An Interview with Mr. Jason Sciberras, Manufacturing Manager at Saline Lectronics

By SMT Today Editor

Our Editor recently caught up with Jason Sciberras, Manufacturing Manager at Saline Lectronicss. Where he was examing a crucial element of Industry 4.0 – smart oven technologies. Specifically highlighting how KIC’s suite of products have transformed Lectronics’ oven reflowing manufacturing process by enhancing quality, employee training and bottom-line profit.

Jason Sciberras, Manufacturing Manager, Saline Lectronics


Q. Since Saline Lectronics works with so many different customer types, I’m sure you face unique challenges and obstacles. Can you tell me a little bit about those?

A. Every customer is looking for a very high-quality product with a very short lead-time. Our biggest challenge is being able to react to the needs of out customers as they come up. Today, the customer may state that they need ten boards. Tomorrow, they’ll need a thousand. So, being able to react to that and give them what they want and when they need it is very, very important.

Q. Absolutely, would you say that this increased emphasis on lead-time really impacts Lectronics’ strategies for success compared to other competitors in this market?

A. Of course; if you want to build a high-quality product quickly, you have to build it right the first time. We spend a lot of time getting processes where they need to be so that we don’t have to perform any rework. Our goal is to get it right the first time, every time because that allows us to get the product to the customer faster, better, cheaper… all those great things.

Q. Getting it right the first time really leads to the next question on smart manufacturing. Smart manufacturing, or the internet of manufacturing (IoM), has really opened up this idea of connected machines and getting things right. Where does Lectronics stand on this?

A. We really are working hard to embrace it in every area in the shop. What it means to me is that it allows the information to get to where it needs to be faster. The sooner we can find out critical information or get it to the right channels, the quicker we can make whatever issue or potential issues, go away. We use smart manufacturing all throughout our shop. As example would be the low-level learning systems with our pick-and-place equipment that talk specifically to our Juki inventory towers – when a part is about to run out, the inventory towers kick out the needed replacement part. This allows us to get the part to the line long before the part ever runs out, so we are ready to go. Additionally, our AOIs talk to our SPIs. So if we have a defect, we can feed that information back to our solder-based analysis, and make sure that we prevent the issue at the printing step before pick-and-place, and before reflow, so that we don’t continue to have the same issue.

Q. Speaking of reflow, why did you specifically decide to invest in KIC’s smart oven technologies?

A. For a couple of reasons – first of all, reflow has always been that kind of dark process. A lot of companies, they will do a profile and then they’ll run boards for some period of time. Maybe it’s a job, maybe it’s a month, whatever the case may be; they’ll assume that the profile is still valid. With the KIC system, we don’t have to assume anymore. We can now tell our customers the reflow process that each board saw by serial number. If we have a customer that asks profile information, we give them a profile of the first board. They say, “That’s fine. What was tenth board like?” With the RPI system, we can do that now. Additionally, when we do have an issue, technicians tend to walk through a series of steps to try to diagnose what’s causing the issue. With smart oven technologies, they can now look at the screen and immediately get instantaneous feedback that says, “I don’t have to worry about the reflow. The reflow is where it needs to be. It’s giving me the results I need.” So, instead we can focus on other concerns. “Is it the printing process? Is it something inside the pick-and-place machine?” Smart oven technologies allow us to get to the root cause faster to finding out that the real issue is.

Q. Have there been any unexpected results that you’ve achieved from these new smart oven technologies?

A. Well, one of the things that smart oven technologies has allowed us to do… In the old days, we used to have some engineers that had to do all of our profiling. It was a little bit more challenging with our previous method to interpret the results that the profile was giving you to whether or not it met needs that you were looking to meet. “Did it get the proper ramp-rates? Did it get you the proper soak-times and all of those great detail? How long was it in reflow?” With these new smart oven technologies, it’s so clear! We now have engineers describe what the reflow process should look like and then, we can have an associate actually prove the board, set it up, run it through the oven with the KIC systems finally verifying Yay or Nay. Did I meet the goals that the engineers set for me?

Q. What other benefits have you seen?

A. Absolutely, it definitely allows us less down-time. I don’t have to wait for an engineer to be available. We can be running multiple reflow profiles at the same time because I don’t only have on guy that does it. Because I’m able to spread that work-load out, I can get to production much quicker.

Q. How do you think this has impacted the technicians actually working on the line?

A. It allows them to focus on the areas that they need to be focused on. Are they getting the quality numbers that they need to honor their lines? Are the lines producing? Do they balance? Are they doing all of the things that they’re supposed to be doing instead of worrying about, “Should I be taping up this board and profiling it?”

Q. Has Saline Lectronics changed operations at all since working on these new smart oven technologies? 

A. Yes. And the number one change would be the one I just described with associates doing the profiles instead of the engineers directly. We also have the ability now to shut down a line faster if for some reason an issue does pop-up with one of the reflow ovens, or if a blower motor goes out, or if some other unknown issue arises. It allos us to shut the loines down right away and not have any additional bad boards get produced. In the old days, it might take us a little bit of time to figure out exactly what the issue was.

Q. What is the next thing you’d like to tackle with Lectronics 4.0?

A. Getting the KIC system and our backbone of Lectroncs 4.0, Cogiscan, talking to each other. Cogiscan is really what transmits all of the information throughout our shop and so, getting the two linked together would give us less lag in putting the information exactly where we want, and need, it to be.

The KIC RPI System recently saved the day on two of our SMT production lines. During first shift, the RPI System sounded an alarm that the system was out of spec on two ovens, and shut them down in order to avoid reflowing assemblies with an out of tolerance profile. Coincidentally, one of our maintenance employees was on the roof performing work during this time and heard an exhaust fan belt snap, which was the exact fan linked to those two ovens. Thankfully, the RPI System shut the line down prior to reflowing any boards that were out of the process window, and quickly alerted our team to an issue in the system.


From the June 2016 issue of SMT Today

Jason Sciberras, Saline Lectronics Interview