At MEC’s Canby, Oregon electronics contract manufacturing facility, teams are using the Company’s newly installed Epicor Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to drive continuous improvement (CI) in their PCB assembly operations.

“Employees can now easily understand a wide range of real-time electronics assembly metrics related to work cell efficiency, timeliness and quality – which the new system provides to us at a much greater level than our previous operating system was able to do. Individual employees are gaining more knowledge related to the work they do for our customers and how they themselves contribute to the production metrics for each EMS outsourcing facility. By heightening their access to this information, it has been driving increased amounts of employee engagement towards improving our electronics manufacturing services’ processes,” said Rick McClain, MEC’s Chief Operating Officer.

All work cells have implemented a newly designed production status board, which displays a 6S checklist for daily cleaning, the rates of on-time delivery, actual/planned efficiency, utilization, defects, and a pareto-style distribution graph of previous defects. MEC has had these types of continual improvement initiatives in place for years, but this new availability of real-time information cuts time and makes it easier to let production workers enhance whichever part of the printed circuit board assembly process they contribute to.

“Under the old system, when a team identified and proposed a new efficiency improvement, it first required a lengthy approval process by engineering personnel before the recommendations would become implemented. This process often took months, and the follow-up analysis of its results also took lengthy periods of time. Now, as long as they have the necessary resources to implement their improvements, teams can do so immediately – after outlining the changes they propose. Also, additional resources can now be easily requested, when necessary, to support more complex recommendations,” said Charles Clark, MEC Northwest’s Manufacturing Manager for EMS outsourcing operations.

For example, SMT PCB assembly operators in two shifts discovered a pair of machines were not balanced to optimally share the overall amount of workload between them. The second machine in the line was waiting on the first machine, which caused inefficiency in electronics assembly production between the two. To balance the machines, the team first identified components which required multiple realignments and adjustments, then re-planned the order parts would be placed during printed circuit board assembly, which corrected the problem. “The team requested that the Materials Department change the packaging type from feeder tubes, to tape and reel for this select group of parts needing additional adjustments. Although the feeder tubes were less expensive and had a shorter lead-time, tape and reel was chosen as the better option after the total cost was analyzed,” Charles added.

The end result was a 12% reduction in labor and machine hours. On top of that, production in this work cell nearly tripled from 135 PCB assemblies per week to 363 PCB assemblies per week. “Management’s responsibility is to provide the necessary tools, and the employees’ responsibility is to optimize the electronics contract manufacturing and box build services we offer to our customers. Our new ERP system is making it easy to drive improvements down to the production level,” Charles concluded.

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