“Fred break, Bob break?” Phil asked.


The “Fred and Bob Breaks” saga continues,

“Fred is the tech responsible for the stencil printer and AOI unit, whereas Bob owns component placement through test,” Chuck started. “The job on line 2 was ready to go, but Fred had the wrong stencil. It typically takes him 30 minutes to find it, so we went on a break. Line 2 is our line.” Chuck finished.

At that the group chanted, “Line 2, Line 2.” The camaraderie and spirit of the team was obvious. A good thing, Phil noted.

“But actually we get more breaks because of that crummy new solder paste,” another fellow, Ivan, chimed in, with a slight Russian accent.

At that everyone groaned. There were murmurs of, “that stuff is crap,” etc.

“Why is that?” Phil asked.

“Well, if the line is down for a few minutes for replenishing the components on the placement machines or some other reason, the paste stiffens up and it takes 30 minutes to knead it or replace it with fresh paste and then to get an acceptable print on the AOI. The new paste is $0.015/gram cheaper than the old one, but it seems like we are losing a lot of time with it.” Chuck replied.

Everyone shook their head in agreement.

“But look on the bright side, Juan wouldn’t be getting his degree if it weren’t for Fred and Bob breaks. And he wouldn’t have Sarah as a girl friend,” a chap named Andy added.

Everyone burst into laughter again, and a few whistled. Sarah turned as red as a rose.

At that point Bob burst into the room and said that line 2 was back up and the group went back to work. As Juan left the room, Sarah introduced him to Phil.

Phil then asked, “What is a Bob break?”

“A ‘Bob Break’ occurs when the line goes down because of a lack of components, or a test or oven issue. It seems as though AXI is quite organized, with the white boards being used for preparing for future jobs. However, both Bob and Fred will fill in the white board and then, when it comes time to run the line, the stencil or components are still missing. They don’t seem to get it that this lack of attention to detail kills productivity,” Sarah summarized.

“Why was Juan in the back of the break room by himself?” Phil asked.

Sarah turned red again and answered, “He got is two-year degree four years ago at Tyler Community College. He now goes to Tech taking 2 or 3 classes at a time for his BS in engineering. Mr. Hermann kindly lets him work flexible shifts to accommodate his studies. We get so many Bob and Fred breaks that he does his homework then.” She almost stopped talking and then she blurted out, “OK, OK, we’re dating.” She looked relieved to get it out in the open.

She then went on to explain how Juan was an operator, but Karl Hermann told him he would become an engineer when he finished his courses this term. Phil chuckled inside to be a witness to this little romance.

He then told Sarah that he wanted to go back to the shop floor, but he made an appointment with her to discuss the uptime numbers that she had measured for the past two weeks.

He continued to observe a few Bob and Fred breaks, and that few lines seemed to be running. On the plus side, all lines seemed to be time balanced between the component placement machines, and the evidence of good Lean Sigma practices like 5S and the 7 Mudas was impressive.

As 4PM approached, Phil headed to his meeting with Sarah. She opened an Excel spreadsheet on her laptop and Phil was shocked to see an uptime of 38.1% prominently displayed. He then looked at the entries and saw that many of the 1s (a “1” indicating that a line was up when Sarah checked it) where colored, some blue, some red, and a few green. All of these colored 1s also had an Excel comment flag. Phil could see it coming.

“Why the colored 1s?” he asked Sarah.

“Fred and Bob came to me all during the days I was recording the data. I would score a “0” (the line is not running) and they would say that I should score a “1” because they couldn’t find the stencil or components, etc, etc. When they told me to do this, I would score a 1, but if it was a Fred break, it was a blue 1, a Bob break, a red 1 and something else would a green 1. Fred and Bob argued that many times when I scored a 0, that it wasn’t normal it was just a fluke. So they insisted I put a 1 in, I did but I color coded them. A fluke, right, look at the colored 1s, everything is a fluke then!” she finished in disgust.

Sarah was skilled in Excel however, and she wrote a formula in one cell that would only count the black (non-colored) 1s. This cell showed that the uptime was only 9.9%.

Phil quit for the day and went to his hotel. The next day he planned to observe the line some more and develop his suggested action plan.

On the third day he gave a summary to Karl Hermann, Fred, Bob, some of the managers, and most of the engineers. Phil started off by discussing uptime. Fred and Bob had been to some SMTA and IPC meetings and knew that 30-35% uptime was quite good, so they were anticipating praise to be heaped on them by Phil.

Phil stared, “The uptime on the four lines that AXI has is…….”

Fred and Bob were waiting for the good news of 38.1%.

Will Fred and Bob be happy with the uptime numbers?  Stay tuned.


Dr. Ron

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About Dr. Ron

Materials expert Dr. Ron Lasky is a professor of engineering and senior lecturer at Dartmouth, and senior technologist at Indium Corp. He has a Ph.D. in materials science from Cornell University, and is a prolific author and lecturer, having published more than 40 papers. He received the SMTA Founders Award in 2003.