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46 SMT Magazine • October 2015 by Stephen Las Marias i-connecT007 One of the issues highlighted in I-Con- nect007's Cycle Time Reduction survey for SMT Magazine this month was how automation can help reduce cycle times. To help answer this, industry veteran Ran- dall Williams, a mechanical automation engi- neer at B&P Automation Inc., explained the importance of reducing cycle time, key met- rics to look for when planning for improve- ment processes in assembly lines, best prac- tices to consider, and how automation can help electronics manufacturers improve their production. Stephen Las Marias: how do you define cycle time, and from your experience in the electron- ics assembly industry, what are the biggest bottlenecks in assembly lines that contribute to longer cycle times? Randall Williams: Every company calculates cycle time differently. Ours is simple: value addition/time required to add that value. I do not calculate visual inspection as part of that time because I normally work with automation that includes machine vision in milliseconds— not significant time added. Example: inserting chemicals into wells of the product/amount of time required to perform that function. Bottlenecks fall into three categories: inat- tentive/inadequately trained operators; equip- ment requiring human interaction to keep it running or long time cycle programs; and in- correctly designed process sequencing. The latter is where most of my time is spent. I can usually re-order the process sequence to reduce bottlenecks. Part of that effort is typically spent in designing or locating different equipment to perform a function. Product burn-in or cure is a good example. Taking that step out of the pro- cess flow and making it a feeder line is some- times the answer. Las Marias: how important is reducing cycle time? Williams: CT reduction is always a large benefit to a manufacturer. My experience has shown that reduction of in-process inventory has the greatest impact on the bottom line. The faster Process Improvements for Cycle Time Reduction FeATure inTerview

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