Case Study

Optimum Plating Process for Connectors

Customers were demanding cost reductions. The secret to turning this crisis into opportunity lay with a bold move to change the connector plating process.

Electronic Information Device Parts Manufacturer; Y Inc. September 2010

There is always fierce competition in the electronics device industry, with companies aiming to acquire market share by developing hit products and offering low cost products. In such product development, companies in the industry are facing various overwhelming challenges at the level of parts development. Here, we would like to introduce the case of "Y Inc", an electronics parts manufacturer which faced a challenging situation by difficult questions posted from a customer.

PROBLEMNeed to avoid a profit squeeze but can't find a solution…

One of Y Inc.'s main products is electronic device connectors.
One day, Y Inc. was suddenly requested to cut costs by a main customer, which accounts for 50% of Y Inc.'s sales.

Mr. A, the manager of the Production Technology Department looked back to that event and said, "We are developing and manufacturing connectors ranging from general purposes to custom made. Nowadays, connectors are indispensable to electronic parts, and we are very much pleased with the increase in connector demand. To be honest, however, I was surprised by the request of a large cost down from our customer, because if we complied with the request to lower the selling price of our connectors, which account for a considerable share of our sales, our profit would be severely dropped."
In order to reduce production costs, Y Inc. cut out wasteful processes, curtailed personnel and material procurement costs, and other costs as well. However, the company believed that sacrificing product functions for cutting costs is unacceptable, and for a long time a decisive solution could not be found.

"Although it was a very severe request, I thought meeting this request would not only satisfy the customer but would also give us confidence to become an industry leader." (Mr. A)
Y Inc. has many highly skilled staffs, and Mr. A expected that the transformation of manufacturing processes might significantly contribute to product development utilizing the company's technologies.
However, implementing technologically critical ideas would be a major gamble related to quality that had hold back the company to move forward.

SOLUTIONAchieving low costs with a plating solution suitable for connectors

"In the beginning I was filled with anxiety. Connectors which connect to various electronic parts require high reliability, and replacing our familiar plating process with another one required considerable courage." (Mr. A)

EEJA (TANAKA PRECIOUS METALS group company) has business relationship with Y Inc. and suggested switching the connectors' contacts plating solution to EEJA's AUTORONEX ICC-7. Due to the plated area on connectors is small, unnecessary gold plated area also end up being plated; there may lead to deterioration in functional performance and other functional problems. For this reason, Y Inc. had to peel off unnecessary part after the plating process and it was very inefficient.

However, in addition to conventional possessing characteristics of Au/Co process, AUTORONEX ICC-7 has excellent nickel barrier characteristics to prevent solder wicking. Furthermore, since deposition at low current density is controllable, AUTORONEX ICC-7 has realized high accuracy area plating and enabled plating on selective areas.

Inspection is possible at mass production environment

Inspection is possible at mass production environment

"When we visited EEJA plant, we understood the reason how the company can develop excellent products such as "AUTORONEX ICC-7 ". EEJA has equipped with large-scale equipments and wide range of laboratory equipments enabling experiments in an environment of mass production. Furthermore, I felt the passion of EEJA that always stands at the view point of production and assumes various hypothetical cases for pursuing solutions." (Mr. A)
Y Inc. immediately introduced AUTORONEX ICC-7 into their plating process. The company successfully reduced the usage of gold by cutting 25% of the metal costs. This new process was valued in not only the reduction of the metal consumption but also the high plating characteristics. Thus, Y Inc. was able to fully satisfy the customer's request.

"We expect EEJA will continue to maintain its technologies in future. Recently, EEJA introduced to us an iridium plating solution, as a replacement for rhodium, which was first in the world invented by Tanaka Precious Metals Group. We are currently studying with EEJA engineers whether we can apply this iridium plating solution in our other products," said Mr. A as he searches for more possibilities in plating technology to bring big reformation in variety of plating processes.