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Ron Preston, vice president of supply chain at Green Circuits, outlines the company’s specific challenges with high-mix work. While the company excels at turning around boards in just a few days, difficulties in supply chain, materials, and staffing remain ever-present. What is to be done and how is Green Circuits working its way through these issues? The answers might surprise you.
Nolan Johnson: Ron, we’re investigating the challenges of high density, and while we expected pick-and-place to be one of the challenges, we’ve heard a lot about unreliable consistency for component packaging and feeder technology, especially for the smaller components in combination with high-density boards. Do those two challenges line up with what you see?
Ron Preston: We’re dealing with a lot of quick turns and small, short runs. One of our problems is obviously with the supply being a challenge. We’re getting broker buys and going wherever we can to find parts. We don’t have the normal source of supply that you would expect. A year or two ago we would place orders with franchise distributors, and packaging would be very consistent. That’s not so much the case now.
Johnson: When it gets down to the manufacturing floor, you still have to get the boards put together and the components placed in the proper orientation regardless of what they were packaged in or how they’re oriented. In a short run environment, that adds to the challenge because there’s proportionally more setup that goes on. How do you respond to those challenges?
Preston: It’s very reactionary for us. We average about 150 customers a quarter. Now, multiply that times the number of SKUs or assemblies. Furthermore, those same 150 are not quarter over quarter. We have maybe close to 750 customers in our backlog right now. So, when you talk about the complexity and the variability, it changes quite a bit month over month, build over build, day over day. When we’re changing over lines, we must be nimble.
Johnson: As this work ebbs and flows, how do you respond? Is there potential in the current situation to start looking at the processes differently to be nimbler without a spike in labor hours?
Preston: That’s a good question. It does vary. It can be very labor-intensive depending on the type of packaging that we’re getting. One particular customer will literally bring us a bag full of parts, which requires a new level of work.
Johnson: You sort them out piece by piece, don’t you?
Preston: Yes, and you must figure out the polarity. Speaking of that, we recently had a case with a franchise part from a broker. The part was good, but it was marked wrong from the manufacturer. You don’t see that every day. We must pay closer attention and be more cognizant of what we get in and what goes on the green board.
Continue reading this interview in the July 2022 issue of SMT007 Magazine.