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Agile product development – XPLORER™ ODF panels are the first fruit
In the fourth article in our series on agile design, Guillaume Baral, Nexans Product Manager for Fiber Optic Cables and Components, explains how this philosophy has been applied to a new series of Optical Distribution Frame (ODF) modules.
In the previous articles in this series we have discussed the key drivers that have prompted Nexans to seek a much more agile approach to product development. These drivers are the need for operators to consider the lifecycle of the products they choose from design to end of life, while suppliers need to manage logistics, legal compliance, safety and sustainability.
This has guided Nexans to adopt a modular approach to new product development in which each individual element within a product is regarded as a building block. And these building blocks can be assembled in various combinations to meet the requirements of a given scenario.
Overall, modularity is about ensuring that the design meets the customer’s needs and that, as a manufacturer, we can take advantage of the full benefits of mass production. The first fruits of this approach were seen in the development of our new range of XPLORER™ ODF panels.
Our aim was to move away from the existing design, fabricated in sheet metal, to create a much more flexible, modular system molded in thermoplastic material. The challenge was to incorporate all the various functions of an ODF while meeting the very tight constraints on dimensions within a single molded design. It required the creation of more than 25 mold elements and over 40 different parts. The design is based on interchangeable panels with a fixed chassis and a separable swiveling part that makes it easy to splice and install the fiber optic cables.
The main advantage of the modular approach is that it has enabled the majority of the different requirements that our customers ask for to be captured within a single flexible and adaptable design. This is proving particularly useful for customers as it enables more flexible network planning, as in some cases they are not always 100 percent sure of the exact specification of equipment they require until they arrive on site. Using this modular system means that the ODF can readily be adapted to suit the exact circumstances they have to work with.
A further benefit of modularity is that our customers no longer find themselves stuck with an existing configuration. For example, the panels are reversible and delivered with the flexibility to hinge on the left or right side. This is in contrast to the old design, as if a customer wanted to switch from a left- to right- axis design it could take a long time to implement the change.
Flexibility of configuration also helps optimize stock management as a much wider variety of design options can be covered by a limited number of panels. The use of thermoplastic material has also enabled a weight reduction of up to 60 percent compared with previous steel versions. This makes the panels easy to handle and manipulate, especially as the swiveling part can be separated from the fixed chassis during installation.