Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Facilities 101 - Workshop Offers Help In Solving Problems with Production Materials

Many engineers and managers don’t know about the sophisticated resources available nearby that can help solve problems related to almost every type of material used in production. Getting the word out about these resources is the goal of a one-day workshop on April 5 sponsored by the Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR).

The workshop, called Facilities 101, is offered by the Industrial Partnerships team at CCMR, which facilitates relationships between industry and over 110 Cornell faculty in 12 different departments. These relationships include joint research projects, problem-solving semester long projects with matching funds from NYSTAR, use of the CCMR facilities, and other programs – some of which are specifically designed to support NY State startups and small businesses.

The target audience is technical directors, product managers, engineers, technicians, scientists, and consultants. The agenda includes an indepth introduction to the laboratories, equipment, and staff managed by CCMR and made available to industry. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet the technical staff managing these facilities, take tours of the labs, see demonstrations of the equipment, and discuss your particular needs one-on-one with an expert.

Date: Thursday April 5th
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Location: Cornell University Cost: $55.00

Register at
For more information, contact John Sinnott at 607-255-7070 or
Learn about CCMR facilities

Associates’ Corner - Standard Printed Circuits, Inc.

(Each AM&T monthly newsletter highlights one or more of our Associate Member companies)

Standard Printed Circuits, Inc. is an independently owned manufacturer of printed circuit boards located in Sherburne, NY.

Standard Printed Circuits, Inc. was originally a spin off from Commack Precision Products Corporation based on Long Island. During the 1960s, Commack Precision manufactured primary electronic parts for Defense Industry giants such as Sperry, Hartman Systems, Grumman, Teledyne and Sanders. During this time, the printed circuit board was becoming an increasingly popular device for the interconnection of electronic components and therefore, Commack Precision quickly began to extend its manufacturing capabilities to include this emerging technology. By 1967, Standard Printed Circuits, Inc. was launched and 3 years later relocated from Long Island to the town of Sherburne from where the developing high technology markets of the northeastern U.S.

Since it’s inception, Standard Printed Circuits, Inc. has continued to grow and currently serves over 150 customers nationwide. During the last 35 years of operation, SPC has provided PCBs to such well known companies/research facilities as IBM, General Electric, Emerson Electric, Savin, Hercules Aerospace, BF Goodrich Aerospace, Magnavox, Thomson Consumer Products, Teledyne Avionics, Bendix, Amphenol, Welch-Allyn Medical, SCI, Cornell University (Nuclear Sciences), and (Arecibo Observatory), University of Missouri, Rutgers University and many smaller OEMS, contract manufacturers, and design houses. Continued growth is the primary focus of corporate management’s current efforts.

FR4 1 to10 layer PCBs constitutes 70% of the product manufactured by Standard with the remaining 30% allocated for processing commercial RF/ Microwave application PCBs. Since 1988, Standard Printed Circuits, Inc. has been building on its experience and continues to service the growing demand for commercial microwave products.

Customers include: Lockheed-Martin, Thomcast Wireless, Agere Systems, Ericsson, Comsat RSI-Anghel Laboratories, Broad Band Networks, Anaren Microwave, and Millennium Antenna Corp.

For more information call 800-555-0980 or visit

What an Innovative Culture Looks Like

An innovative corporate culture is one that supports the creation of new ideas and the implementation of those ideas. Leaders need to help employees see innovation in the right light. The most innovative companies do the following:
  1. See innovation as a competency: Innovation is a skill, not a gift. It can be learned by anyone and applied systematically. Innovative companies treat it as just another core skill by:
  • Creating a well-defined set of innovation competencies and embedding them into every employee’s competency model along with other required behaviors such as ethics and leadership
  • Conducting regular training courses in creativity methods and innovation management
  • Staffing internal innovation experts and coaches who work with teams to help guide their innovation efforts and facilitate their success
  • Not rewarding employees for innovation, but rather expecting it as part of the value system
  1. See innovation as a competitive weapon: Innovative companies use innovation to differentiate themselves by:
  • Conducting regular idea generation workshops within business units
  • Deploying innovation methods within planning and strategy initiatives
  • Innovating from the core competencies of the firm as the starting point
  • Using innovation methods as part of mergers and acquisitions to explore and analyze growth potential of the target
  1. See innovation as a process: Innovative companies don’t treat innovation as a special, unique activity. They see it instead as an ongoing "stream of effort" along with quality, leadership, productivity, and other imperatives. They do this by:
  • Developing an idea management and tracking capability
  • Conducting "clearinghouse" workshops to leverage innovation across business units
  • Sourcing innovation consultants that are well matched to the specifi c task (eg: ideation)
  • Linking innovation to other key processes including financial, commercial, and technical
  1. See innovation as both systematic and opportunistic: The most innovative companies fl ex between different styles of creating opportunity by:
  • Sponsoring internal innovation "subversives" who work around the system to champion new ideas and drive them through execution
  • Being "open" to ideas from outside sources to make nonobvious connections to internal projects
  • Experimenting with new concepts - "making a little, selling a little, and learning a lot" - like P&G
  • Collaborating with like-minded companies in non-competing industries to source new ideas and trends
~ "Innovation in Practice"

ISO 9001 and AS9100 Implementation: Getting Started on the Path to Certification

Creating a Quality Management System (QMS) that fulfills the requirements of the ISO 9001:2008 Standard or AS9100 Standard can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. Creating a QMS should be done like all projects. Priorities need to be established, responsibilities determined, and milestones set. What priorities? What are the key milestones? How do I get started?

AM&T has helped many small and medium sized businesses move from having no real QMS to becoming ISO 9001 or AS9100 certified. It is a process that usually takes about twelve months, but it can be done in less for very small companies. A project typically includes establishing all the required elements of the ISO/AS Quality Management System and assisting in getting it off ground functionally.

