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34 SMT007 MAGAZINE I AUGUST 2020 say around 100 minutes, a minute apart. It involves somebody going into the warehouse stacks, finding the appropriate reel, adding it to a cart, and moving on to the next one. A com- pany with fantastic efficiency could do one in 40 seconds. A company that is not so efficient can be upward of 1.5–2 minutes apart. If you have a group of 2–3 towers, you'll pull that 100-part kit in about 20 min- utes. If you have 4–5 towers, you'll pull it in less than 10, and no operator has to be present while the machines are pull- ing the kits. It's one of the big advantages Essegi Automation has in the tower con- struction, and one of their first patents was pull stacks. They pull a stack of cases, full of reels, without an oper- ator needing to be present. When they're fin- ished, the operator just opens the door of each unit, takes the stack out, and takes them to the feeder setup area. If I'm pulling a 100-part kit, operator time would probably be around 40 seconds to go to the towers, open the doors, take the stack out, and move on to the next one. You've saved them from 100 minutes down to less than a minute, and that's considerable savings; it's the same for putting kits away. On production floors, you usually see a few bin boxes full of reels, waiting to be put back into inventory. Usually, there's somebody running around, going through those boxes and looking for a reel that's needed for another job but hasn't been returned to stock yet. All of that is elimi- nated with storage towers. You simply put the stack of reels back into the tower, push a button, and the machine puts the parts away. The biggest savings is in labor costs. Other savings include the floor space savings, especially if a company is feel- ing crowded in tight quarters. We save about 70% of floor space versus a six-high, double- sided shelf. One company is pulling a lot of kits per day because they're doing prototype and short runs mostly based on their design business. Adding the towers enabled them to pull and put away several more kits per day. It increased the number of SKUs they could run on their five wides. As Bill mentioned earlier, one of the things big EMS companies saw was they justified it on labor costs. Since this location was in Mex- ico, they looked at about a 1.7-year ROI just based on labor cost savings in pulling the kits and putting them away. But one of the fea- tures of the machines and software is that they have Fuji lines. Fuji, like many other place- ment companies, can give a low reel warning if a reel is about to run out. The reel warning is given automatically to the tower. The tower interrupts what it's doing, pulls that reel in a separate drawer, sounds an alarm, and the operator says, "This is urgently needed on line two, machine five, feeder 20." The reel can be there and be replenished before the previous reel runs out. In this example, company management were shocked at the end of the first quarter of production to find that their line efficiency had improved by 8.5%, and on the 250,000 CPH line, 8.5% is a lot of placements. Also, the ROI went down from about 1.7 years down to about 7.5 months because you have all those lines that are expensive. If it's been idle waiting for somebody to go over to the warehouse, get another part, and bring it back, that's not efficient. They weren't even aware that that was that big of a problem until this happened. Naturally, they've now added towers to every line in that factory in Gua- dalajara. That's another area where you can save. Matties: That's a great example of how the smart factory or digital factory can benefit an assembler or EMS company. What about inventory management? Because it seems to me that, with a system like this, you can now preserve some cash flow by better control of inventory with this system. Bob Black Bob Black

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