Loose Screws From Overseas

I was convinced after reviewing photos sent by Symtx that the loose hardware had to have come from the RF microdeck. The possibility that extra hardware floating around inside the instrument chassis somehow got past final inspection was unlikely. We would have heard that screw rattling around bouncing off of the frame. Both the Bossman and I talked about this embarrassing situation. He concluded I was probably on the right track, that the item dislodged from the RF deck.

Shitfoot discovered a bunch of microcircuits in the assembly area that had the center retaining screw in their outer covers completely loose. We don’t build or test any of our microcircuit packages in the United States anymore. They’re all shipped from our division in Malaysia. For U.S. Government rated orders and some defense contractors we are required to build and test one hundred percent of those instruments here Stateside. The reality though is quite different. Everything is built and tested overseas, from sub-assemblies like front panels to the microcircuits and PC boards. We don’t even have the sheet metal fabrication done in the U.S. anymore. We place a U.S. serial number on each unit that ships out of this facility and make a rather dubious claim it was “assembled” here, what we really did was just integrate each box and then force it through mostly automated test processes.

My understanding for the past few years has been that U.S. military orders of our products are not supposed to be coming from Malaysia. The loophole is to either send it through Singapore where it is re-serialized as a Singapore built box with a ‘SG’ prefixed number or build all the components in Malaysia and then ship everything into the U.S. where we slap it together and place a ‘US’ serial tag on it. As I mentioned before, when I tried to raise some concerns about this in the past with the DoD Inspector General’s office they had no useful information to provide. Their reaction at the DoD IG was one of indifference, they could care less.

Reacting swiftly, we re-torqued screws on our entire in-house supply of microcircuits. Working our way forward through the assembly department we also opened up every single instrument in WIP discovering more loose screws and torquing them down. When we completed that task, the focus was shifted to root cause of the problem. It didn’t take long to sort that out.

Apparently, Malay assemblers on the microcircuit line were installing outer cover screws and then torquing them down in clockwise order. You know when you go to change a tire on your car the proper procedure is to alternate tightening down the lug nuts rather than wrench them in a clockwise pattern. Malay assemblers placed the center screw in a microcircuit’s clamshell case first, then hit it with a torque driver. Next they put in the rest of the screws torquing them down in order rather than using an alternating pattern. When the electric driver came to a dead stop, Malay operators assumed their work was complete. They failed to go over each screw a second time checking for proper torque. Had assemblers taken a few extra seconds of time to make a simple verification with their torque driver none of those center screws would have shipped off the production floor loose. Is this a training issue? Probably. But, we’ve had other frustrating issues with the Malaysian microcircuit assemblers before, like when they decided to use red fingernail polish to secure microcircuit hardware instead of approved red colored Loc-Tite adhesive.

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~ by factorypeasant on July 25, 2007.

2 Responses to “Loose Screws From Overseas”

  1. teh laff

  2. sup shitfo0t.

    after talking to you about this episode the other day i am even more disgusted. i mean, if we had to create a special fixture for them to put the microcircuits in and then add the screws that’s bad enough. but to have them not use the fixture and cause a second wave of loose hardware failures… that’s plain fucked up. no excuses.

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