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September 2017 • The PCB Magazine 33 NAVIGATING PROCESS CHANGE? TPC IS THE KEY again improvement teams are a perfect media for this communication. TPC Log A method for managing TPCs needs to be developed, and a simple spreadsheet log is the most effective. Building a level of intelligence into the TPC numbering system (such as em- bedding the procedure or department number) will allow historical analysis of successful and unsuccessful TPCs for any process. Regular re- view of open TPCs and status is critical to a suc- cessful program. Quality Assessment Phase The second mission-critical aspect of a TPC program is the quality assessment phase, where a decision will be made to either permanently incorporate the change into the process or deny it. This decision needs to have the cross-func- tional approval from the department/improve- ment team, engineering, operations and quality at a minimum. This decision needs to be docu- mented (TPC form) and as data driven as possi- ble, i.e., yield & rework, material/labor cost re- ductions, etc., over the TPC period. If a discrete lot(s) is being evaluated, the quality assessment form can be attached to the process traveler(s) to gather the appropriate data as mentioned above. Global TPC's affecting continuous pro- duction will require a systemic tracking method over the course of the time period. Closure This should be easily accomplished, but get- ting to the decision point is where many often stumble. As mentioned earlier, setting a defined time frame for the TPC evaluation is critical. In most cases, 30, 60, or 90 days are sufficient to execute a meaningful evaluation of a process change. It is a strongly recommended best prac- tice to close out as many of the open TPCs as possible prior to a major customer or registrar audit. Closure also means revising the appropri- ate SOP to include any successful TPCs, and re- training operators when required. Don't be con- cerned with having a history of frequent TPCs; if the quality system is operating correctly this activity should be encouraged. In the quest for continuous improvement, change is good. I'll end this column with a quote about change that seems appropriate in the volatile world of printed circuit board manufacturing. It is from my good friend and quality guru W. Ed- wards Deming, who said, "If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing." PCB Steve Williams is the president of The Right Approach Consulting LLC. To read past columns, or to contact Williams, click here. Radio frequency ID tags were supposed to rev- olutionize supply chain management. The dirt- cheap, battery-free tags, which receive power wirelessly from scanners and broadcast identifying numbers, enable warehouse managers to log in- ventory more efficiently than by reading box num- bers and recording them manually. But the scale of modern retail operations makes even radio frequency ID (RFID) scanning ineffi- cient. Walmart, for instance, reported that in 2013 it lost $3 billion in revenue because of mismatches between its inventory records and its stock. Even with RFID technology, it can take a single large re- tail store three months to perform a complete in- ventory review, which means that mismatches of- ten go undiscovered until exposed by a customer request. MIT researchers have now developed a sys- tem that enables small, safe, aerial drones to read RFID tags from tens of meters away while identifying the tags' locations with an average error of about 19 centimeters. The system could be used in large warehouses for both continuous monitoring, preventing inventory mismatches, and locating individual items, to meet custom - er requests. Drones Relay RFID Signals for Inventory Control

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