Union City Named Thoratec Platinum Supplier
For the second year in a row, SigmaTron has been honored as a Platinum Supplier to Thoratec, the world leader in mechanical circulatory support systems for humans. Their product is the Heart Mate. This is a system that initially was used to keep patients alive while waiting for a heart transplant. It has been so successful that sometimes the trans- plant does not take place and they live with the system. The award was based on on-time delivery and quality performance.
“Our Union City team has done an outstanding job supporting this mission critical customer. Winning the award in consecutive years is a testament to their ability to consistently deliver superior quality and responsiveness,” said Gary Fairhead, SigmaTron’s President and CEO.
Medical Customer Benefits From Two Facility Strategy
One of the benefits of SigmaTron International’s global network of facilities is the ability for customers to have manufacturing in close proximity to their facilities, without having to manage multiple contractors.
A medical instrumentation manufacturer that started at SigmaTron’s Elk Grove Village, IL facility is one of the latest to take advantage of this option. EGV currently supports 30 different product types and through its Elgin, IL engineering center is able to provide design for manufacturability/testability (DFM/DFT) analysis and product lifecycle management
(PLM) analysis as new products are devel- oped. Project complexity has increased from printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) level to sub-assemblies as value streams were ana- lyzed and the cost benefits of outsourcing at the sub-assembly level became apparent.
EGV’s ability to support the customer’s Mid- west headquarters opened the door to sup- porting product development efforts at its West Coast operations. In this case, the customer was trying to decide between the convenience of manufacturing a new product in California and the cost advantages of going to Mexico. SigmaTron’s Tijuana facility was able to provide a solution that addressed both of those requirements.
Tijuana built the prototypes and supported several iterations of pre-production runs on the new product. Volume production is scheduled to start after the final pre-production run is approved. The new project is comprised of seven PCBAs.
Both EGV and the Tijuana facility are certified to ISO 13485 and utilize the same systems for production status monitoring and device history data collection.
“Our Tijuana team delivered the same quality of support this customer had come to expect at EGV, in spite of an aggressive product development timeline. The custom- er didn’t have to choose between convenience and cost. We have identical systems and certifications enabling the customer to seamlessly work with both our facilities as needed,” said Jim Barnes, EGV’s Vice President of Operations.
Acuna Facility Focuses On Continuous Improvement
SigmaTron International’s facility in Acuna, Mexico predominately serves a mix of major appliance, consumer and industrial customers. The facility is committed to continuous improvement.
“One of the perceptions of Mexico is that most production is high volume and only mature products should be built here. The reality is we average over 300 pilot production ef- forts per year and on average a third of them require a Product Part Approval Process (PPAP) process. This year over half of our pilot production projects required a PPAP. The end result is our team needs to be very focused on ensuring fast product changeovers and superior quality,” said Dan Camp, Vice President, Acuna Operations.
While PPAPs are most commonly used in the automotive industry, the process is also used in consumer products where a robust process and product validation effort is required at the start of every new project. In addition, to having an engineering team capable of sup- porting the PPAP documentation process, the team in Acuna interfaces with engineering operations for additional support in providing Design for Manufacturability (DFM) recommendations during New Product Introduction (NPI) activities.
“The ability to have engineering bench strength not only in our own facility but also available ‘on demand’ in our global network of facilities is an asset. SigmaTron’s strong focus on standardized systems through-out our facilities makes this type of activity very seamless,” Dan said.
One of the areas Acuna’s team has focused on is Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED). The goal of SMED process is to reduce the amount of time required to change over a line from one product to another. In the SMT area, changeover time was reduced from 14.5 minutes with 4 percent idle time using two operators to 9.5 minutes with 1 percent idle time. The end result was a 50 percent improvement in labor utilization and a 35 percent in changeover time.
Similar focus in manual assembly areas cut labor requirements by an average 20 percent in product categories and 12 percent on a third. Idle time decreased to single digit percentages and productivity is in the low-to-mid 90 percent range on all product categories.
In improving manual assembly there were several areas of focus. One improvement was moving operators from a sitting position to a standing position. Standing production lines reduced repetitive motion injury risk and eliminated chairs which could scratch the surface of floors coated with ESD protection. This move also eliminated the potential ESD risks that occur if a sitting operator in ESD heel straps forgets to plug in an ESD wrist strap and takes a heel off the floor.
Another improvement was a move to physical samples vs. paper work instructions on higher volume projects. Acuna’s production staff has always had a “build quality in” focus where production operators inspected the work performed at the previous station in addition to performing their own production tasks. The switch from paper work instructions to a physical sample marked with colored labels on inspection points and assembly points for each station, increased operator speed and accuracy.
Our products are increasing in complexity. This drives a need for higher levels of automation and a highly efficient workforce on products that continue to utilize manual processes. This focus on working smarter gives our customers the best of both worlds: superior quality and competitive cost. And, our border location represents one of fastest crossing points on the U.S./Mexican border, enabling us to provide responsive support over the entire product lifecycle,” Dan added.
EGV Upgrades SMT Equipment and Processes to Support Growth
SigmaTron’s Elk Grove Village facility recently upgraded its SMT production area by purchasing three new chip shooters and reconfiguring its lines for higher throughput. Now production lines utilize two high speed SMT chip shooters followed by a machine capable of placing fine pitch and/or larger parts.
“Our business volumes are increasing and it made sense to add the additional production capacity. Dereck Moore, our Director of Operations, has been leading an effort to improve throughput throughout our operations so that as our business evolves we are creating model that retains responsiveness while supporting higher production levels,” said Jim Barnes, EGV’s Vice President, Operations.
As part of that effort, the facility has enhanced its capacity planning model to sup- port faster “what if” analysis and optimum line balancing. The model now supports the ability to change variables such as maintenance, holiday schedules or demand variations and adjust schedules as needed.
Focus has also been placed on improving changeover time. Additional feeders have been purchased for each line, enabling the next job on the line to be loaded as soon as the prior job clears the machine. This practice eliminates a step in the kitting process and is approximately 40 percent faster than a process utilizing only a single set of feeders.
Older projects are being analyzed for potential improvements through greater use of automation, such as use of selective solder or wave solder, on projects whose volumes have grown to a level where the tooling cost and/or non-recurring engineering (NRE) expense would be cost effective.
The combination of additional equipment, enhanced capacity planning tools and earlier investments in selective soldering equipment are making it easier for the facility to support both higher volumes and a broad range of customer requirements.
“We aren’t simply growing our business. We are continually looking at ways to grow better in the way we produce those products. Many of our customers choose to manufacture here because of proximity to their facilities and the convenience of that proximity to their engineering teams. We want to keep this ‘Made in USA’ convenient solution both cost competitive and responsive,” Jim added.