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18 SMT Magazine • August 2017 profile BGAs. There are a lot of very small components that are all in very difficult areas inside a circuit board. "Even if you have great equipment, you still need to have that human intelligence that is able to figure out the right pro- cess to minimize any problem," Ramirez says. He notes, though, that it does require having the equipment that is capable, but so is having the technical and the expertise and experience to be able to look at a problem and say, 'Yes, I know I can do A, B or C.' "If you cannot figure it out, you should be able to pick up the phone and call the manu- facturer of the equipment, call the manufactur- er of the part, and even invite all of them and tell them, 'Hey, I've got this problem. How do you guys think we can solve it?' Again, some- times what we think is a simple problem actual- ly may require a very complex solution. In our world, there is no such thing as a simple prob- lem," adds Ramirez. One of the key measurements they base their improvements on is the overall cycle time. "Initially, what we wanted to do was to just feed it into our machines, we've always had a big focus on the technology of it. We've invested pretty heavily in some really good equipment. What we've found lately though is there's a lot to be said for the simplicity," says Prina. "We definitely manage from a point where we look at running simulations and we know where our expected run times are on our equipment, but if you fail to manage the downtime, if you fail to manage the hand touch labor further on down the line, it can create a lot of problems. We have a phase-gate controlled process NPI release that goes step-by-step through the pro- cess. We try to identify what our problems are upfront but there's certainly still quite a bit be- ing done out on the floor once it's released, and we go through that process. That's when we try to get our operators engaged and getting that feedback from them, where we can minimize times lost, where we can engage some efficien- cy, and just getting that feedback back up to the PDM group to rewrite those pro- cesses or to engineering for review is really critical." Do they go back to their cus- tomers and suggest some mod- ifications for future revisions? Ramirez says they do. "As Dan ex- plained, in a perfect world dur- ing the pre-production type run, there are a lot of these sins that should have been identified and, in theory, should have been cor- rected. What we're finding is, in many cases, many of our custom- ers' development phase take more time than projected in their toll- gate process to bring a product to life. They con- sume all the work for one reason or the oth- er in the design phase to the point that by the time you want to prove your design, it's way too late. In many instances, we are facing a situ- ation in which the product has launched, even with a fault or deficiency we may have iden- tified, because there is a pressure for that cus- tomer to launch a product," Ramirez explains. "We like to view ourselves as adding value to our customer. At MC, we're going to do our best to provide you, based on your design, a good product. However, we've got to work together. We've got to be partners so that, at the end of the day, if we can improve your design and it's going to make our assembly process better, that is going to be an economical benefit for both companies. For the most part, most customers tend to take that feedback and in the next revi- sion they fix it." But he says they have other customers who are facing difficulty in changing the design because of third-party approvals or very long testing. "Again, we have a mix of some that early in the process as we are doing the prototypes. We're able to provide feedback, which then they use to refine their design versus the other ones that they get the feedback but they realize that, 'Hey, I don't have the time.' It's going to be changed in the next revision. Then we have to live with that situation. Therefore, that's where it's critical to have all the controls that we put in place, like Dan was mentioning, we've got to TRAINING AND EDUCATION: KEY TO IMPROVING ELECTRONICS ASSEMBLY Tom Beck

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