Indium Blog

An Interview with Patty


While at SMTAI a few weeks ago, I ran into Patty. She agreed to sit down for an interview. Here it is.

Dr. Ron (DR): Patty, it’s great to see you here at SMTAI. Congratulations on your promotion and many accomplishments over the past year.

Patty: Thanks. BTW, I really enjoyed your talk, “SMT: The Next Twenty-Five Years.” Was there really a song, when the transistor radio came out, called “Transistor Sister?”

DR: Absolutely! “Transistor Sister,” was a part of my youth. It was sung by Freddy Cannon in 1961.

Patty, a number of folks wrote in saying that they liked my blog postings about you, but they felt that the stories couldn’t possibly be true in a modern electronic assembly company.  Can you enlighten us?

Patty: Yes, I saw those comments. All of the blog postings have been real case studies, if anything they are understated. The Professor claims that ten to fifteen years ago, when profit margins were higher and OEMs did much of their own assembly, assembly optimization was viewed as a science and assembly was orchestrated more like a ballet. Process discipline existed. As assembly left the OEMs and profit margins decreased, there was little money for assembly process optimization analysis. Electronic assembly entered the era of “hockey” management. Much of assembly became disorganized and subject to “the tyranny of the urgent.”

DR: So I gather your point would be that right when we need process science the most, we aren’t investing in it?

Patty: Process science would be nice, but I’m convinced if management just had a sense of urgency about line uptime and productivity it would make a world of difference.

DR: “Hockey Management,” “Tyranny of the Urgent?”

Patty: “Hockey Management” is a term developed by Phil Crosby in his book, “Quality is Free.” He tells us that electronic assembly should be orchestrated like a ballet. Everything is planned ahead, we know where the stencil is for the next job, the parts are on the feeder racks or at least the reels are ready, etc. This is “Ballet Management” (everything organized.) An example of “Hockey Management, “ would be a case where the team has lined up the next job, all set up is complete……management calls and tells the team to run another job…..6 hours is lost. In an assembly line, that is a loss of at least $15-75K of product. Profit lost…never to be found again.

DR: “Tyranny of the Urgent?”

Patty: You are so busy doing what is urgent (i.e. switching the job that lost 6 production hours) that you never do what is important (i.e. setting up a system that minimizes such job switching.) BTW, as you can imagine, I learned all of this stuff from The Professor.

DR: He’s an interesting guy. I know him a little, I’ve seen him a few times when I visited Ivy University. Give us your perspective.

Patty: In addition to being super smart, he is very kind. But, I have to admit that traveling with him is a little stressful.

DR: How so?

Patty: Well, in addition to being smart, he is strongly convinced that it is important to be able to perform calculations in your head. He claims that if Fred (Of the "Saving a House, Losing a Mansion" story, DR), could do this and practiced it, he would have known instinctively that the solder paste that “Saved a House” was “Losing a Mansion.” His first thought would have been to estimate what the minutes of downtime, caused by the cheaper paste, cost.

DR: I’m still not sure I understand why traveling with The Professor stressful?

Patty: Oh, yeah I forgot. He wants to make sure I am an “ace” at doing math in my head. He is always giving me problems to calculate when we travel… can be a little stressful when he is disappointed when I don’t know something or can’t perform the calculation.

DR:  Can you give us an example?

Patty: On our last trip he asked me to calculate the amount of times the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia would fill Cayuga Lake. He gave me the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia as about 300 billion barrels and the dimensions of Cayuga Lake as approximately 50 miles long, 2 miles wide and 200 feet deep. You should have seen the look in his eyes when I told him that I didn’t know that there were 40 gallons in a barrel and one cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds. Knowing this and the fact that a gallon of water is 8 pounds, you can calculate that a cubic foot is about 8 gals, hence a barrel is about 5 cubic feet. He thinks that everyone knows things like this that, of course, they don’t really know.  How many square feet per acre, how many acres in a square mile yada, yada, yada? But he means well.

DR: Well we should probably go back to the conference. Can you close by giving us a summary of the key things to do to improve productivity?

Patty: Sure, in order of importance:

1.       Measure line uptime

a.       Set continuous improvement goals for line uptime

b.      Have a plan to reduce downtime, especially for changeovers and line assists

2.       Use the best performing materials (solder paste, underfill, flux, prefroms, etc.) and supplies (stencils, squeegees, etc)

a.       Remember the lessons in “Saving a House, Losing a Mansion), the best performing materials and supplies are always the cheapest.

3.       Have a “Line Down Management Escalation Plan”

a.       Senior management should be alerted if the line is down for an unplanned reason for more than 30 minutes.

4.       Assure that your lines are time balanced.

There are a few more points we can discuss at another time, but these are likely the most important. Oh, and all of Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves would fill Cayuga Lake 2 to 3 times!


Dr. Ron