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8 The PCB Magazine • August 2017 This month, we can call our theme PSE&A— a fancy acronym for process step elimination and automation. Sounds straightforward, but what exactly do we mean by "process step elim- ination?" Does it refer to shortening the nu- merous steps involved in making a printed cir- cuit board? There sure are a lot of them, but they all must be necessary—or why would we have them? Or perhaps it means eliminating unnec- essary steps such as wait or queue times, extra inspections, extra cleaning processes, etc. Or, could process step elimination include actual steps, physical or otherwise, that an operator or engineer takes to perform their duties? 'Automation' is an equally broad term. Does it mean load/unload stations, an automatic hoist on your plating line, or perhaps convey - orizing everything possible in the process? Or, does it mean automating some lab analysis and replenishment tasks? Another way of looking at extra steps is to consider them waste or non-value-added. Ah, but waste is yet another far-reaching term— time, scrap, hazardous, water—exactly what waste are we talking about? Maybe PSE&A means all these things. That seems overwhelming! There isn't a PCB facili - ty in the world that doesn't want to remove as many steps in as many areas as possible, but of course there are constraints. These are usually in the form of available capital to purchase new equipment that is more automated, plus possi - bly shortening the process steps. How can we help with this? Well, I'm hop- ing our articles and columns this month will give you plenty of food for thought, some good tips, and perhaps a healthy dose of inspiration for improving your processes while saving time and money. Let's get started. It's been two years since we first discovered Whelen Engineering, a private manufacturer of alarms and sirens in New Hampshire. Whelen management decided to bring their PCB man - ufacturing back to the U.S. because they were spending $7 million a year for cir cuit boards in Asia and the delivery times were long. They hired an ace engineer and gave him a mandate: Build a PCB facility for our needs with an ROI of less than five years. Alex Stepinski found that the only way by Patty Goldman I-CONNECT007 How do You Define Process Step Elimination and Automation? PATTY'S PERSPECTIVE 8 The PCB Magazine • August 2017

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