Maggie Benson's Journey: Part 2—Making the Announcement

Editor’s note: Indium Corporation’s Ron Lasky continues this series of columns about Maggie Benson, a fictional character, to demonstrate continuous improvement and education in SMT assembly.)

It was now just after Christmas and Millie Johnson was nervous. There were all sorts of rumors about Benson Electronics (BE) being sold to a venture capital firm, and massive layoffs were expected. “Gramps” Benson had called for an all-employee meeting, and everyone at the plant expected the worst. Millie’s son was a senior in high school, and she was so proud that he got a full scholarship to nearby Ivy University. However, there were still many costs not covered by the scholarship and, as a single mom, the loss of her job was just too much to take.

The meeting started, and Gramps Benson began to speak.

“I know there have been a lot of rumors about BE being sold to some venture capital firm…it’s not true,” Benson began. “My granddaughter, Maggie, and her fiancé, John, are taking over so me and the missus can retire.”

There was an audible sigh of relief among the score of workers.

“So, let’s see what Maggie and John, the new owners, have to say,” he continued.

Maggie got up to speak, looking a little more self-assured than she felt.

“I would like to start by saying that there will be no layoffs. As a matter of fact, we will be hiring. Also, as of today, everyone gets a 10% raise,” Maggie said to the group.

The crew erupted in cheers and applause. It was a little hard for Maggie to continue speaking.

“We plan on leasing the building next door and adding a prototype line. We have a commitment from Acme CEO, Mike Madigan, for more than enough business to fill the new line. So, if you know anyone looking for a job, have them contact me,” she continued.

“Before I continue, are there any questions?” Maggie asked.

“Some of us feel like we could use some training,” a young fellow named Josh commented.

“Let me handle that one,” said John. “We plan on implementing several levels of training for all employees. Our expectation is that we will be so busy with orders from customers that the training will require overtime, paid at time-and-a-half.”

This comment elicited more cheers. The meeting went on with comments and questions for 30 minutes before Gramps Benson mentioned that there was pizza, salad, and drinks in the breakroom for all.

While eating the pizza, most of the employees came up to Maggie and John to congratulate them and offer thanks for the good beginning. After a while, the folks went back to work and Maggie and John were left alone to chat.

“Frank Emory, my MBA friend, said that after a quick look at the books, it was obvious that there was one customer that was a standout in poor profit performance,” John began.

“Let me guess: Aqualine Industries,” Maggie stated.

“How did you know?” John asked.

“Because they have insisted that Excelsior solder paste be used,” Maggie replied.

“We evaluated that paste at Acme; it has terrible response-to-pause, but it is the cheapest,” John said. “Frank performed a cost analysis, with ProfitPro™ (Figure 1) and determined that if we used a paste like Maxima 78, we would save tens of thousands of dollars per month, even though Maxima 78 costs $0.03 per gram more.”

BE had a fixed price contract with Aqualine, so time lost to response-to-pause paste issues was absorbed by BE.

“Let’s switch to Maxima as soon as we can,” Maggie suggested.

“I guess now is the time for big changes, huh?” John said with a smile as he eyed Maggie’s engagement ring. Maggie returned the smile and responded, “It most certainly is.”

Excelsior was written into Aqualine’s contract with BE, but the contract was old and the current purchasing manager at Aqualine had no problem with BE switching to Maxima as long as BE paid the solder paste price difference.

On a regular basis, electronic assembly lines have to be “paused” to add components to the placement machines and other necessary steps needed to keep the lines running. During this pause period, some solder pastes stiffen and the first print on the stencil printer must be rejected. The lost time due to this issue seems small, maybe a few minutes in each event; however, it can quickly add up to hours over a week as shown in this example (Figure 1).

Stay tuned for the next episode where Maggie, John, and the team address poor uptime.

Three days earlier…

Both Maggie and her now fiancé, John Isaacson, had always admired Professor Patty Coleman’s engagement ring. It was unusual in that it was an emerald surrounded by two diamonds.

They had taken Patty’s course, “Materials: The Substance of Civilization.”[1] In the course, Professor Coleman mentioned that natural emeralds of good quality are so rare that all of the emerald mines of Colombia produce only a few good quality, 2-carat emeralds per year.

Secretly, John met with Professor Coleman and asked her where he could find a ring like hers. Fortunately, her father-in-law had connections, and he was able to get John the ring above at a very good price. Needless to say, Maggie was thrilled with the ring!


  1. “Materials: The Substance of Civilization,” Dartmouth University.

Image of Maggie Benson by Sophie Morvan.  

This column originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine



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