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Tijuana Facility Now Certified to ISO/TS 16949:2009

SigmaTron International’s Tijuana, Mexico facility and associated Union City, CA pur-chasing operations have been certified to ISO/TS 16949:2009. This standard in conjunction with ISO 9001:2008, defines the quality management system requirements for the design and development, production and, when relevant, installation and service of automotive-related products.

“Mexico has seen significant growth in its automotive market over the last decade and we have automotive-related business already in the facility. Investing in this quality certification enhances our ability to attract customers in this segment,” said Curtis Campbell, Vice President of Sales, West Coast Operations.

Innovative Internship Program Helps Interest Students in Manufacturing Careers

One challenge many U.S. manufacturers face is attracting entry-level workers. People tend to gravitate toward careers they understand. The U.S. migration toward a service economy as manufacturing jobs moved offshore contributed to reduced vocational educational programs and took manufacturing careers off the radar screen of most kids in high school. Fortunately, that situation is changing. In 2011, Business and Career Services, Incorporated

(BCS) created the Manufacturing Careers Internship Program (MCIP). Funded via Work-force Investment Act grants provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity through the Chicago Cook Work-force Partnership, MCIP provides adults aged 18-24 with an introduction to manufacturing and enables participating employers to test out potential job candidates via an 8-week internship program with payroll and liability insurance paid by BCS.

SigmaTron International’s Elk Grove Village facility begin participating in MCIP in December. The program starts with a 4-week Boot Camp where interns visit 10-12 local manufacturers, learn essential “work-readiness skills”, brush up on their shop math skills, and gain OSHA and Lift Truck Driving Certifications. In early December, Boot Camp interns toured EGV. The next step will be finding intern “matches” for the 8-week BCS-paid internship during a “hiring day” where interns interview with multiple employers and both the interns and employers rank their choices. During the 8-week internship at EGV, the interns will be trained on basic manufacturing skills and time study methods. EGV has the option of making an offer to any intern who is interested in continuing employment there, following the internship. The State of Illinois will cover over 50 percent of the employee’s cost for 4-6 months, making hiring an intern an attractive option.

“We see this as a way to create a good pool of candidates for our technical positions. In some cases, interns may be hired right away. In other cases, they may choose to go to a two-year vocational school or college to further their formal training. Or they may choose to work here while working on a degree. The important thing is that we are on the radar screen of young motivated adults who are making education and long-term career choices,” said Jim Barnes, SigmaTron’s Vice President of Operations.

MCIP has proven results. Since 2011, more than 160 companies have participated and over 400 interns have completed the MCIP. Approximately 70 percent of interns completing the internship are now employed or pursuing post-secondary education and training. And more than 85 percent of those hired have stayed with the company over six months.

“When someone is hired off the street with no manufacturing experience, employers bear the brunt of the learning curve and turnover costs, since the employee must acquire nearly all appropriate skills on-the-job and may quit quickly if he or she decides a manufacturing career isn’t a good fit. MCIP and associated workforce programs eliminate that risk through their screening and initial training process, and by paying all or most of the employees’ costs during the internship and probationary employment period. It is a win-win for interns and employers,” added Jim.

New HLA Work Area Improves Efficiency at Elk Grove Village

SigmaTron International’s Elk Grove Village (EGV) facility has created a dedicated work area to optimize high level assembly (HLA) projects.

“While it is fairly simple to optimize continuous flow assembly processes, such as printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) type products, it can be much harder to do the same for low-to-medium volume HLA projects. These projects are typically done in work cells that often are just put on the factory floor as the project need arises. We felt that by defining a specific space we could optimize work flow and production resource utilization,” said Jim Barnes, SigmaTron’s Vice President of Operations.

The new HLA area features standalone work cells optimized for each project. Flat panel display monitors provide interactive work instructions that allow the production operator to view an assembly video, magnify assembly visual aids or search for specific information. Operators have been crossed trained to move among areas as production demand varies among projects. PCBAs and other required components are stocked point of use, minimizing transport time.

“This is a win-win all around. Production operators are empowered and trained to a higher level of skill. This adds both responsibility and variety to their jobs. We achieve economy of scale in production resource utilization by clustering HLA activities in a single work space. From a customer standpoint, we are providing a cost competitive solution for projects that don’t make sense to move offshore and becoming a more strategic partner with our HLA customers,” added Jim.

Currently 6-7 industrial and medical projects are ramping or are in production in the work area and it is operating two shifts. Reasons customers are keeping production in the U.S. vary. Some of the most common are that the supply chain is already set up in the U.S., the product is tooled locally, they want production in close proximity to their engineering group or they want the response speed that is achievable with a local supplier.

SigmaTron International Exhibits at MPO Summit

SigmaTron International was a Silver Sponsor at the Medical Product Outsourcing (MPO) Summit in Austin, TX in October.

“Medical products are a growing segment of our market in all regions and we continue to invest in capabilities enhancements in that area. We feel it is important to have a presence at conferences like this so we can stay abreast of industry trends highlighted in the program and listen to what the sourcing team attendees feel is important in out-sourcing relationships,” said Tracey Hamilton, Director of Sales, West Coast Operations.

SigmaTron will also exhibit at MDM West in Anaheim, CA on Feb. 7-9 in Booth 550.

SigmaTron International Articles of Interest

SigmaTron International has been featured in several publications. Its bi-monthly Lean manufacturing columns in Circuits Assembly Magazine discussed Lean philosophy and design teams plus steps taken to optimize LED assembly. The way the Company adapts its sales and marketing strategy for different regions of the world was discussed in SMT Magazine.