Here at Robotas Central, we’re readying ourselves for the delights of Las Vegas! No, this is not a Hangover-style stag do or raucous gambling weekend for the boys. Instead, it’s the venue city for this year’s APEX exhibition and conference. All very civilised!
IPC’s APEX Expo runs from 25th to 27th March at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Convention Center. It is among the industry’s premier events, featuring advanced and emerging technologies in printed board design and manufacturing, electronics assembly, test and printed electronics. As you can see, it’s right up Robotas’ street. It also hosts one of the largest technical conferences in the world.
Vertu is the pioneer and leading manufacturer of luxury mobile phones. Created to complement the discerning customer’s lifestyle, Vertu offers tailored, luxury services in combination with the finest in design, engineering and manufacture. With three distinct collections – Signature, Ascent and Constellation – Vertu uses innovations in manufacturing technology with traditional craftsmanship, assembling each phone by hand at the company’s headquarters in Church Crookham, England.
Vertu required a process whereby each craftsman could accurately and efficiently build each handset, accessing the assembly instructions unique to each particular model. The craftsmen needed to be presented with exactly the right part in the right build sequence. Vertu also wanted to find a way to significantly reduce build time to meet the time demands of its customers, without compromising the quality for which the brand is renowned. Finding a solution to these challenges was key to its business. Because SIGMA has been specifically designed to assist the hand assembly of products which absolutely must be right first time, SIGMA was the perfect solution to Vertu’s challenge!
In 2006 Robotas installed the first SIGMA systems, each with touch screen monitors and barcode readers to quickly load the correct assembly program for each unique work order. Vertu has been so pleased with the benefits which the system offers their business, they now have 58 systems in operation and have plans for the installation of more systems in the future. The system also encourages operator feedback which can be verified and used to further enhance the process, thus ensuring best practice at all times.
“SIGMA ensures that all of the benefits of hand assembly are matched with unparalleled accuracy. It is the perfect synergy of technology with the excellence delivered by our craftsmen.”
Ben Newbrook – Senior Industrial Engineer
For our through-hole work, we originally had carousels but with no visual aids for our operators. We therefore had to rely on our experienced operators’ expertise and memories. Everything was a manual process, including the selection of the program for build. There were many mistakes leading to incorrectly built PCBs. Our training was based on product knowledge, which meant it could take up to three months before an operator could work effectively without supervision.
In 2006 we installed six Mascot stations which were retrofitted to Nutek conveyors to make a complete flow line system. Now the assembly programs are selected using scanners. We simply scan the product code on the job sheet and the relevant visual work instructions appear for that particular PCB, while the correct parts are offered to the operators. As soon as we switched over to using the Mascots, our errors plummeted. In fact, it reduced the incorrect builds to zero. Yes, zero, in one easy move!
Also, thanks to the on-screen visual aids and the barcode scanner implementation, our training is now based on the process, not the product, and as a consequence training time for new operators has been reduced to just two weeks.
We have been using Mascots for many years now and find them very reliable. Right from the outset, Robotas gave us great support in installing and commissioning the equipment and also explaining the Mascot programming operation. Even now, we know that if we have a problem we can simply phone up and the team will pull out all the stops to help resolve the issue.
Process Technician / Supply and Development Co-ordinator
“Prior to having our Mascot stations installed, we built all our through-hole assemblies following paper based work instructions with the component parts stored in different pots on the desk. Occasionally we’d use flip jigs, if that was possible. As soon as we switched to building our PCBs on Mascot Pushtracks our build time halved. Immediately there were fewer mistakes and the boards looked much neater.
We also find the Mascots handy when new staff members join the assembly team, or when we have people on work experience with no prior knowledge or experience in electronics. Thanks to Mascot, they can help out in a genuinely meaningful and productive way by getting involved in building PCBs with little or no training. All they do is simply follow the on screen instructions and the overhead laser. The correct parts are delivered to them at every step, so they can’t get the build wrong.”
Sophie Westrop. Internal PCB Production and Test Supervisor
Celestica are using Sigma systems to build complex products for the aerospace industry at their Toronto facility in Canada. They now have 3x Sigma systems.
” Before our Sigma purchases, we used a form of kitting process for box build where an individual would collect all the parts (screws, nuts, other hardware and electronic components) and place them in bags or tote boxes. It was a lengthy process and susceptible to errors. Overall it had a negative impact on our quality and therefore delivery to our customer.
Then we acquired our first Sigma system. Suddenly there was no need for kitting in the traditional sense since all the parts needed for assembly were located at the point of use via the motorised carousels. The Sigma system with its graphical and video instructions eliminated issues over wrong parts and quantities being used and enabled our operators to build more efficiently without defects.
We especially like the Low Bin Monitor feature on Sigma, which alerts the materials handler to replenish the bins. So no more production downtime! We quickly recognised the potential and purchased two more Sigma stations – one of which has four carousels holding 200 parts for our more complex assemblies. The Robotas support team is always efficient, flexible and very receptive to new ideas we sometimes have to help Sigma evolve to meet our new needs. I rate them eleven out of ten! “
Engineering Technical Support Analyst.
Honeywell workcell. Celestica HQ, Toronto.