The manufacturing side of data centers is struggling with the supply chain just as much as construction is. We want things and we want them now, but sadly that is not always a realistic aspiration.
Gateview Technologies creates Power Distribution Units (PDUs) and is currently in the process of creating a higher-powered product: 100 and 120-amp PDUs at 415 volts that'll go all the way up to 69 kilowatts while remaining only 2.9 inches square.
Achieving feats like this isn’t easy, and manufacturers are having to find new ways of working between customers and suppliers. Gateview’s technique is dubbed ‘private manufacturing’.
“It's not a term that's been used much,” admits Mark Germagian, Gateview CEO. “It's really a closer relationship with a customer. Basically, you have the same supplier-customer relationship that you would normally, but you engage the customer a little bit more, and then you work on their forecasts with them. You help them to see what percentage of utilization they're using in your facility, and you also help them to see the materials that go into that.”
It could therefore be fair to see private manufacturing as a collaborative effort: one that is built on the transparency our industry struggles with so much. This approach also enables customers to have a much better idea of lead time for different materials, and to set their expectations realistically as a result.
“When you have a contract manufacturer, they make your product using your materials. So we have some simple tools that help our customers see what goes into it and the impact their decisions have on manufacturing. For example, if you look at one of our products, the materials that makeup 37 percent of the product value have less than a three-month lead time
“Then we look at three to six months, six to nine months, and nine months plus. So, on the other extreme, we have components that makeup 13 percent of the overall product value, that have lead times greater than nine months. So our tools allow our customers to see what's going into the manufacturing of products, just simply so that they know how to get involved, why forecasting is important, and why commitments are important.”
Why commitments are important. This is a concept we can all easily understand, but it is nonetheless a challenge to meet. Businesses are constantly facing a cost-benefit analysis, and commitments that begin to look a little risky are often pulled out. But by being more open and transparent throughout the supply chain, the element of uncertainty can be effectively removed and commitment can be easier on both the supplier and the customer side.
Transparency is also provided through private manufacturing in terms of business efficiency and utilization. Gateview’s tools enable customers to see how many products they need, the manufacturing capacity, and much more.
“So we can take the historical percentage of sales of this product, and then we can have them enter in a total unit number, and then the percentage of sales will multiply that to derive the units you need for that particular model. But it also calculates the percentage capacity utilization of our facilities. So we have the ability to produce 30,000 PDUs per shift per line, annually.
“What it shows them is okay, you're going to be using this percentage of utilization and then these are the components that are required to do that. The PDUs share some components, but they don't share others. So, if you look at our common product, we have 13 power types, but they use about 15 different plugs, they use only seven different cables that go into the PDU, and three different entrance modules. These tools show all of that, in just a very simple one-page format.”
Private manufacturing keeps the customer informed throughout the process, which will almost certainly result in better supplier-manufacturer-customer relationships.