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Why Most Manufacturers Require a Minimum Order

Have you ever tried to order just a few custom-molded power cords? Most manufacturers will give you a hard “No,” followed by their minimum order volume.

What the heck?” you might think. “It’s just a few power cords; shouldn’t that be easier than thousands?”

Placing a small order size sounds like a simple ask — but it’s not. Why? Because of something we call the changeover process.

The changeover process is a series of steps that a manufacturer must follow to convert a production line (including workers, materials, and machines) for the development of a new product.

For example, developing a NEMA 5-15 Plug isn’t going to require the same materials, processes, and tools as developing an IEC320 connector. Every time a manufacturer starts production on a new product, they must first go through the changeover process to set up for the new product. This process takes time and, as you know, time is money.

Let’s say you order 100,000 molded cords (all the same SKU). Your manufacturer will put a process, team, resources, machines, and workflow into place to optimize production and drive the cost per unit down. After the manufacturer completes your order, they move on to the next, which happens to be a batch of 100,000 molded cords that are entirely different from the first order. Setting up a new production line means assigning new workers, switching out equipment, re-configuring workflows; the list goes on.

These change-over steps expend employee time without making any units, which is too expensive for a manufacturer to absorb alone. So, the cost is worked into the unit price paid by the customer. When an order quantity is high, the changeover cost is dispersed across each unit. At 100,000 units, we’re talking about a marginal increase. At three or four units — that cost is going to be significantly higher.

The Changeover Process

Below is a breakdown of the production line changeovers to help you understand where this ancillary cost comes from.

Phase 1: New Order Processing

  • Customer service enters the new order.

  • Electrical engineers review the order, confirm safety, and create a Bill of Materials (BOM).

  • Line leaders review the new BOM and make necessary preparations.

Phase 2: Line Preparations

  • The “mold line" is prepared and employees are reallocated for production.

  • A cord reel weighing hundreds of pounds is moved into position on a roller system to unwind.

Phase 3: Machine Calibration

Employees reset:

  • The exact length for the cutting apparatus.

  • The outer jacket stripper to align with the new length.

  • The inner conductor stripper to align with the new length.

  • The applicator terminal reel and die to correspond with the terminal.

Phase 4: Prepare Customizations

If new color or materials will be used, workers:

  • Empty the pellets from the hopper.

  • Purge the molding press of hot material.

  • Load the hopper with the new material.

Phase 5: Prepare the Mold

To produce a new connector or plug, employees:

  • Pull the mold from the press.

  • Transport the mold, which can weigh hundreds of pounds.

  • Transport and load the new mold into the press.

  • Conduct test shots to confirm that the new material adequately flows into the mold cavities.

Phase 6: Inspection and Inventory Labeling

When preparing items for inspection, employees:

  • Obtain the new inspection sheet and reference for quality control.

  • Enter the new part number into the label machine.

  • Begin full-scale production

It’s ironic; the versatility that makes a manufacturer successful is also the element that makes them less agile to change. However, small orders are possible if you partner with the right manufacturer. At StayOnline, we listen to the Voice of our Customers (VOC) and only require a small minimum order quantity. If a few custom molded cords are all you need, we will manufacture them to your exact specifications and incorporate lean manufacturing processes to control the cost of production.

To learn more about our manufacturing process and our expansive inventory of cords and connectors, visit the StayOnline Advantage.