One way to establish priorities and milestones is to use the organization of the ISO 9001:2008 & AS9100 QMS Requirements itself as a proforma project plan.

The ultimate goal, however, of a QMS, is continual improvement. So, to gain the benefits of improvement, an organization has to be committed to maintaining and modifying the system over time to best suit its needs. Creating the QMS is just the beginning.

Creating an Implementation Plan

The best approach is to treat your ISO implementation as a project, starting with a project plan that estimates the resources needed (people, materials, expertise) and the project timeline from beginning until the certification audit. We might begin with a gap assessment, which provides input into the project plan. A gap assessment is just as the name describes – comparing current systems and documentation to what is needed for a system that is ISO 9001 or AS9100 compliant. If you don’t feel comfortable with the QMS Standard, then perhaps the first step is ISO training for you and members of the project team.

The project team includes key members from the quality department along with representatives from other departments like Sales & Marketing, Design & Development, Human Resources, Production, and Accounting. The members provide valuable input to the QMS development project about systems and processes, they divide up tasks and actions items, and assist in distributing important information throughout the organization. But remember, involving a team can also take more time as you wait for meetings in order to make decisions and followup on actions. So be sure to build such delays into your project plan.

Now that a plan is in place, the hard work begins.

Do You Have A Lean Competitive Advantage?

Lean thinking has been popularized by companies like Toyota, Apple, Dell, and many others. But will practicing lean thinking produce a competitive advantage?

A lean competitive advantage comes from mastering lean. A few 5S Kaizen projects will not produce a competitive advantage. Lean mastery requires a dedication and discipline just like a professional sport, the Olympics, or a concert virtuoso. Most people do not want to put in the hard work that it takes to join the 1% club. Today the kids in America do not want to go into science and engineering because it is too hard. It is easier to move manufacturing to China than to implement lean mastery.

Lean is a path to world class status. It should be sold to your organization based on being the best and not based on saving some money on a project basis. People that are focused on being the best will do whatever it takes and will receive the rewards that being the best delivers. People focused on money are involved in the politics of money, which is not what lean is about. Lean can save a few dollars, which is what the surveys show. But, saving a few dollars is not lean mastery. Dominating your industry is lean mastery and that is worth more than a few dollars.

Swift Glass Achieves ISO 9001:2008 Certification

Swift Glass in Elmira Heights recently announced that the company has undergone a 14-month quality improvement program that resulted in achieving ISO:9001-2008 certification. This means that a third-party auditing firm has certified Swift Glass as conforming to internationally accepted quality management standards.

Swift Glass is a family-owned business that employs 90 people to make high quality fabricated glass parts, primarily for the lighting, chemical processing, and diagnostic imaging industries. For example, their parts are used in the medical field in PET and CAT imaging devices, and in high-resolution mammography.

In August 2010 Swift Glass CEO, Dan Burke, asked AM&T for assistance in determining what would be required to achieve ISO certification. AM&T staff briefed the company’s management team, reviewed the company’s quality manual, and conducted a gap analysis that compared the existing practices at Swift Glass with what would be required to gain ISO certification.

Working closely with Gary Palmowski, Plant Manager, and the management team, AM&T led the creation of a new quality manual, an expanded collection of work instructions, and a set of procedures designed to insure continuous quality monitoring and improvement. This process eventually involved all employees, both through briefings and through their direct involvement in creating the new processes and documentation.

Once the new system was implemented in daily production, AM&T helped the company develop an audit process to insure that everyone was actually following the updated quality procedures. After the company operated for several months under the new system, an independent "registrar" organization visited the company to perform an extensive compliance assessment. Based on this third-party assessment, Swift Glass was deemed compliant with the ISO:9001-2008 requirements and certified to the standard.

Michael Meador from AM&T recently had a conversation with Burke and Palmowski about their experience with the ISO certification process:

MM: "Why did you think it was important for Swift Glass to become ISO certified?"

GP: "Our existing quality management system was actually pretty good but it needed improvement and better consistency.

DB: "Our customers required that we at least comply with ISO standards and the FDA has been pushing for medical equipment suppliers to be ISO certified, so we decided that the best choice for the business was to commit to the entire process. Achieving ISO certification has caused our customers to have a lot more confidence and assurance that we can consistently satisfy their needs. Many of our customers do their own audits of our quality control processes, and those outcomes are much better now – almost a difference of night vs. day."

MM: "That’s certainly a strong customer satisfaction story, but what about the cost to the company?"

GP: "We no longer accept the old model that we’re working with a fragile material and have to tolerate lots of scrap due to chips and scratches. Improving the quality control system has enabled us to measure the wasted labor and materials that go into scrap, and to create a feedback loop so that people on the shop floor have the information and motivation to reduce it. Those savings go straight to the bottom line."

MM: "Following new procedures or doing anything differently is like any change – people often resist it. What was your experience with the larger employee group?"

GP: "We have to give a "hats off" to Lloyd Johnson and AM&T, especially in how Lloyd worked with everyone here. All through the 14-months, Lloyd was patient and practical, and presented everything in a positive light to both management and employees. The employees were all involved in learning about the program and helping set the objectives, and that helped them realize that the quality system would help them and the company grow."

DB: "Our customers require defect-free products. We have always followed the policy that the customer is king, so they knew that we would do whatever was necessary to make them happy. All our people come to work wanting to do a good job, and one result of working with AM&T is that employees now understand better what is necessary and expected to achieve high quality standards."

AM&T has assisted companies of all sizes to gain internationally recognized certification of their quality system, to the ISO:9001 standard as well as others such as AS9100. To explore whether or not this type of certification would help your business to retain customers, find new ones, and control costs, contact Jim Cunningham, 607-725-1225.