Designing operator controls for an electric cart

Electric delivery cart

Nelson Miller Group partnered with an automotive technology company to produce the operator controls for an electric cart under an aggressive schedule, while adhering to strict automotive standards and requirements. Our customer’s initial design was too expensive to produce and they lacked expertise for several components of this product. They relied on NMG for engineering design support, supply chain management, and final assembly. Our solution delivered improved functionality, shortened lead time, and lowered costs.

The company

A technology company, backed by a major automotive manufacturer, offers a suite of electric products that allow delivery and logistics companies to move goods more efficiently.

The product

The operator controls for an electric cart/robotic pallet to be used by companies like UPS and FedEx to assist with loading and delivering. 

The industry 

Technology, electric vehicles

Manufactured components  

LEDs, layered keypad, e-switch, plastic clamshell 

A man standing on an electric cart

Results at a glance

Resolution of complex design and engineering challenges

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Cost optimization

icon with a check and five stars representing quality manufacturing

High quality performance and consistency

icon with clock and lightning bolt representing improved lead time

Improved lead time

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Complexity reduction

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Strategic sourcing on a global scale

speed to market - Accelerated delivery time

Accelerated delivery time

Response to unexpected needs

The challenge

New product introduction with design and cost issues

  • Customer specialized in automotive manufacturing and lacked engineering, design, and LED expertise for this product. 
  • Expensive components included in initial design (i.e. LEDs that can be seen in direct sunlight) 
  • Tooling that had to be retrofitted due to design modifications. 
  • Strict automotive standards and requirements from parent company. 
  • Very aggressive timeline.
  • Off-the-shelf e-switch component not meeting customer’s needs due to supply, quality, and sealing issues.

The solution

NMG provided engineering and DFM support to enhance the  customer’s design.

  • Utilized engineering and DFM expertise to overcome design, supply, and timeline challenges.  
  • Implemented significant improvements to the customer’s initial design, through several rounds of prototypes: 
    • Created a complex, layered keypad design including silicone rubber keypad with laser etch icons and spray PU coating, rubber adhesive, dome retainer, metal dome, flexible copper printed circuit with LEDs and analog Ambient Light Sensor embedded, ZIP tail. 
    • Replaced costly off-the-shelf LED option with a custom LED solution that met specific automotive brightness specifications (15-16 bi-colored and tri-colored LEDs) and minimized light bleed with light bar, silicone rubber co-molding technologies, and opaque black light blocker design. 
    • Designed custom e-switch to replace customer’s off-the-shelf option. Reduced lead time and costs, improved functionality, and modified with a latching, push-button switch that had correct actuation force and effective sealing.
    • Identified interference issues with PCBA board and plastic clamshell. Redesigned plastic piece and retrofitted tooling to make all components successfully work together. 

Reduced complexity 

  • Managed a network of offshore manufacturing partners and completed assembly at NMG in Los Angeles. 
Electric cart wires

The results 

Improved functionality, reduced costs, and on-time delivery

  • Delivered 2,500 units on schedule. 
  • Created a custom solution that resulted in improved functionality and reduced costs, including an 80% cost reduction in the e-switch. 
  • Successfully met an aggressive production schedule, as well as all automotive requirements for product. 
  • Consistently provided quick response time and pivoted, when necessary, in face of supply, tooling, design, and engineering issues. 
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About NMG 

NMG has more than 85 years of experience partnering with organizations to bring their industrial, IoT, lighting, medical, telecommunications, consumer, and aerospace products to life. We solve your most complex challenges in engineering design, manufacturing, and supply chain management.

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