Survey results show that cost reduction, again, is the top industry challenge for 50 percent of engineers, designers and moldmakers. This same percentage of respondents identified low cost as the most important quality customers seek when choosing a supplier. Tier 1 suppliers are required to help reduce cost in the supply chain by four to eight percent the first year, and to continue providing process improvements year after year.
Underlying the cost concern is a move toward closer relationships between OEMs and suppliers. The trend toward systems integration has helped drive out cost and improve performance, but the key to long-term growth for this industry revolves around enhancing overall value-chain relationships. All suppliers in the value chain need to be treated as partners to allow the industry to create a competitive advantage and higher value for customers.
This article explores several facets of the ISO 9001 Year 2000 system, including a brief summary of key functions and documentation that drive the system. The first section introduces the system and explores the impact of having true real-time production feedback available on quality moldmaking, molding and plastics material selection.
For example, the interconnection market is growing rapidly and vendors in the supply chain will find that the ISO 9001 standard of choice for quality assurance has a positive effect on the bottom line. Across the circuit board, all interface connectors must perform reliably with zero-defect performance. High-density SMT (surface-mount technology) connectors feature a field proven multi-finger contact-in-pin design, multiple stacking heights and exclusive solder terminals for high process yields.
A&M Engineering Plastics (Largo, FL) is such a vendor to challenge this high technology. Recently, they obtained ISO 9002 third-party registration by NSF International Strategic Registrations, Ltd. Add to that their 30-plus years of experience in ultra-low insertion terminal design and reel-to-reel packaging options, and you have the most innovative, reliable and flexible board-to-board connector solutions in the industry.
OEMs and end users are seeking suppliers to integrate components together to form modules offering a unique and challenging opportunity to promote cost effective, high quality efficient plant performance. In addition, suppliers need to serve the customer with organization quality and performance improvement, as well as business development - all attributes of ISO 9001:2000. Goals that a supplier should strive for include:
- Refining strategies to improve business to meet sales plan and return of sales.
- Growing business with large accounts; expanding current accounts.
- Exploring capabilities raising group profile versus the competition.
- Improving organization management and technical talent.
Traditional quality systems only offer support for pieces of the quality puzzle. ISO 9001 integrates the full spectrum of management systems, from financial and MRP tools through industry specific plant and warehouse management functions. The Plastics ISO 9000 Model is an enterprise management solution for plastics processors. It gives manufacturers the tools necessary to instantly respond to evolving customer needs while maximizing revenue. ISO 9001 benefits include maximum control over plant floor operations and business management requirements - powerful job visibility, dynamic scheduling, forecasting, inventory management, financial management and most important, measuring total customer satisfaction.
ISO 9001:2000 will have an effect not only on manufacturing improvements, but also on generally accepted accounting principles, such as General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Invoicing, Accounts Payable and Purchasing.
Making the Grade
The following list represents procedures, work instructions and forms for an A+ rated ISO 9001 program.
Quoting, Sales and Distribution.
The process begins with quoting. Turn quotes into bills of materials and orders. The sales and distribution procedure allows you to instantly respond to customer inquiries and compare the quoted order to the actual. You can determine what has shipped, what is on hand, in production, or left to produce through Quoting, Order Entry, Inventory Availability, Shipping, Return Authorization and Forecasting.
Scheduling and Planning.
Ensure that all the resources you need to deliver a product are in place, including labor, machinery, packaging and subassemblies. Optimized scheduling meets all scheduled delivery dates by identifying the best time to begin each job and any constraints that may affect delivery.
Moldmakers and processors are to consider the variables associated with plastics production such as tools condition, scrap, runner and sprue, regrind usage and auxiliary equipment. These variables can affect such things as job order, bill of materials, production reporting, capacity planning, job costing, inventory management, calibration management, training and internal audits.
A Study in Success
A&M Engineering Plastics specializes in molding connectors and electrical interconnection products. By streamlining their operation through ISO certification, establishing A&M qualified suppliers, fully training their employees and utilizing flexible CAD platforms such as SolidWorks2000, they have been able to reduce costs and lead times for their customers. This is especially true in the reel-to-reel insert-molding arena, which is a major portion of their business. As an example, they were able to reduce scrap from eight percent to 1.7 percent, increase output from 30,000 to 46,300 pieces per week, and offer a 3.1 percent reduction in product cost to an automotive OEM within the first six weeks of production.
The 52,000 square-foot air-conditioned facility houses 15 vertical molding machines - ranging from 30 to 85 tons - that are capable of completing reel-to-reel applications. The facility also features 28 horizontal molding machines, which range in size from 25 to 220 tons. The machines are part of the new total cost of ownership in high performance connectors for PCMCIA, Compact Flash and Multimedia Cards for a wide variety of applications, such as scanner cards, modems, LAN/Ethernet cards and memory cards.
A&M Engineering Plastics proprietary molding for the appliance, electrical/ electronics, automotive, medical and industrial markets include:
- Close-tolerance using engineered polymers.
- Fully automatic insert molding capabilities.
- Sub-assembly (including sonic welding).
- Tool design and build.
- Subcontracting capabilities (such as lead frames).
The effect of applied technology and quality systems on A&M Engineering Plastics' machine rates went from $35/hr to $20/hr (see Figure 1), and their in-house PPM (parts per million) decreased from 1,600 to 200. This is better than 5 sigma. The company is currently working towards 6 sigma (see Figure 2).
ISO 9002 registration is a quality standard award, and will be added to A&M Engineering Plastics' list of other achievements. AMP, Inc.'s list of awards includes Certified Supplier, Supplier Excellence and Purchasing Exception Performance Award. In addition, Thomas & Betts, Inc. also boasts Award of Excellence and Supplier of the Year awards. A&M Engineering Plastics is a UL listed molder.
A&M Engineering Plastics has been in business since 1977, and has grown to 120 employees and $10 million in annual sales. The company's in-house engineering accomplishments include being the first to develop continuous strip insert molding of Cat-4 and Cat-5 telecommunications connectors, the first to develop the process of insert molding of PCMCIA memory card frame kits, and the first to develop continuous strip insert molding for Cat-5 upper and lower stack jack array.
"We offer our commitment to major OEMs to apply the reduction of scrap, increase in machine efficiencies and utilization to achieve our goal of five percent to eight percent reduction in part costs over the life of the program," says Allen Caton, president of A&M Engineering Plastics.
OEMs are asking suppliers to help them produce cost-effective integrated modules in addition to making high precision individual components, making A&M Engineering Plastics a preferred partner in the supply chain.
Today, there is unprecedented interest in new processes and technology to more effectively purchase production materials, equipment, services and supplies. Your ability to manage your supply chain better than your competitors will be a critical success factor. You must now be more customer focused, which is illustrated by improved management, strategic sourcing and manufacturing processes, which will generate considerable economic improvements for your customers.