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Sometimes you just need a supplier, someone who can supply a product with the right quality at the right price, install it and leave you to it. That’s ideal for your microwave oven or TV at home, or even the coffee machine in the office, but what about your SMT equipment? Not according to contract manufacturer Bitron, who decided very early on that mere suppliers were not the solution for the major investments they were making in technology. They recognized that they needed partners who could develop with them and help them achieve success and leadership in their market.
Partnership means different things to different people, but to Bitron those partners needed to possess some key traits and characteristics.
Plant Manager for the Bitron Mexico Facility, Manuel Mamone, puts it perfectly, saying: “Everyone can be a vendor. Partnership is a different approach. Partnership means that you must grow with your customer, listen to your customer in terms of requirements, specific requirements. Also, in terms of support. Everyone can sell a machine and that's it. It is a different thing to be always available for your customer to bring the support that each customer needs.”
Think Global, Act Local
Bitron in a global player headquartered in Turin, Italy, and with fifteen factories around the world including sites in Italy, Poland, China and now Mexico. For that reason, they need partners with global distribution and support, with the ability to deliver and support solutions where Bitron are now and wherever they might choose to be in the future. Bitron is a very customer focused business and strongly believes that they need to follow their customers. Many of those customers are in the automotive industry and have global footprints. Having established a solid base in Europe and Asia, the Americas was the next natural step for Bitron, and they chose Querétaro in Mexico to locate a brand-new state-of-the-art facility on a green field site.
Part and parcel of Bitron’s global success is the ability to move projects from site to site when the customers’ needs dictate. Using an identical equipment, software and consumables set makes this simple. As Manuel Mamone, puts it “with the global footprint that we have right now, the lines strategy that we have allows us to move all the product that we are currently assembling in one facility to another quickly and painlessly. Usually we only have to move raw material and tooling. The line is already set to be compliant with the product!”
The process of selecting Bitron’s partner for inspection started many years ago in Italy. Part of the selection team, Luca Bianchin, recalls, “We start our evaluation in the Bitron plant in Turin, Italy with three different brands. One of those was Koh Young. We were looking for the best solution for us, initially for the plant in Italy, but eventually for all the plants around the world.” He added, “We evaluated the ease of programming, and analyzed the best result after inspection. Koh Young had the best results. The machine has an exceptionally good first pass yield. We have very little false call and the operator has the time to change parameters in real time and to manage multiple AOI and SPI machines.”
Ease of operation is becoming increasingly important for several reasons. Simplicity drives consistency and having something that is simple to use means the same result can be achieved by every operator, on every shift, in every facility, anywhere in the world. It also means that operators can be utilized better, supporting more lines and even supporting other machines. This is important in a competitive market where new operators are being added regularly, sometimes as industry novices.
Deployed and Ready to Use in a Day
Since choosing Koh Young as their global inspection partner, Bitron have installed machines throughout their footprint in AOI (Automatic Optical Inspection) and in SPI (Solder Paste Inspection). Quick simple installation is essential and Bitron has achieved something surprisingly like a plug-and-play approach. As Luca says, “We usually spend one day. It is very quick, just leveling, plugging and reviewing the calibration. Then we can start to debug the program.”
Where Bitron have Koh Young trained operators, they’re good to go. Where they don’t, training is done with Koh Young. “For AOI, we send technicians from Querétaro to Guadalajara for AOI programming training. Then the skill of these technicians is high,” says Luca. Rapid deployment and training are key elements to the partnership Bitron and Koh Young enjoy. They allow Bitron to be agile and know that each installation will be as successful as the last. When companies are growing and deploying new lines at the speed that Bitron does, peace of mind is essential and delays and variability risk slowing down, or worse derailing, their growth plans.
Global deployment needs global support and Bitron depend on that everywhere they have Koh Young equipment. As Luca says, “We need to have the support locally and we need to solve any issue in the same day. We cannot stop production! Koh Young support starts from an online ticket system, and if we are unable to close the support from our remote services, we have support directly from the Koh Young technician on the telephone and on-site as needed.” This is as true in Mexico as it is anywhere in the world.
Automotive Quality Regardless of Product
Like many vendors, Bitron has a single quality standard. They set the bar at the highest level, delivering what their automotive customers accept for every project, regardless of what that product is, or where it might be used. This means every product is built as if it were mission critical, driving exceptional quality, along with the total transparency, traceability and accountability demanded by the world’s largest and most prestigious car brands. Koh Young thrives here, with numerous automotive customers, and they can deliver the quality of data as well as the connectivity and reporting structure needed in these ‘high reliability’ markets.
Partnerships That Thrive
Being a trusted partner for inspections solutions at Bitron was just that start. “Inspection was step one, the second step was to use the closed loop with SPI. And in the third step is to deploy and evaluate the KSmart features,” states Manual, adding that “right now we are working with Koh Young’s database to collect data for AOI and we are using the data for productivity and rework. We are using the data from the Koh Young inspection systems to improve our process.”
Bitron is investing heavily in Mexico and Manuel believes that there is an opportunity for their partners to grow with them. He sums things up perfectly when he says, "the partner doesn’t always have the answer, but part of the partner's job is growing and bringing the solution that you need. The customization and creativity in delivering a solution is what makes the difference between a supplier and a partner.” He concludes, “For sure, Bitron can recommend Koh Young as a partner, not only as a supplier!”