SMT007 Magazine

SMT-Oct2015

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48 SMT Magazine • October 2015 you can get product to the customer, the lower your cost per unit. With CT reduction, you can plan for larger start quantities in a given time frame, allowing better pricing on raw materials with those increased quantities. Las Marias: From your experience as a consultant to electronics assembly manufacturers, can you please give some examples as to how you were able to help reduce the cycle time of a particu- lar process or project? what were the main chal- lenges here, and what tools or strategies did you implement to help shorten the cycle times of these processes? Williams: I was working at a medical product manufacturer some years ago and part of a team that was tasked with this challenge. We deter- mined that an automated single room produc- tion line, single unit lot, continuous flow with infrequent product changes was the answer. So that was what we worked on for about two years. My portion was the material handling, ro- botics/machine vision and computer integra- tion designs. Some of the process steps would benefit from existing equipment vendors, while others had to be designed as a unique item. The latter was the challenge. Finding a vendor with the basic process capabilities and design strength to put those together took significant time on the front end of the project. Most of our manpower was directed in that effort for two equipment items. The remaining designs were much more straightforward—taking off-the-shelf equip- ment items and placing them in combination— and performing the integration required much less effort. We were able to reduce the process time from three days to about six hours. Each step was reduced to less than 50% of the former CT. We were asked to duplicate this line in other parts of the world. Some of the 'non-value add - ing' steps performed previously were eliminated. We were fortunate to have garnered man- agement support before the projected started, making approvals much easier. The other suc- cess factor that was significant was transpar- ency. I see so many companies that encourage territorialism—secrecy between departments. We were able to get great ideas sharing design concepts in brainstorming sessions with other non-related departments. Las Marias: Please mention some best practices that will help assemblers and manufacturers re- duce cycle times in their processes. Williams: Firstly, get some 'outside eyes' to re- view the process: a consultant, engineers from a completely different process department, even spouses of the engineers working on the process. Secondly, brainstorm to gather value- adding, quantified solutions. Thirdly, review the solution options with management and get a clear and fully supported direction. This is usually the most frustrating part of a project. Fourthly, determine the team skill set and mem- bers and then put together an excruciatingly detailed plan. Lastly, hold brief, frequent status meetings with supporting managers. Assess a value-add metric to each unique process step, and determine what combinations get the best value (add up to the lowest number). Las Marias: what about automation? how does automation help reduce cycle time in an assembly line? FeATure inTerview ProceSS IMProVeMentS For cycLe tIMe reductIon randall Williams, mechanical automation engineer, b&p automation inc.

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