• AmFor Electronics, Inc. understands that per piece costs are not the right metric for assessing where to manufacture.  Shipping from abroad reduces the ability to respond to unforeseen circumstances and can represent unacceptable costs.
  • The proximity of AmFor's operations to its customers enhances the firm's ability to respond to customers' often changing needs and has created new business opportunities for the firm.

AmFor Electronics is a second-generation, family-owned manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. Originally named Northwest Regulator Supply Inc., the firm is the market leader in the manufacturing of alternator and starter testers, which are sold to auto parts stores, auto repair shops, and alternator and starter rebuilders. Building its own wire harnesses for use in its testers laid the foundation for AmFor to expand into the wire harness manufacturing business.

Business Government Collaboration

With this new line of business still in its formative stages, AmFor took advantage of Lean Manufacturing Grants made available by the Portland Development Commission (PDC), which allowed AmFor to engage with the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP) to overhaul the firm's manufacturing and business operations.

Results: reduction in costs, shorter turnaround times, and fewer defects. These successes have translated into new customers—sometimes at the expense of competitors operating in China, Japan, and Mexico—and the hiring of 50 employees.

Keeping Production Close to Customers

The proximity of AmFor's design and manufacturing operations to its customers increases the firm's ability to respond quickly, accurately, and flexibly to customers' often changing needs. On average, the company can go from drawing/sample to first article testing in just two weeks. This period does not just reflect the time needed to merely meet customers' specifications, but also to go beyond and assess the design with respect to manufacturing, serviceability, industry design standards, and supply chain efficiency.

AmFor and its customers have identified the costs and risks to shipping wires and harnesses from abroad. Having this inventory of harnesses in transit reduces their ability to respond to unforeseen circumstances, whether these involve changes to the order during the manufacturing process or defects in the order. Regardless of who is responsible, defects can represent unacceptable costs, especially for firms with lean manufacturing practices.

AmFor's ability to respond to competitors' errors has created new business opportunities for the firm. AmFor and its partners understand that per unit costs are not the right metric for assessing where to manufacture. Many factors go into the total cost of producing and delivering its wire harnesses, and on this basis, AmFor is adding to our nation's robust, responsive, and cost-competitive manufacturing base.