Reading time ( words)
Johnson: As moisture management becomes more of a factor for field failure analysis—and as manufacturers get proactive about moisture management to meet the customers’ demands, grow their business, and move into the future—it starts to beg the question: How does this fit into Industry 4.0?
Heimsch: It is definitely driving the next phase of our product development. The focus and awareness of Industry 4.0 one could argue came first in Europe, but smart factories and lights-out factories have been topics here in the U.S. forever. The way I put it when we present it is, “How are you defining your goals for achieving Industry 4.0 compliance, or what does it mean to you?” and in the context of our products, making them smarter and smarter is the product development trend. I can’t make it any drier. We are already at less than 0.3% relative humidity.
It’s not just about absolute dryness. In terms of product advancement, it’s a process enhancement, which is why our “More than just dry air” tagline was created some years ago. It’s about utilization. Once you own your first of anything, there are a lot more questions you wish you had asked before you bought it. You don’t know what you don’t know, such as how often you need to access the environment or storage space. Access is one of the key performance functions of this equipment and now traceability. This traceability means a couple of categories of meaning to different people.
I can tell you what conditions this component was in on March 19, 2018, as I’m doing this backtrack on the field event, so that’s one thing we can do: climate data tracking. How many alarm functions are there? There’s more real-time live event traceability, which would provide notifications, which is pretty much the case of any surface-mount assembly line equipment requirement. What’s it doing at a given time? Is it having a problem? Who does it notify? It notifies people automatically. Alarm states become more than just bad/good; instead, there are defined levels and a range of alarm states. There’s a variety of things about tracking the climate itself. Recording it, recording it historically, recording it in real-time, notifying personnel, preventing entry, and knowing when people accessed it.
Then, there’s the management or the traceability of the goods that are being put in and taken out. We have a set of tools for that that are continuing to be advanced and improved and changed all under the overall umbrella term of “smart storage management.” What smart means in terms of one person’s assembly line versus another, or one piece of equipment or another, is not exactly the same, though the end goals arguably are.
Johnson: Is this a space where Super Dry is doing development work?
Heimsch: That’s where we have been and have had these levels of capability. Certainly, in terms of climate data tracking, we’ve had that available for many years, as well as floor life tracking.
Johnson: You’ve had the data all along, waiting for the rest of the industry to catch up with you.
Heimsch: It takes us back to the European Union and the difference in the two markets for a European equipment manufacturing company. Everybody says their products are good and that their company is customer-driven. Product development is considered a good thing, and the customer base, or the home base, is often the most influential. As a European company, the awareness, demands, and requirements that they’ve had drove much of the leading edge of our product development, such as the replacement of traditional baking ovens with a better solution. And that improved solution has logistics and operating costs and process functionality dimensions to it.
Johnson: IPC APEX EXPO is a global show, generally speaking, and you clearly have a lot of dynamics going on.
Heimsch: What’s most global about it today are the exhibitors.
Johnson: True. You have a lot of influence from your European customers, and you’re a European company, but what do you want the North American prospects and customers to know? What’s the message for them?
Heimsch: We want them to know what state-of-the-art is. From a business standpoint, we want them to know that they can buy leading-edge technology without the bleeding edge usually associated with it. We’ve been building automated moisture management warehouses tracking the floor life exposure, resetting the floor life, when it’s in, and when it’s out. For five or six years, we’ve been building these, which is a software-intensive control system. We’ve brought that software out to the low-volume, high-mix manufacturer who doesn’t have 50,000 reels and trays to manage. Maybe they have a few dozen or a few hundred, but that doesn’t mean that those devices don’t need to be managed. There are certain things that are the same, and that’s where we get into the tracking component floor life, keeping real-time tracking of the floor life. How much has expired? What’s the real state of this device?
For a high-mix company that’s not going to go through an entire reel, they’re going to pull that off and put it back on, pull that off, and put it back on, and that reel is going to take six months for them to use up with devices that have—for instance, 168-hour floor life or less. They must do something with them, and they can’t bake them in the traditional high-temperature way more than once because of solderability. We take management tools that have been running these big automated warehouses for five to seven years and bring them to high-mix, low-volume manufacturers. We have been doing that the same way with low-temperature, low-humidity floor life reset for many years, as well as providing climate tracking and that level of traceability for many years.
When it comes to the awareness, “Okay, I need to know the state of these parts. I realize I’ve been cutting corners, and maybe it’s time to get to another level. How do I do that? People have to be involved because I don’t have a big enough overall volume to robotically automate it.” We’ve introduced operator checks. The same way the input conveyor reads a barcode, knows what this card is, what batch it’s from, what its MSL is, how much floor life has been expired, we also know the size so that the system automatically finds the best place to store it. Instead of an operator simply taking this card, looking at a reference, and putting it in a storage area, they barcode it and manually scan it in and out. That’s a significant step, and it provides a process check. Have they taken the right thing out? And where have they put it? Where is it now? We’ve taken on from the full, high-end automation to semi-automation, and both have basically the same final quality objectives. All of those are in the Industry 4.0 realm.
Johnson: Now, a facility manager who thought, “Maybe we’re not big enough or sophisticated enough,” can start to make use of what you’re offering. And they need to do so anyway if they’re moving forward.
Heimsch: The key element of control, in this case, is knowing how much floor life the device still has. We have ways of resetting the clock, resetting the floor life, and turning back the clock so that you know that part is safe and still solderable. There’s stopping the clock and resetting it.
Johnson: Rich, any parting perspective?
Heimsch: We see a continuing increase in the awareness of the significance of moisture management as a dimension of quality, and the pace of doing something about it is picking up. A curve is occurring.
Johnson: You’re starting to see the hockey stick.
Johnson: Rich, thank you for the time. It has been very informative.
Heimsch: Good. It was fun.