Training In Button Up

Instruments that have passed all phases of our test and calibration processes are stored in a holding queue next to Button Up. A web-based software system called Shop Floor Control (SFC) triggers each unit out of holding for us to work on five to seven days before it’s scheduled shipment date. We monitor SFC throughout the day pulling instruments to start the final stages of production. As a step is completed in SFC an operator then moves it to the next stage. This helps us keep everything organized during the shift and it allows any manager or administrator to remotely view how close individual boxes are to actual shipment. The Button Up process consists of two primary functions, screening the instruments for any kind of defect whether electrical or other, and running a final software test executive that checks for basic functionality as well as setting the customer ordered option mix.

Button Up process flow begins with a mechanical inspection. I generally prefer to start with an instrument’s front panel controls/keypad by depressing each button to make sure none of them are sticking or have any cosmetic defects. If nothing is missing or damaged there I scan over the top of it’s chassis looking for wrecked cables, missing or loose hardware, PC boards that aren’t seated all the way, debris (solder splash or metal fragments), loose ribbon cables, and re-torque every screw or nut with calibrated drivers.

After that it’s time to look over the rear panel. We check for loose BNC connectors, making sure nothing is damaged, and remove any cosmetic defects like scratches. The rear panels are made out of brushed aluminum which in my opinion was a horrible choice of material. It scratches easily so by the time some of these instruments make it here they’re beat up pretty bad. To remove scratches and dings we’ve been given fiberglass pencils that look like a coarse paint brush. It’s a pain in the neck trying to rub deep scratches out of the metal with those damn things.

Scanning over the circuit side of the motherboard for loose hardware or damaged cables is easy. That only takes a minute or two. If nothing is messed up there it’s time to install an inner protective cover and then slide a brand new outer cover over the whole chassis. Bottom and rear feet are installed. Then the unit is ready for a semi-automatic software controlled Electrical Inspection on a custom built test rack. EI is a whole other can of worms… ugh.

If there are no serious problems with a finished unit an operator at Button Up should be able to knock a box out every hour or so. That isn’t the case though. Already in the short time I’ve been over here with B-Rad and Garden Gnome I can tell the majority of instruments are really screwed up. It’s a time consuming headache trying to figure out what the hell went wrong with almost every box. Many of them have multiple issues. If the customer ordered option mix that’s on the calibration certificate doesn’t match up with what the instrument says is loaded in on it’s front panel display screen we have to find out what happened and why. Maybe while we’re running Electrical Inspection tests a rear panel BNC connector is dead. That’s our job to repair and retest. The software code in the instrument might barf on us. Screws may be discovered inside the unit that are loose or missing. These are all daily occurrences here and we have to run each one of these problems down and get them fixed. Sometimes it’s a very frustrating job.

Giving me an edge coming to MI/EI after so many years is the fact that I have done this kind of work before on older products. I’ve spent a fair amount of time helping the assembly area build these units when they are behind schedule. If they need help and I want some overtime I’ll work a few hours a day catching up on their backlog. Occasionally I will come in on a Saturday to help. Building these units from scratch you become familiar with everything in the box quickly. Naturally when a finished instrument shows up in MI/EI and something doesn’t look right to me I catch it almost right away. Saves a bunch of time. That’s the difference between placing knowledgeable people in Button Up versus people who have never worked on these products. Because so many new employees were put into jobs like this with no prior experience our worldwide defect rate skyrocketed to unacceptable levels during the past couple of years.

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~ by factorypeasant on October 1, 2006.

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