The world we live in keeps getting smaller and smaller!  When it comes to Lean practices in manufacturing, typically the question that we are faced with is can Lean work for the business of manufacturing microelectronics?

In the past, most students of Lean have focused the tools and knowledge taken from Lean practices the automotive or industrial workplace. Then, the Lean movement went into corporate offices looking at how companies process paperwork, for example purchasing, order entry, sales, and work order flows.  In our case at Valtronic, a contract manufacturer of microelectronics, seldom do you hear of case studies or books written about Lean in the practice of miniaturization. The lessons we’ve taken from Lean have proved and showed that in affect we can successfully utilize Lean tools in every aspect of our life, even in this ever shrinking world.

Now, when I say small, I mean small, really small, we are “experts of miniaturization” – that should mean something, right? The smallest parts we place are the size of a grain of black pepper.  Most of the work is completed by highly sophisticated machines like our JUKI line, but some of the work is completed manually by trained technicians placing components under a microscope.  This is not exactly an automotive plant were cars move along a conveyor line to each step of the building process.  However, the tools of Lean still apply to our manufacturing plant. For example; 5S, setup reduction, kanban, work cell layout, visual management, and process flow.

The knowledge and skill sets we’ve taken at Valtronic from Lean has given us the ability to limit batch sizes around the optimization of the machines or the next hand assembly operation.  Just about every job on our factory floor (and front office) can be broken down into the smallest function and facilitated to pass one step at a time.  In the world of microelectronics the next step is a microscope and not an air operated torque wrench.  Work is work!  The biggest challenge is how to move materials efficiently, so break it down into equal segment’s that are logical with the appropriate tooling in place and you will begin to see results in increased quality, time, cost reduction and more.

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