Take a Tour of Custom Interface

Image of Custom Interface Team
Custom Interface Team

"To build long-term relationships, we try really hard to say yes. We try to make it simple, and we keep our commitments. These are the reasons we are going to celebrate 25 years of success in a few months."
- Nancy White, CEO

Consider the evolution of technology and how people work, live and travel since the founding of Custom Interface almost 25 years ago.  We remain dedicated to delivering excellence.  Recently, Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound (CAMPS) gave us an opportunity to take members on a video tour. of our facility.  In the video tour, you will see our location on the beautiful Columbia River Gorge where we have a facility that is LEED compliant, boasting 10,000 square feet of office space and 35,000 square feet of manufacturing space. More important than our facility is our people. 

Join us in this virtual tour as we walk through the facility and meet a few of our amazing team:

HubSpot Video


David White (00:26):

Hello and welcome to customer interface. My name is David White. I am the president and COO here. We were founded about 24 years ago by our CEO, Nancy White in 1997. We specialize in aerospace and defense markets. We are dual certified in both AS9100 as well as ISO 9001. And we are HubZone and ITAR registered. Currently, as I said, we specialize in aerospace and defense markets, but we're wanting to expand further into Marine markets since we already build cables that are rated for Marine use as well as electric aircraft, because we believe that that is the future of transportation, as well as further into space. Let's go ahead and take a look at our production floor.


This is our main production floor here. We manufacturer wiring harnesses and perform electromechanical integration for both military and civilian applications. We build products that are installed in many manned and unmanned aerospace platforms. We have decades of experience working with customers to solve complex wiring issues and some of the world's harshest environments. This has given us the experience needed to develop the best practices for building a robust product. We also build and provide services for a variety of other industries, including automotive, and off-road renewable energy, rocketry and entertainment, but before production can begin, a sale must be made. So let's talk about sales in a little further detail with one of our reps, Michael,

Michael (02:12):

Customers keep coming back to Custom interface because we're attentive, flexible, and easy to work with. We pride ourselves on our ability to find creative solutions for our clientele's complex problems. We maintain a strong on-time delivery and customer reported quality level that make us the first choice for many aerospace and defense companies. Our first customer from 1997 is still with us today. And most of our largest customers have been with us for over 15 years upon receipt of a new purchase order from a client. We first perform a contract review to ensure the PO meets the requirements stipulated on the quote, provided for a particular assembly and then perform a risk mitigation analysis to see if there are any factors that may jeopardize our ability to meet the key contractual points of the purchase order provided the PO passes. These first two hurdles. We then enter the PO Into our system, thus creating sales orders and work orders that will drive both material and labor demand. In our MRP system.

David White (03:08):

Custom interface’s main building is 45,000 square feet, which as you can see is mostly dedicated to production and integration. The very beginning of our process begins when a customer places an order with us, the order is entered into our custom built MRP system, which will generate demand for both parts and labor and provides traceability from this stage onward. Let's talk about labor capacity and scheduling, which is controlled by our production schedule and Miguel.

David White

Do you mind telling us a little bit about how you schedule production and how you balance our capacity with demand?

Miguel (03:46):

Sure. the way I schedule production and balanced capacity and demand is when an order is entered into our system I have spreadsheets that pull data straight from out straight out of our MRP system. And those spreadsheets then take the quantity of work orders due in a given day, a week or month and convert that into hours as well. And so I have a set number for available capacity and I graph that. So I'm able to see peaks and valleys in our scheduling and long-term planning which then I worked with the production supervisor and manager to balance out the demand and capacity.

David White (04:29):

Sometimes we have unforeseen challenges or last minute requests from customers. Do you mind telling us a little bit about how we deal with those last-minute requests or issues that come up?

Miguel (04:39):

So any last minute requests that we get up, we tend to build a little bit of a buffer in our production schedules. So typically we're able to accommodate almost any kind of last minute rush order that we get from a customer.

David White (04:53):

Once all of our parts have been ordered and then received into our inventory, the actual process of building the product can begin. The first stage of production begins in our material control area. So let's go ahead and begin our production tour there. And we will follow the same path that our products do is they're flowed through production over here is the entrance to our material control area or kitting. Our production supervisor Anabelle leads the material control team. And we'll be giving you a brief on how we begin and conclude our kitting process.

