Potential of LPTA to Drive Further Innovation

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In response to continued cuts in military spending, the U.S. government has chosen to follow a more cost driven approach to its contract activity over the course of the last 3-4 years. This practice, which is commonly referred to as Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA), has raised concerns as it is purely based on pricing and doesn’t take any other criteria into account. Some are of the view that it will only encourage military contractors to cut corners in order to win bids and not enough emphasis will be placed on the overall quality of the solution supplied (or its constituent parts).

Though this should certainly be recognised as a potential issue, another more positive aspect to LPTA (and similar philosophies that are now being adopted by other countries) is that it is likely to help push forward technological progression at the component level. With more constraints on the budgets available, contractors will look to their suppliers to offer products that are capable of delivering the specs needed but at the same time using their ingenuity to make them more cost effective. This is the course of action that Harwin’s engineering team have already been implementing for a very long time.

Taking the perspective that everything should be decided solely on the costs involved, as LPTA does, could be judged to be somewhat one-dimensional. Many would say it is more appropriate to specify components that represent the best value when it comes to doing the job. Nevertheless, keeping the overall investment low and shortening development times are both harsh realities of today’s military sector. Engineers need to take this into account when specifying components. They should select parts based on what is actually needed and not on various possible eventualities. By adhering to a solid specification, they will be able to keep the costs involved in check and avoid over-engineering. In addition, they should also make certain that they are fully aware of new materials and product developments that more advanced component suppliers are now utilising.

Hi-rel connector supplier Harwin’s award-winning Gecko offering is a prime example. These plastic-shelled connectivity components provide the global defence industry with off-the-shelf, military-grade products that are both quick and cost effective to source, but without making any compromises on either performance or reliability. Their rugged construction ensures that they can cope with extreme temperatures, plus elevated levels of shock and vibration, but without high unit costs being associated with them. Engineers thus get elevated specs at a more reasonable price. They also enable substantial space and weight savings on equivalent Micro-D connectors – which is something that often proves to be highly advantageous in military/avionics designs. Furthermore, they support extended operational lifespans (with over 1,000 mating cycles).

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