Happy Exhibitors

ITW’s purchase and subsequent restructuring of Kester and Speedline sent many people, including a few at the respective companies, into a tizzy. While ITW is traditionally tight-lipped when it comes to its operations, in separate conversations, representatives from both companies gave insight into what’s happening.

Kester has been split into three business units, each its own profit/loss center. Each is product based; pastes, materials and chemicals (bar, wire, cleaners, preforms, etc.), and semiconductor materials. There have been no changes to the existing distributor relationships, and the manufacturer reps and inside customer service remains the same.

Both companies have engaged in so-called Kaizen blitzes, in which the ways of doing things are intensely scrutinized by a interdisciplinary team. In one such instance, Speedline reportedly cut the time it takes to build a printer by half, in large part by severing the distance an employee travels. Similarly, Kester streamlined the process to make paste flux, cutting the number of steps from 800 to under 300, and expects it will fall further, possibly under 150, as employees gain experience with the “leaning” process.

As such, each company has begun changes to its inventory procedures. Speedline, for example, now builds to stock, instead of to order, with the idea that it can deliver a new system to a customer in a few days instead of several weeks.

Almost every company I’ve spoken with over the past three days has indicated their pleasure with the show. Traffic has been very good, and the question on many lips is why Productronica’s biennial model has not been adopted in other regions.

Cobar is stirring up much interest due to its merger with Balver-Zinn earlier this year. The company, now notably better capitalized, has the potential to become a much larger player on the world soldering materials stage. Among the recent additions is Dr. D Vu, the new head of R&D and an expert in polymers. Balver’s Josef Jost revealed that while solder is one element of the company’s strategy going forward, “other technical products are in the future.”

Over at Indium, the latest solder developments include Indium8.9 lead-free solder paste, a SAC 305 style paste that marks a new platform in the company’s product portfolio. It’s aimed at automotive and portable devices products, for which its wide process window permits it to handle long, hot profiles.

High-Tech Conversions, famous for bringing a brand name to stencil cleaners, has rolled out the Aquavator, which adds a water-activated cleaning agent within the fabric. The cleaner, which the company declined to disclose, is non-solvent and non-flammable (no alcohol), and is patent-pending.

RMD claims interest in its LeadTracer handheld XRFs is exceptionally high among Europeans at the show, which the company owes to attendees having “clear views of what they want to do” when it comes to identifying counterfeit or contaminated components.

John Hartner of DEK has received a promotion to executive vice president of Dover Technologies. Now, in addition to DEK, Ovation and Grid-Lok, OK International and Everett-Charles Technologies are under his watch. DEK under Hartner has performed exceedingly well in this observer’s eyes, and the promotion is well-deserved.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (pcea.net). He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow