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August 2016 • SMT Magazine 55 ingness to open the doors and share their new captive manufacturing facility for others to learn from. When designing and building the factory, Alex did not rely on the status quo. Instead, with a clear mission and a new way of think- ing, he sought out and adopted leading-edge automated technology that would substan- tially cut manufacturing cycle time and the need for costly labor. Alex's innovative factory design has fewer than 20 people operating it on all shifts and has caught the attention of and gained recognition from some of the in- dustry's biggest names. When I-Connect007 sat down with Gene Weiner at the most recent HKPCA show, he had this to say of the Whelen factory: " The idea of the contain- ment of the operating equip- ment, the maintenance, the ef- fluent, and the central control overlooking the whole thing that forms a circle, from which you can side-step to do ENIG or some other special process or finish, is sheer genius in the way it was designed and built. Several pieces of equipment were created especially for that line as well as the waste treatment, such as digitizing the use of a plasma system for desmearing that uses oxygen instead of an organic. There are a lot of innovative things at Whelen. " The Whelen factory represents the first fully automated PCB facility to open up on United States soil in decades, which is fitting because Whelen is a very pro-American company that manufactures sirens and indicator lights. Rather than continuing to spend $7 million a year on product in China, for a little under $12 million they were able to set up Alex's manufacturing line and start building their boards in-house. Taking chances on unproven technology and automation paid off in a big way and allowed Alex to significantly cut costs and reduce ROI. The Whelen factory offers American manufac- turers evidence that adopting advanced tech- nologies can pay off with even more opportuni- ties in the future. Of course, it's risky to take chances on expen- sive new technology when you're struggling to get by, which makes Whelen's openness even more admirable. They've offered to let anyone come in and look under the hood to see what they're do- ing. They want to share this technology and their unique approach with American companies. The benefits and scope of Alex's design go be- yond just North America, however. During our short visit at Whelen, a gentleman from the UK was examining the factory with hopes of setting up a similar facility in Europe. And these tech- niques and solutions aren't just beneficial to the West; it's expected many Asian manufacturers will be interested in Whelen's waste treatment system as environmental regulations continue

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