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Institute of Circuit Technology Hayling Island Evening Seminar, 7 September 2011
Article Type: Exhibitions and conferences From: Circuit World, Volume 38, Issue 1
Exercising creditable assertiveness against a babble of energetic conversation and a backdrop of loud rock music (of which more later), ICT Technical Director Bill Wilkie called the gathering of a hundred or so PCB industry professionals to order and introduced the Institute of Circuit Technology Southern Area Evening Seminar, in Hayling Island on the south coast of England on 7 September 2011.
The packed programme began with a joint presentation on lean manufacturing from Martin Randall and Jason Barnett of Spirit Circuits. Spirit were part-way into a structured lean manufacturing programme, and Randall and Barnett discussed how they had undertaken the value stream mapping process. Value stream mapping provided a clear focus to where lean tools needed to be applied, and ensured that the end process was optimised. The current state became the baseline for improvement and the creation of a future state map.
Randall referred to the eight “Tim Woods is stealing my time” wastes – transport, inventory, movement, waiting and delays, overproduction, over-processing, defects and skills – and how they absorbed time during the working day: time which could be better spent adding value.
Unrolling their actual project sheet, which was about 12 feet long and had been temporarily removed from the Sales Office wall, Randall and Barnett explained how they had approached the sales order logging process and, with the participation and input of the whole sales team, had mapped the current state, captured ideas, identified quick fixes, agreed the future-state vision, developed the action plan and implemented the future-state process. The procedure was currently being applied in Spirit’s engineering department. They emphasised that the primary objective of value stream mapping was not the creation of the map, but the understanding of the flow of information and material, and using that understanding to improve the business.
Le Roux Cilliers of Laminin Solutions encouraged the audience to consider how lean principles could be applied in understanding the flow of information. Business could not exist without information although the importance was not in the information itself, but in the outcomes, and information only became valuable when it was in the hands of someone who knew what to do with it. He suggested asking the questions: “What information is really useful to me?” and “What do I need to do to that information to make it valuable?” He defined five lean principles: specifying the value for the customer – the user of the information, identifying the value stream – the best information for the action, making the information flow through a natural life cycle – capture, process, use, store, dispose, pulling information from the customer – only producing what was needed, and continuously striving for perfection. He estimated that lean information could add between 10 and 20 per cent productivity for the average information worker.
Steve Driver, Spirit Circuits’ charismatic MD, steered proceedings away from the heavily technical and towards the cultural considerations of doing business with the Chinese, based on his many years of personal experience. There was no simple formula: being successful involved following a constant learning curve directed at a constantly moving target. Logic did not necessarily work; the most fundamental issue was the building of relationships – being patient and making friends first before expecting to do business. Driver discussed at length the concept of “Guanxi”, one of the most powerful forces in Chinese culture, which expressed the relationships and obligations built up over time by the reciprocation of social exchanges and favours. If one person had Guanxi with another, he would be quick to act on the other’s behalf and do anything necessary to help him. Guanxi could almost be considered a type of currency that could be saved and spent between the two parties. With humorous anecdotes and illustrations: “Eat the food, but don’t visit the kitchen … ” driver gave a glimpse of some of the realities of the Chinese way of life. He answered the “China – threat or opportunity?” question with some confidence: “You have to learn about China and work with the Chinese to make the threat into an opportunity”.
Back to technical – Glenn Swanton of JD Photo-Tools gave a very practical and informative talk on precision filmwork and tooling, and discussed the effects of environmental control, film processor control and film and phototool storage on dimensional stability. Whatever the investment in equipment, maintenance and calibration, dimensional problems were still a real possibility unless proper consideration was given to the environment in which film was stored, processed and used. Most plotter rooms had temperature control, but not all had humidity control, and humidity variations were not as obvious as temperature changes. For illustration, Swanton showed a current atmospheric humidity map of the UK. Nowhere in the country was it less than 80 per cent, and average maximum atmospheric temperature was about 20°C. Manufacturers’ recommended ideal conditions for film were 21°C and 50 per cent RH, and although the polyester and emulsion components of the film were meticulously formulated to maximise dimensional stability, relatively small environmental changes could have significant effects. For example, the change in dimension when fully acclimatising film from 23°C and 70 per cent RH to 21°C and 50 per cent RH was 102 μm over 400 mm, sufficient to cause serious image misregistration. Swanton advocated frequent measurement and recording of temperature and humidity in the production areas where phototools were created and used in order to identify the controls necessary to establish the right balance of conditions to achieve and maintain precision in phototooling.
“And now for something completely different!” Bill Wilkie introduced the climax of the evening’s programme. “Myths and Riffs of Creative Leadership” was the title of Peter Cook’s combination of presentation and performance. Cook, Managing Director of the Academy of Rock, an innovative management consultancy, drew parallels between music and business and with the help of an impressive array of guitars, effects pedals and backing tracks generated a Rock’n’Roll business model where musical improvisation equated to business creativity, the audience equated to clients, customers and stakeholders, and the musical score equated to the business structure. The leader’s job in either scenario was to create enough structure to move people to action, encourage creativity within the acceptable range of the business culture, and to bring all the elements into harmony. Leadership could be considered as “jamming” – balancing the structure, the creativity and the customer, leveraging other talents along the way, learning from successes and mistakes and using emotional intelligence to tune into others and respond to signals.
“Are there any guitarists in the audience?” he asked. People were a bit reserved until Hubert Dias came forward, picked up a Gibson and played some inspirational blues, which encouraged half a dozen very competent musicians to emerge from the hidden depths of the Institute of Circuit Technology and join in a spontaneous session led by Peter Cook. Before long they had a percussion session, Steve Driver in a pink wig on vocals, and the excellent Jim Francey on tenor saxophone. “Be prepared to improvise a little bit, but keep enough structure to hold your audience”. Some of the audience were a little mystified at what Cook was trying to demonstrate but to the lateral thinkers, his message was clearly illustrated albeit in a somewhat unconventional manner.
Thanking all participants for making the evening a great success, and acknowledging the generous support of Spirit Circuits, Bill Wilkie retired to a safe distance whilst the band got bigger and louder and jammed on late into the evening.
Pete StarkeySeptember 2011