The story is common to every OEM and its supply chain: a key component is no longer available, and with no alternatives, a line down situation is imminent. The Engineering, Purchasing, Quality, Manufacturing, and Product Management departments work overtime delivering a solution in the 59th minute of the 11th hour that avoids a line down situation. Yay. Everyone celebrates. If this tale were a movie, it would look like a train speeding toward an intersection with a stalled car—which happens to be a modern electric car—on the tracks. The hero arrives: a classic gasoline-powered Toyota Corolla, and it kindly pushes the electric vehicle out of harm’s way just in the nick of time. Not a mark on the car, and the train continues down the tracks.

In a similar case at Xymox, a high-end appliance manufacturer incorporated a capacitive keypad as the user interface, and Xymox supplied the capacitive sensor. The touch controller associated with the capacitive touch functionality became impossible to get, and there were no alternatives. A new user interface had to be developed. Ultimately, the team concluded the best decision was to temporarily replace the capacitive keypad with a membrane switch.

Using a membrane switch from Xymox represented the lowest risk alternative because:

  • Known supplier. Xymox was the current supplier for the capacitive sensor utilized in the user interface, and Xymox is a well-known supplier. We have been manufacturing membrane switches since 1979.
  • High Reliability Technology. Membrane switches may not be sexy, but they are a reliable technology with a long history of dependable operation, especially in the appliance market.
  • Minimal change in electronics. All necessary electronic components for the device to operate with a membrane switch instead of a capacitive sensor were readily available and minimal in scope. The change in HMI required very little qualification testing and was considered low-risk.
  • Local support and supply chain. All critical engineering teams and manufacturing locations were in the Midwest.

The Xymox team designed, delivered, tested, and approved the production equivalent assembly within 8 weeks of the initial conversation.

Moral of the story: supply chain issues will continue to linger for years; pivoting is inevitable, and sometimes going back to a classic is the best solution. If you have an idea, let’s talk through it—our experienced team can help keep your production line running.