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To reduce the global pandemic impact, the connector industry plays a vital role. Here are 4 contributions that stand out.

The connector industry tops the list of essential businesses on the frontlines of fighting Covid-19. While some parts of the world came to a standstill, the connector makers went to work — and their contributions are still felt across the supply chain.

From working strategically to mitigate connector shortages to stabilizing the supply chain for critical medical technologies, the connector industry plays a vital role in reducing the impact of the global pandemic.

“Many of our products are considered essential especially for healthcare,” said Joe Nelligan, CEO of Molex in a video statement. “These include connectivity and related products we provide for critical medical applications including ventilators, respirators and nebulizers. We are also making face shields in parts for Covid-19 test kits. If we can’t supply these products, it will certainly impact the quality of people’s lives.”

The electronics industry, from parts manufacturers to distributors to OEMs, has been deemed essential in many regions. That designation puts them in the driver’s seat when it comes to ensuring the continued production of vitally needed products, as well as establishing systems and policies to safeguard essential workers.

Here’s how the connector industry has stepped up

1. Planning ahead to meet demand

To ensure that medical OEMs get the components they need, connector makers are aggressively implementing supply chain best practices that encompass the second and third supply chain tiers.

“[We are] asking our essential suppliers for their continued support to us and our customers operating in the essential industries referenced in Q4 and to inform us of any operational disruption or delay to delivery timeframes in connection with Covid-19 as soon as possible,” Smiths Interconnect said in a statement. “Should there be any adverse impact to delivery or service timelines, this will be communicated to customers directly.”

Adjusting production volumes

Connector makers have also turned the focus on adjusting their production volumes to prioritize medical equipment. Smiths Interconnect reported, for example, it is delivering its KNB Series, D Series, and Spring Probe Interposers to ventilator OEMs in Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Securing supply

German manufacturers are part of these efforts as well and emphasized the critical need to plan ahead. Harting, which creates connector assemblies, said securing the supply of required components takes priority over all other activities. The company implemented a pandemic team to spearhead the effort.

Connector Supplier commented on Harting:  “Weeks before the pandemic impacted its facilities, the company anticipated disruptions and accelerated production in order to have adequate stocks of products available.”

Würth Elektronik CBT has focused on PCBs for ventilator products.

“Thanks to our three production sites in Germany, we can supply the manufacturers of the ventilators with PCBs in a wide range of technologies at short notice,” said Thomas Beck, CBT managing director of sales and marketing, in a press release. “We are in a position to accept orders at short notice, produce them smoothly and deliver them reliably.”

2. Innovating to support customers

In addition to creating robust supply chains, connector makers are looking for innovative ways to help customers who are moving ahead with new product designs. Amphenol launched a new Advanced Design Team to offer real-time, virtual collaboration with product managers, engineers, and customer service reps. The program will support customers as they work on new programs or custom solutions, the company said

Molex, meanwhile, stepped up to help the University Hospital Limerick in Ireland design a respiratory filter adapter to beat demand for respirators. The collaboration was set in motion when the hospital reached out to the Rapid Innovation Unit, a research group at the University of Limerick, which in turn contacted Molex for design and sourcing expertise. The connector maker designed a mold to increase production input, and helped identify the medical grade materials that would meet performance, manufacturability, and clarity requirements. 

3. Donating to humanitarian efforts

Some organizations are also working on a humanitarian level. Through its TE Connectivity Foundation, the connector and sensor supplier donated more than $1 million in an emergency grant to organizations supporting the fight against Covid-19. The funds will be distributed through Global Impact, a charity intermediary. TE also doubled its charitable match to 200% when U.S. employees donate to specific medical facilities near major TE locations nationwide.

The Aptiv Foundation, the charitable arm of Aptiv, Inc., has similarly contributed to the cause with $500,000 donation to the GlobalGiving COVID-19 Relief Fund, which is helping vulnerable communities around the world deal with the pandemic.

“Aptiv is also doing its part in the communities in which it operates, by supplying local hospitals with masks and gloves and helping its customers produce critical equipment with engineered components for ambulances, ventilators, generators, and agricultural equipment,” the company said.

4. Keeping workers safe

Employee health is another area of concern — and, again, the connector industry is leading the charge.  Whether allowing employees to work from home or encouraging self-quarantine in the event of symptoms, best practices rule. For those working onsite, connector manufactures have implemented stringent rules of conduct and hygiene for employees.

Here are examples of actions connector makers have taken:

  • Aptiv has created a set of downloadable safe operation protocols that other businesses can use. The resources include advice on policies, pre-screening, social distancing, protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting, employee trainman and more.
  • Molex has implemented staggered shifts to limit the number of people in the facilities at any given time.
  • Smith Interconnect has, among other measures, imposed restrictions on travel to high-risk areas and other non-business critical travel.
  • Harting has secured all manufacturing, storage, and delivery functions by separation in space and time as well as a range of hygiene protocols.

To summarize: The connector industry has played an important role in mitigating parts shortages, supporting organizations fighting the virus around the world, and enforcing best practices to prevent its spread in connector manufacturing plants. As the coronavirus keeps spreading, it falls on the connector industry to ensure the continued supply of vital parts.

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