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Acuna Team Provides Quality Solutions

When the manufacturers of a high end consumer personal care product decided they needed a North American manufacturing site to better serve their North American customer base, they selected SigmaTron International’s Acuna, Mexico facility, located across the border from Del Rio, Texas. The product was being manufactured in Israel, Taiwan and China, and the addition of a North American facility simplified logistics for that region.

The team in Acuna suggested tooling modifications that increased production efficiency by cutting assembly time. The pilot run was completed in March and a pre-production run was shipped in May. The Company bought the customer’s existing materials inventory to begin production and now a North American supply base is being retooled and volume production is beginning.

The Acuna team also recently launched a new program for a manufacturer of energy-efficient LED lighting solutions. The team has shipped a pre-production run.

Green Initiative Compliance Center Tracks Restricted Materials

The Green Initiative Compliance Service Center is one example of ways that SigmaTron International’s materials organization is going the extra mile to ensure materials integrity and regulatory compliance. The center is located in the Company’s Suzhou, China facility and interfaces closely with component engineers and procurement professionals in the Taiwan International Purchasing Office (IPO) to gather necessary materials documentation from Asian suppliers and communicate with the rest of the Company’s supply chain management organization.
“Legislation related to RoHS, RoHS II, REACH, Conflict Minerals and California’s Proposition 65 continues to evolve. We felt it was important to have an Asian-based engineering and procurement team focused on addressing compliance issues with our Asian suppliers and sub-suppliers,” said John Sheehan, Vice President and Director of Supply Chain.

Oracle’s Agile Government Compliance tool supports the operation by providing updates as monitored jurisdictions create new rules or modify existing rules. The tool can also be programmed to support customers who have specific lists of substances and materials that they want to track.

Allen Abell, Quality Director, applied his expertise in RoHS compliance and helped set up the center late last year.

IT Department Continues to Enhance Systems

Keeping customers ‘in the loop’ is a key precept of SigmaTron International’s customer service commitment. The Company’s information technology (IT) professionals have blended off-the-shelf solutions with internally-developed tools to achieve that goal.

For example, the team combines Exact Macola ES ERP software with an internally-developed management information system, known as iSCORE, to track demand, material on order, inventory, work-in-process, finished goods and shipments. On some projects, a proprietary SCORE customer portal provides visibility into project status at all times. Customer data is password-protected. SCORE’s advantages include:

  • The ability to track products through the manufacturing process with order, manufacturing, and shipping  status available 24/7
  • Real-time data that lets customers see changes as they happen
  • Direct email links to the Program Manager
  • All the details of shipped orders with just one click.

The team has also developed internal systems to collect quality data and provide robust traceability and device history recordkeeping that are customizable to customer needs.

“We continue to evaluate both off-the-shelf solutions and internal enhancements. In 2013, we have a number of new tools that we are rolling out, plus we are expanding our existing tools to our recently acquired facilities,” said Tom Rovtar, Vice President of IT.

SigmaTron Direct Ship (SDS) enhances customer fulfillment options. It has been rolled out in Union City, California and Acuna, Mexico and is being actively used by customers. The system can be accessed via an ftp site or via SCORE. Customers upload a .csv file with shipping information and the part numbers they wish shipped and the relevant facility pulls the product and ships it to the designated locations.

Valor NPI services have been enhanced in the Suzhou, China facility with the addition of an NPI/Design for Manufacturing (DFM) Service Center.

Systems for materials traceability are being enhanced in Elk Grove Village (EGV), IL and Acuna, Mexico. The Company’s basic traceability system tracks first in, first out (FIFO). However, facilities building mission critical product, such as medical devices, require component traceability to board serial number plus device history recordkeeping. The traceability enhancements in EGV and Acuna are being driven by the addition of mission critical projects.

iSCORE, the Company’s internal version of the SCORE system, is now up and running in Vietnam.
The Company is also exploring cloud-based storage and backup applications, either as an alternative to or in combination with its internal Sharepoint system.

NPI Process Provides Customers with Production Roadmap

SigmaTron International’s new product introduction (NPI) service isn’t simply focused on rapidly launching projects. Instead, it is designed to build a roadmap that helps eliminate inefficiency and enhance quality over the long term.

For projects requiring this service, the process starts with the receipt of CAD files from the customer, along with a bill of materials (BOM) and approved vendor list (AVL).  SigmaTron’s team uses the Valor part library along with its local part library to do a ‘virtual’ prototyping review to check the layout for design rule violations or component footprints that don’t match their land patterns. If alternate parts are specified, those are checked as well. Customers receive a design for manufacturability (DFM) report with specific recommendations on any issues that should be addressed prior to production start. The report is color-coded to indicate the seriousness of the issue: red indicates a critical process assembly issue, yellow indicates a tooling issue, green indicates minor changes that would be nice to have and blue indicates that no change is required.

Customer BOMs for longer life products also undergo a supplier-supported lifecycle analysis. SigmaTron custom lifecycle analyses look at the lifecycle stage of each component, how many years it has been production, the anticipated number of years to end-of-life, available alternate components and links to datasheets.

Design for testability is also evaluated. The analysis includes a look at test coverage and whether or not the correct soldermask openings are in place. The goal is to create a robust verification process with as much coverage as possible. At the same time, customer preferences for cost of test are also considered. SigmaTron can provide a range of test options which include boundary scan, in-circuit test (ICT), flying probe, automated optical inspection (AOI), automated x-ray inspection (AXI), custom functional test and burn-in.

Other issues that can potentially impact production cost are also evaluated as the process flow is designed.  For example, a product with mixed technology may be analyzed to determine if wave solder or selective solder is the most cost effective way to solder the through-hole parts. This focus on developing the most efficient process flow is particularly beneficial for highly regulated products where there may be limitations on process changes once the product is in production.

Once the process flow is approved, SigmaTron’s use of Valor MSS enables machine programming to be done using the CAD data. This cuts time and ensures accuracy.

Program management and purchasing work with the customer during the NPI process to develop a preliminary BOM and place material orders once the design is locked down. The goal is to create a parallel process where time-consuming areas such as parts procurement are addressed as early as possible. The end result is a fast, yet thorough process that minimizes course correction by careful front-end analysis.

SigmaTron International’s NPI/Prototyping Center’s expertise in supporting medical product miniaturization trends was featured in a cover story in the May 2013 issue of Medical Design Technology. The article can be accessed here.