Is your supply chain on track?

Specialist inventory and a thorough knowledge of industry standards ensure TTI supports rail industry buyers with the services they require, explains European director of industry marketing, transportation, Dermot Byrne.

Electronic components destined for rail applications must be able to withstand high levels of shock and vibration. Not only this, they must also operate over extended temperature ranges. These factors have always been in play, however, increasingly there are several new demands that buyers must accommodate.

Legislation often dictates developments in information and safety systems, as well as improvements in lighting and communications systems. Today, passengers also expect internet connection while they travel, so rolling stock must offer power outlets and data communication facilities. Together, these factors are leading to an increase in the amount of electronics in each carriage, and, despite the relatively large size of carriages, this puts pressure on the space and weight of electronics solutions.
Bearing these developments in mind, projects like HS2 and Crossrail provide significant opportunities for tier one and two manufacturers. UK manufacturers are also looking further afield, competing to win business in the Far East and the USA, where the proposed New York-California high speed rail link is planned for delivery in 2020.

Specialist components
To meet these key industry drivers, purchasers require specialised components. They will therefore benefit greatly from partnering with a supplier that offers a full portfolio of parts and a supply chain infrastructure that can support this type of business.

As an example, the electronics industry is currently seeing many components with extended lead-times. This issue is exacerbated when the components required are not standard commercial parts, but instead, offer enhanced performance suitable for rail applications. In this instance, production lines dedicated to hi-rel parts might be either mothballed or may already be working to capacity. Furthermore, there may not be a readily-available equivalent device from another manufacturer with the appropriate specifications.

TTI identified transportation, including rail, as a major business sector several years ago and aims to understand what it takes to do business in this sector. The first priority is to carry the right franchises, and to this end, TTI is constantly updating its franchise base and product range to ensure it offers rail customers the latest technology parts.

This strategy has seen TTI assemble a portfolio of specialist manufacturers of parts suitable for rail applications including: antennas and EMI filters from TE Connectivity and connectors from ITT Cannon, Smiths Interconnect and TE Connectivity. Other products include inductors from Murata, which also provides power supplies, along with Artesyn and Flex. Relays from Sensata and TE Connectivity, resistors from TE Connectivity and Vishay and switches and joysticks from APEM and C&K round out the offering. TE Connectivity tubing, cables, accessories and labels complete the line-up.

Warehouse expansion
TTI’s policy is to stock wide and deep across all franchises and to this end the company is just bringing on stream a major expansion at its European headquarters and warehouse. This development will double the amount of space available, leading to an increase in order fulfilment capabilities. The extra space will also be used to increase the value-added services available, including connector assembly, cutting tube and cable to length and reeling.

Working closely with customers helps to future-proof their needs. Sophisticated inventory management systems help avoid shortages and ensure production lines always have the parts they need. Sometimes that means holding stock for certain customers or projects, and with rail parts, this may mean a significant investment in stock that is specifically suited to a niche application.

Understanding the relevant standards is also important. For example, organisations and companies such as the London Underground, Thalys and Bombardier used to control the specifications for connector systems. Now, EN standards are also often used, as well as International Railway Industry Standards and various adaptations of defence specifications. In addition to these standards, low smoke, zero halogen is always a fundamental requirement for passenger safety, in case of fire. TTI therefore aims to offer proven, reliable and environmentally-friendly solutions that meet all main international rail standards. An online component selector guide helps buyers navigate to the solutions they need.