Anabelle (05:32):

Hi, my name is Anabelle and I'm the production supervisor here at costume interface. I am responsible for assigning the work on the floor to the technicians best suited. And I regulate the flow of the work from receiving and inventory control all the way through to final quality. Part of my job duties is to monitor the current status of the work on the floor, ensuring the work is being built to the required standards and specifications, as well as monitoring the quality of the work and providing support and feedback to the technicians to ensure that we are meeting the expectations of our customers. I also constantly look for opportunities to improve our processes and provide training to set up our production technicians to success. This is our receiving area. The parts that just came in, the material control specialist will verify the part numbers verify the quantity of the, and also the quality of the components. And then…

Anabelle (06:43):

She will enter that in our system, the parts that are identified as nonconforming, she will move that to the NCM cage and the parts that require for incoming inspection by QC. Then she will move it to the quality control area. These are our inventory shelves, all the parts that will be receiving the system are placed in this area until they are required in a work order over here, our kitting specialist will print a work order, prepare a work order kit and all the parts she pulled out from our inventory. It will be tracked here in our system for disability that we can provide back to our vendor. If all the components are kitted to a work order, the worker kit will be placed here for the wire. Cutting. We have a technician, that's cut the wires here. And then if all the wires are cut, The work order kit will be moved in this area for machines tripping. So if all the words already stripped every requires for automated machine cramps, then it will be moving in this area. So this are all our automated machines. At this point, when kitting is done, I load the work order in our system to determine whether it is for production build or first article. When, if it's for production build, I used our costume report to determine who is the most efficient technicians, then I'm going to assign it to. And if it is for first article, then I'll move it to the first article location.

Production Guide (08:44):

For a first article and prototyping process. The first step is to review the drawing for manufacturability and errors and communicate those issues with the customer recommend design improvements for both manufacturability. And once these issues are resolved, we create our own internal work instructions while building the prototype. This allows us to recreate the assemblies based off the instructions rather than from the drawing every time, which improves manufacturability. When doing so, we also create AS9102 fair documentation. This verifies that all materials have COC, that testing requirements are met, and that the drawing matches the design. Once this is complete, we send the prototype assembly along with the fair documentation to the customer for their review. Once that review is complete and approved, we pass the assemblies along for production.

David White (09:34):

This is our rapid prototyping area where first startles are built and documented. This is our inventory control area, where we stock commonly used parts and wires for reduced lead times. And this is also where we cut strip and crip wires that will be kitted to a job. Here, you can see some of our production processes, including cramping, heat treat recovery, server prepping, soldering, and lacing wire bundles. These are our wire layout boards, which we use to build harnesses that will be installed such as in an aircraft. Our quality control team performs various inspections and check that dimensional to requirements are being met. Once the job is passed final quality control, each component is individually bagged and labeled for traceability. Here's some more examples of the various products that we build, as well as the, some of the integration services we perform. Let's meet with Josh, our quality lead, who will tell us a little bit about our quality management system.

Josh (11:44):

Hi, my name is Josh and I am the head of quality at Customer Interface. My primary responsibility is to oversee the quality team, our quality management system, iTop program and ensure that no nonconforming products leave our facility. I also oversee our AS9100 and ISO 9001 compliance program. And then the quality of rep for our external audits, along with coordinating our internal quality system audits. Our quality oriented company culture has allowed us to maintain a defect rate below 0.5%. And then achieve zero non-conformances during our 2020 AS9100 audit. We take a lot of pride in our ability to meet and exceed the quality requirements of our customers and are always looking for opportunities to improve our processes. Let's get out onto the floor and take a look at some of those processes and equipment that the quality team utilizes on a daily basis.

This is one of our cable testers. We use this one to test our largest cables. They can test up to 3000 points, but we can test for continuity, isolation, dielectric, standing, voltage, and installation resistance.

After the test is complete, we can pull up the results here via the screen, where we can diagnose these shorts, miswires, or anything to do with the installation or shielding.

This is another one of our cable testing units, much like the tester I just showed you. We can test for continuity, isolation, dialectic, withstanding voltage and installation resistance. But this test is a smaller unit and we use it for the bulk of our manufacturing. We do here at CII.

This is a radio frequency tester. This machine allows us to test insertion loss, voltage standing wave ratio in our RF coaxial cables. We can test up to three gigahertz.


What I'd like to talk with you about today is our QUANTUM Rapid Prototyping Service. This is a service whereby we can produce an engineering sample or a working prototype of either wire harnesses or electromechanical assemblies for our customers. Quite often in less than a week if materials are readily available. These prototypes are built to the same stringent quality standards as our regular AS9100 assemblies. But without the added time and expense of going through the formality of an AS9102 fair process. This provides our customers with a quick and easy means by which to prove the concept of their design, as well as gain the benefits of our insights on improving this assembly, before they locked down that design. We can take your idea from any stage, whether it's a photo, a napkin drawing, or a basic concept, and turn it into a working prototype. Our aerospace and defense customers love this value added service, as it saves them time and money and helps to improve their product. And we are happy to offer that service to our non-aerospace customers as well.

