TJM’s Value Added Services – Product Modifications, Rework, Repair, Reconditioning

While our primary service is printed circuit and electro-mechanical assembly,  I wanted to talk about some of the additional hardware services TJM offers, like product modifications, rework and repair. While US manufacturers have lost high volume work offshore, especially consumer products, occasionally due to logistics and the nature of the work there are opportunities to modify, rework and repair these products once they are back here in the states. To give the best example of this (and to elaborate on our capabilities) I wanted to write about one very opportunistic (and challenging) project we worked on.  We were contacted by a large home audio company to rework MP3 speaker units/players. The documented procedure that was brought to me was 1/2 of an inch thick. The OEM told me right up front they could pay $6.00 each, and by the way, these need to be back on store shelves by the start of the Holiday season. We had approximately 3 months. They also told me they had 68,000 units to modify. I was excited about the opportunity. While products are commonly manufactured in this volume offshore, reworking this volume, in this time frame, and within their budget here in the US was a daunting task. While I was excited to take on a project of this size, I wanted to be confident we could meet their cost and delivery objectives. I asked if they could leave me 5 units to “experiment with” . I started to consider some reflow tooling and the processes we would use. The main task at hand was to replace an incorrect SOIC that was installed. The bigger time/process challenge was that in order to get to the IC, you had to remove a lot of plastic pieces and foam vibration insulating material to get to the IC. I realized there was no way we could perform the rework with the procedure they had written for $6. After looking at it a bit I determined with a custom hot air nozzle, I might be able to get in and reflow and replace the device in one operation, without removing all the other pieces. I had our machinist make me a custom, hook shaped nozzle, mounted the hot air tool stationary, and after the third unit we nailed a solution to reduce the procedure and process time significantly. The next challenge was that each unit came in it’s own, serial numbered store packaging. This meant that we not only had to remove the units from the packaging to rework and test them, we had to make sure that the unit mated back up with its original container at the end of the process cycle. All of this with balanced timing. This was a crash course in lean manufacturing, work cell set up, product movement and the theory of constraints. I thought it was an interesting challenge. Out of the norm for what we typically do. It was exciting. A representative of the company we were doing the work for asked me if I had ever read The Goal, by  Eliyah M. Goldratt. I had not but if it could help get this process optimized and project completed, I was intrigued and I started reading right away. Over the next three weeks we ramped up to 1200 units per day with 12 assembly techs working two 10 hour shifts.  At the end of the first month we had a finely tuned process, and we met the customers objectives.

TJM  offers extensive services in the area of rework, repair, product modifications, hardware salvage and product refurbishment. For a custom designed solution to your hardware requirements, contact us for more information on these services.