Making and selling test leads

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by tarrryan, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. tarrryan

    Thread Starter New Member

    May 22, 2011
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    Hello everyone

    I've recently had an idea about making and selling my own test leads and I am trying to find out if there would be a market for made to order leads from good quality materials, It's a barmy idea but it could be a interesting sideline to my current job so I thought I would ask you all for your opinions.

    First some clarification, The sorts of leads I am thinking of are your fairly standard red and black pair with varying connectors on each end (Spade, Croc, 4mm Banana, shrouded & unshrouded, stacking & non stacking, Spring hooks etc etc) the only one I will not do are your standard probes for testing. I will use new parts for each lead and a choice of cable would be available like silicone in various sizes, double insulated and my least favourite PVC (the stiffness makes me cringe).

    Why make these when cheap as chips ones are available off eBay you might ask? well I will do my best to answer that now.
    Your experiences may differ but mine have not been so great, leads are often poorly made up with higher than acceptable resistances and built from fairly cheap materials. I started making my own as a solution to this issue and found it much more preferable as I could make up just about any type of lead I could imagine, Its only recently I have wondered if this would be a service of interest to others.

    I would want to do my best to offer a high level of service which could include testing each lead set to ensure they are of acceptable resistance and build quality, I even considered the idea of individually marking each lead set with a serial for traceability should there be any problems. Obviously these would be for home and hobby use only and not commercial/Industrial.

    So the big question is this, would you be willing to use a made to order service where your leads are made with care and attention by a passionate enthusiast? I'm aware pricing would be a major factor and I would like to keep prices low while making it worth my time, I'll post more on that later if people like the idea. Oh I'm located in the UK so I expect most business would be there but I see no reason to limit such a service to one country.

    Thanks and I look forward to your replies
     
  2. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
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    There is, or was instrument wire available that is super flexible, I still have parts of a reels I purchased many years ago to make a qty of various leads up.
    The flexibility is mainly due to the wire count in each conductor, as well as the insulation type.
    Max.
     
  3. tarrryan

    Thread Starter New Member

    May 22, 2011
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    0
    I have been using 14AWG (2.08mm2) silicone wire for my standard leads with 400 strands at 0.8mm2. This is wonderfull to use and heat resistant up to 200 degrees.

    The overall look and feel of pvc, even with a high conductor count, is something i have always disliked.

    Ive just remembered i did find double insulated pvc wire with 280/0.07mm2 conductors inside, ill be trying this out some time to see what it is like for use in leads.
     
  4. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    If a home/hobby person wants quality test leads they will either buy them from a reputable company (like Pomona,etc...) or make their own just like you have..
    Not sure where you think you will fit into that... or what you could possibly offer to get any business..
    You are only targeting a small portion of the test lead market and thus cannot compete with the big boys who push volume (and still make quality products) and you aren't likely to get pricing any better than a hobbiest can do themselves (due to your low purchasing volume + labor + shipping costs)..
     
  5. tcmtech

    Well-Known Member

    Nov 4, 2013
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    My meters have to do regular outdoors works in the winter so for me PVC type leads are junk. They get too brittle and tend to break up easy.

    My personal choice for custom leads would be 14 ga silicone rubber with the fine stranded wire core.
     
  6. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    6,805
    I bought a couple of rolls of 5000 volt, "test lead" wire from Atlantic brand and make my own.
    So, both the problem and the solution are presented here. Most of us make our own test leads. The process is choosing the ends and ordering the parts. The way I see it, your only hope is to sell the convenience of shipping a finished product only a little more expensive than what I would pay for parts. Your order forms are your foot in the door. Photos of the available ends (with specs) and a list of available wires, with specs. You can't beat the price on the millions of stamped out test leads already available. You can only get people to pay for your labor by selling convenience and variety.
     
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  7. KL7AJ

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
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    For ages and ages, Pasternak Enterprises has made a great business out of making coax jumper cables and such. I've even bought some myself when I was just too lazy to make a pile of phasing lines for a science project. There's no reason to believe you can't do the same thing with test leads. But you need to get an efficient assembly process going....this is rather labor intensive and can eat up a lot of time. I'm thinking child labor here. I know some kids I can loan you. :)
     
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  8. Papabravo

    Expert

    Feb 24, 2006
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    Over the short term this business will be a loser. Over the long term, with razor thin margins you might eke out a few extra dollars. Do you really want to devote 60-80 hours/week over a couple of decades to this?
     
  9. BR-549

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2013
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    I had a solution for you, until you said UK. There are a lot of individuals in this country that make a good living making wiring harnesses.

    I've seen a lot of good techs, go to work for hi tech companies, which supply the US government, learn the US government procurement and bid procedure, then quit the company, and go to work in they're garage. And make a damn good living.

    The secret is......no employees. If you hire someone......the regs will kill you. Unless you are rich.

    So small bids and concentrate on the specs. Once you deliver a few on time and spec bids, word gets around different agencies, and soon you can pick your bids and even turn a friend on to this.

    Perhaps there's a similar process in the UK.
     
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  10. hp1729

    Well-Known Member

    Nov 23, 2015
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    One to add to your list. Pin leads to fit breadboards.
     
