Manufacturers of automotive parts and subassemblies at every tier can overcome production challenges presented by fastening problems by utilizing the design expertise of fastener engineers and suppliers who not only can meet stringent specifications, but also can incorporate design features that save on assembly time and costs while improving the quality and durability of finished assemblies.

Here are five tips that can help manufacturers work in partnership with their fastener suppliers to optimize design and production process of their products:

Opt for Licensed Products to Ensure Robustness

The expense of recalls and other warranty issues, not to mention tarnished reputation, far exceeds that of investing in quality fasteners of proven durability.

Just as importantly, the proprietary designs of licensed products often address problems and issues that non-licensed designs cannot. Beyond that, look for a supplier that has the expertise and in-house capability to customize licensed products to meet unique challenges.

Bring in Fastener Suppliers Early in Design Phase

Receiving early input from a fastener supplier’s engineering staff can help develop a simpler design, saving on fastener costs and production time.

For example, over-engineering oftentimes is a chief cause of cost overruns. On the other hand, up-front design consideration of ergonomics, assembly efficiencies and durability can help avoid problems down the line.

Choosing a fastener supplier who is proactive about product design also can be an important asset.

Avoid Custom Fasteners

A product design often will force the OEM into requiring a custom fastener, but those are more costly and take more time to produce. Numerous reviews may be required before the OEM approves the final design.

Instead, brainstorming with a fastener supplier might find a way to make a design change that will allow a standard fastener to work. This is a huge time and cost saver, especially when considering the large number of fasteners often involved in production runs.

Keep It Simple

Keep the design for which the fastener is made as simple as possible. One successful example involved a handle assembly of four pieces. Three of those pieces were screw-machined, which is an expensive process. Yet, there still was a problem with the handle loosening.

To solve the problem, the fastener supplier’s engineering team reviewed the design, combined the four pieces into a 2-piece assembly and made it a cold-headed part vs. screw-machined. The result was a more positive tightening feature, and loosening no longer was an issue. It was a large cost savings to the customer and it also improved the product.

Aim for Fast, Flexible

With lead time being one of the biggest issues today, consider how quickly an order for fasteners can be filled. Aim for a lead time of no longer than four to five weeks. Seek an even quicker response time for rush orders necessitated by a design change.

Brad Yerkes is vice president-sales for Wheeling, IL-based Holbrook Manufacturing