David White (14:41):

So, we followed the same path that our products have from kitting to production, to quality. And from there, they're simply packaged up and sent to our customers. But there's one more thing that I would like to talk about that's key to the success of production, and that is our cultural approach to quality. We found as a company that we can't inspect quality into our products. We have to build them into our products, but what does that really mean? It means that we're continually looking for opportunities to improve the processes that happen before, after, and between each quality check. We are looking at the work that's been scheduled ahead to see if there's any opportunities to improve our efficiency or perhaps our build practices. We evaluate quality data to see if there's troublesome processes or perhaps training opportunities. And we also empower our employees by providing them with the information, feedback, and support that they need to succeed.

This is really important. Empowering employees with the right information is critical to their success and therefore critical to our success as a company. A couple of years ago, we only had two KPIs that we were looking at on a continual basis in production. We struggled to hit both. So I started revising how we looked at KPIs, what kind of information would be relevant to employees so that we could show them what success even looked like. Once we introduced these new metrics, these new KPIs to our employees and educated them on what they meant, listened to their feedback and supported them where necessary, we noticed a continual steady increase in performance of operations overall. This new information was psychologically powerful. It allowed employees to make the best decisions possible in the moment, and to also have the confidence to raise their hands and say when they needed help. We continue these efforts today. And over time, we've seen a 70% increase in efficiency. We're maintaining 99% on-time delivery and quality. We're saving a hundred thousand dollars a year annually in waste. And we've also reduced our lead time by fivefold and now have one of the best lead times in the industry. So obviously our employees are the main reason why we've seen so much success in these really difficult times. I'm going to hand off to Kirsten our human resources manager, who will go over and further detail about how we support our employees.

Kirsten Dennis (17:46):

Hi, I'm Kirsten Dennis and I am the of human resources here at Custom Interface. Custom Interface is a great place to work. We truly value and invest in our employees. We have a diverse workforce with people from many different backgrounds and life experiences. We offer great benefits, a four day workweek that employees love and a variety of internal training and development opportunities. When we hire new production employees, they start by attending a two week introduction to production training class with our own internal trainer. Over the course of this first two weeks, they learn about CII safety and quality policies and procedures, ESD controls, and the basics of cable assembly, which includes how to interpret drawings and build electronic assemblies to IPC standards. After this two weeks, they're partnered with an experienced mentor on the production floor and they practice their skills for another month with that person. Within a year of employment, all of our production employees attain IPC certification for building and inspecting electronic assemblies.

We have our own in-house certified trainer who administered this instruction and testing and recertified employees every three years. We've been really fortunate here at CII to partner with our local workforce development council and economic agencies and local community college to provide a variety of professional development opportunities for all of our employees right here at our facility, we've been able to train and develop our employees and supervisory skills, effective communication, root cause analysis, change management, and project management. We're very proud of the team that we built here at custom interface, and we are ready to meet our customer's manufacturing needs.

Nancy White (19:33):

Hi, I'm Nancy White. Most buyers I've spoken to claim that wiring harnesses give them more grief than any other commodity that they purchase. Why is the deck stacked? Well, first of all, when an engineer is designing a new product, he has to figure out the power supply. The circuit boards have to be configured, the enclosure designed. So that allows all the functionalities and the wiring harness does come last. Last usually means late. The other idiosyncrasy that kind of makes this more challenging is when I was going to school, I learned that electrical engineers get no training whatsoever in wiring harnesses, even though every piece of equipment has got a wire in it somewhere. So Custom Interface sees those challenges as opportunities. And we've designed our services to try and mitigate the risks.

First, within days of receiving an RFP, we will identify to the buyer if we see any issues with the design.

The second thing that we do is we go out and we look for opportunities to reduce the cost and the lead time with other methods of building or equivalence.

The third thing that we've done is we've designed a rapid prototyping line that allows us to put a sample in an engineer's hands within a matter of days receiving the material.

To build long-term relationships, we try really hard to say yes. We try to make it simple, and we keep our commitments. And these are the reasons that I think we're going to celebrate 25 years of success in a few months. Thanks so much for coming to find out more about Custom Interface.

David White (21:36):

Thank you for joining us for this tour of Custom Interface. We're thankful for the opportunity to show you a little bit of what we can do, and I hope that we can work together in the near future.

If you have any questions about us or the services we can provide, please reach out to us through our website or telephone.

Thank you, goodbye, and it's been fun.


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