That may be a matter of hours in order to get it to the production line, but you’ve also got administrative personnel keeping track of all that. By outsourcing the assembly, you only have to keep track of a purchased part—it’s either in, or needs to be expedited.”
Since Selco could do the assembly work economically and eliminate the extra handling and associated costs, Tacony accepted Selco’s thermostat product quote along with their quote to solder the leads through its Value-Added Department. In the last 3 years, Selco has assembled some 30,000 thermostat components for Tacony for a variety of their upright vacuum cleaner models, including the Riccar and Simplicity brands.
“We went with Selco because they were easier to deal with in trying to get these design issues taken care of,” Fleming says. “And they took care of the headache where we didn’t have to worry about it. With Selco sending us the assembly ready to drop into the vacuum cleaner, it really reduces the complexity of our build. If we did the assembly here, we’d be handling the component twice—bringing it in as a standard thermostat, running it through assembly, and then stocking it. This way, we receive it, take it to the line, and stuff it right in the vacuum cleaners—it’s a lot simpler.”
Since this original project, Tacony has introduced another vacuum line. Following its successful partnership experience with Selco on the first assembled thermostat component, they again had Selco do the assembly work required for the new unit, this time with different lead lengths and temperature settings.

Keeping it Kleen

KleenRite Equipment (Madera, California, U.S.) has an independent streak when it comes to manufacturing components. The company does the majority of its manufacturing in-house, including heater castings, wire harnesses and plastic rotational molding. You would think that attaching a lead and sealing a thermostat to meet CE standards would be a piece of cake for a company with that level of experience. Why would the company outsource this work and nothing else?
According to Laura Wheeler, purchasing agent for KleenRite, the company had been using a standard Selco 1/2-inch disc thermostat in all cleaning equipment, much of which is shipped overseas. When new European laws dictated bringing their product up to new standards, KleenRite needed to find a solution for new products being manufactured—but also to retrofit units that had been in the field as long as 3 years.
KleenRite sent its complete cleaning unit to an outside testing house, which generated a lengthy report detailing the steps required to bring the product up to CE standards. KleenRite needed to overhaul its product and replace several parts with CE-compliant components. This included all thermostats, used in the units to control the heater temperature.
The OEM needed to find a thermostat that already had CE approval—and the thermostat had to be sealed.
“We had to meet a certain water-splash test, which meant that we had to attach water-proof connections to the end of the leads,” Wheeler explains. Since it was already using Selco’s standard 1/2-inch disc thermostat, Wheeler went to the supplier for help.
The requirement for a sealed, self-contained thermostat that could be connected to a waterproof connection quickly eliminated the usual options of quick-connects, soldering leads or standard spades. None of those options would meet CE requirements.
The supplier’s solution was to add the leads, then epoxy them and completely seal the switch, according to Don Miller, manager of the supplier’s Value-Added Department. “Once it’s sealed, even if the device is submerged, it prevents any moisture from seeping into the switch,” he says. All the supplier needed to know was what kind of ends to put on the lead.
This was the answer that solved Wheeler’s problem. “I told them to make a blunt cut and strip back the wire, and from there I could do what I needed to do,” she explains. “So Selco adds the leads to the thermostat and seals it with epoxy. When we get it, we connect it.”
Wheeler says she never even considered bringing the assembly work in-house. “That’s not our job,” she laughs. “It’s more cost-effective for me to buy a complete assembly and not have to worry about it. We could do it here, but we don’t want the headache.”
Once the solution was determined, KleenRite came up with a retrofit kit, which, among other parts, contained the new CE-approved Selco thermostats, and went to New Zealand to retrofit approximately 100 units in the field. At the same time, the CE-approved thermostat assemblies were incorporated into the production line for new units.
The CE-approved thermostats were incorporated several years ago and Wheeler has not been inclined to make any changes to the application.
“We haven’t had failures or warranty issues. I don’t need to try and re-engineer something that works,” says Wheeler.

KleenRite’s Edge machine uses four Selco fully assembled thermostat components.

Frequent Requests for Added Value

According to Miller, the most common requests of his department are for solutions to design issues. “Usually, there is something they want in their design and the switch isn’t available—it could be a certain bracket configuration or it could be an overmolding that might be needed because it will be in an environment exposed to water, moisture or splashing,” says Miller. “In other cases, customers may require sealing, a custom bracket or a custom harness with a specialty connector. Regardless of the requirement, we take a standard thermostat and customize it to meet whatever the customer or agency requirements are. In many instances the solution may be simple, but it solves a big headache for the customer.”

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Selco Products Co.

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