  11. KL7AJ

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
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    You don't want "employees," you want apprentices. This has worked very well for me, and does so in many instances, as long as you are prepared to have them leave once they get some smarts. (Actually, they make a LOT more working for me than they do "out in the wild." Fortunately, being a technical arts instructor, I have a steady stream of kids that want to try out electronics to see if they even like it. My overhead is essentially zero, so I can afford to give a lot of OJT. I suspect some of them will return. :)
     
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  12. KJ6EAD

    Senior Member

    Apr 30, 2011
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    I like the idea of a "Monster Cable" of test leads but can't see it as economically viable. There may be a small unserved niche market for adapters to standard test leads such as breadboard to pin jack or banana but not much.
     
  13. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    Yes "Monster Cable" and "economical" are oxymorons.. :D ...
     
  14. Dr.killjoy

    Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013
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    Are you looking for mass production or private sales ??
    For private sales I would make a unique product and sell it under the table for a profit but wouldn't go any further than that .. Cause there alot of companies that make quality products for cheap and they have the right tools to do a profession job and finish.. I don't mean to bust your dreams or just to be mean.. Check out Franky's page for good products ..http://stores.ebay.com/99centHobbies
     
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  15. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    Just another reseller of off the shelf "Chinese" (low quality) products?
     
  16. KL7AJ

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
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    Yeah, I need a BNC to automotive jumper cable adapter. :)
     
  17. MrSoftware

    Active Member

    Oct 29, 2013
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    I've owned and operated an online motorcycle parts business since 2003 that sells both off-the-shelf and custom parts, and for the last 2 years have owned and operated a small wire harness business that supplements my primary income, and here's my take on it. The cost to get started is low, relatively speaking, so give it a whirl. If nothing else, you will learn a ton about online business and about manufacturing and supply line management. That alone is worth the adventure, so I say go for it as a part time gig. At first it will be fun, but as the volume increases it becomes real work and you'll be looking for a way to outsource the labor. If all goes well. ;)

    I suspect that you will not be able to compete directly with manufacturers who churn out cookie cutter test leads, at least until you have brand recognition, so my advice is don't compete directly with them at first. Find a niche with little or no competition and which will spread easily on social media, such as custom leads. Don't forget to target the beginner and student crowd, where people are less likely to make their own leads. With little competition you will have more price flexibility. Price your products reasonably but high, if no one complains then your prices are too low. With a labor intensive product, you won't win at the volume game.

    My suggestion is first offer custom leads. Choices of wire type, end type, color, etc.. Make it super easy to order online, make the options and prices obvious (including shipping), ship very quickly and give great support and communication. Your reputation will sell your products. As you gain some name recognition and reputation for quality, start looking at 3rd party manufacturers to make leads for you, to your specifications and your branding. Supplement your custom sales with these manufactured sales, as add-on items, etc..

    What I think will happen is, as volume picks up you're going to be so busy handling shipping and customer service issues (requests for special shipping, international shipping, product questions, etc..) and marketing issues (blogs, advertising, optimizing your web site for Google, etc..) that it's going to be very difficult to find time to do the manufacturing, and you're going to need to hire help or outsource the manufacturing. You'll have to be creative to grow past this point, but perhaps by now you will be selling as much or more parts manufactured for you than your own custom parts.

    Let us know how it goes!
     
  18. Dr.killjoy

    Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013
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    Not that I am aware of cause he has a huge following over at EEvblog and a couple other forums with selling quality products..
     
  19. tarrryan

    Thread Starter New Member

    May 22, 2011
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    0
    First I want to thank everyone for your replies as it has all been very helpful, I have decided to give this a go because as the old saying goes 'nothing rewarding was ever easy' It could go well or I could end up with a lifetime's supply of test leads, it's a win win scenario if you look at it like that.

    Mr Software your message was particularly good to read as it described almost exactly what I would like to do, Special made to order leads was what I had in mind although I don't think I explained it too well at the start, I have a spreadsheet setup for myself that lets me enter connectors for either end, the wire type + length and calculates a price based on a few variables and breaks it up for me so i can see different costs. I also included options for adding a flat fee, charging a % and rounding if I wanted it, there is allot of maths happening behind those numbers! I have not yet added a choice for colour on the spreadsheet although I will when I have time. fortunately I do have some prior experience from being self employed and running my own business which will be of great use.
    The picture below is only a draft I made to try out the idea so it does not represent a final list of items that could be offered
    Lead Calculator.PNG
    creating a website people can do this from will be a challenging part as I have little experience in this field, I'll find a way though. I think eBay is possibly a good place to start although it would be good to move away from it due to the fees involved!

    I have some experience with making SMA and Co-Axial leads although I would want to improve this a little more before I was happy enough to offer it as a service.

    Thanks once again for your help, this will make an interesting project for the time being and please let me know what you think of the above.
     
  20. KL7AJ

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 4, 2008
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    Good advice.....pick something that nobody else is making. You can always be #1 in a field of one. From a personal example...I'm the ONLY guy in interior Alaska that works on Hammond organs and Yamaha keyboards. I can pretty much charge what I like...(well, within the limits of conscience!) They're a real pain in the posterior to work on, so I don't have any competition, presently or prospectively.
     
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