Worthington is in the process of upgrading its pick and place machinery. In order to do that requires a long process of evaluating potential new suppliers. Chris walks us through what that journey is like, why a contract manufacturer may need to upgrade its equipment, his recent in-person visit to one of the suppliers they've narrowed down to, and more!
[00:00:00] Chris: We'll just crack on. We'll do it live.
[00:00:06] Melissa: I'll keep that in there and see who gets the reference.
[00:00:11] Chris: Oh, Lordy, Lordy. All right. Beautiful. I'm excited. Here we go.
[00:00:17] Welcome to the Pick, Place, Podcast, a show where we talk about electronics, manufacturing and everything related to getting a circuit board into the world.
[00:00:34] This is Chris Denney with Worthington.
[00:00:36] Melissa: And this is Melissa Hough with CircuitHub
[00:00:39] Chris: Welcome back, Melissa.
[00:00:40] Melissa: welcome back, Chris.
[00:00:42] Chris: I like to mix up my my, my intro the
[00:00:45] Melissa: I've noticed.
[00:00:47] Chris: yeah, but you know why? Cause I listened to some shows and the, and the guy says it the same way. Every single time. It almost sounds recorded. And I like, I like people to know that we do that live.
[00:00:57] I don't know why
[00:00:59] Melissa: Every time I'm editing it I'm like that was different. And I don't know if I like it. We're not being consistent.
[00:01:08] Chris: I like the inconsistency. I like the spon spontaneity. I'm going to just going to start changing the words on you too.
[00:01:13] Melissa: speaking of spontaneity
[00:01:16] Chris: Yeah. This this entire episode is going to be spontaneous. All right. So let's level with you. We have more than full-time jobs. Melissa and I both work very, very hard at just what we do every day. So this is kind of a side project for us, and sometimes we don't get around to preparing.
[00:01:36] Melissa: Although to be fair, what we are going to be speaking about today, we wouldn't be able to speak about if we weren't late releasing this podcast.
[00:01:46] Chris: That's right. That's right.
[00:01:47] Before we get into the topic of the day and how super prepared we are for it, I just wanted to have some follow-up on our last episode about fiducials.
[00:01:55] Melissa: Oh yeah, #fiducialsftw
[00:01:58] Chris: It warmed my little heart that everybody reached out to us so that I can't even tell you how exciting that was.
[00:02:04] That was just, it was the best.
[00:02:07] Melissa: the best
[00:02:07] Chris: It was the best.
[00:02:08] it's because it's like, talk about pet peeve, right? Like improper fiduciary is, it might be my biggest pet peeve in like lack of fiducials. Oh, oh yeah. Oh, you just ask anybody who works with me, just they know, they know it's the worst. It's the worst. And so people reached out to us with pictures of their circuit boards, either the actual boards, or like a screencap showing the design of the board with fiducials on them.
[00:02:39] That was just wonderful. It was so great to see. It just, it was great, especially because when I was getting these messages, I was in the middle of an airport, which is such a stressful environment and it was just, it was delightful. It was delightful to see that. Ask me about my airport experience Melissa.
[00:03:02] Melissa: Why were you in an airport, Chris?
[00:03:04] Chris: So as part of, as part of the topic of the show today, so I, you know, it's funny because I, a few was it two episodes ago now where we have, we get self-doubt right. And we wonder. You know, are we doing the right thing? Are we, are we making the right content?
[00:03:23] I'm peeling back the curtain a little bit here on the production of the show, obviously, but it's like, is this going to be interesting to anybody? You know, I always wonder that and, and everybody tells me yes, but you still doubt, you know, you still wonder, is this at all interesting to
[00:03:36] Melissa: are they just being nice or
[00:03:38] Chris: Are they just being nice? You know? But anyway, we're just going to go on the assumption that if we find it interesting, you'll find it interesting.
[00:03:46] Someone will find it interesting. Besides my grandmother, somebody will find this interesting.
[00:03:52] Melissa: who has been fast asleep for a long time now
[00:03:57] Chris: yeah. Ever since she got through the opening and then she was like, Nope, that's enough. I heard my, I heard my grandson's voice. Yeah, I was traveling to visit a pick and place supplier and a potential, I should say, a potential and place supplier. And I thought it might be interesting to talk about, like, not that the specific experience itself, but sort of, this is more like behind the scenes.
[00:04:24] What exactly does it take to get a circuit board into the world? Well, this is something that has to get done. You have to buy machines
[00:04:31] oh yeah. Without the machines, no circuit boards.
[00:04:33] no circuit boards and you can make your own, but, you could also like refine your own iron ore. At a certain point, you're going to rely on suppliers.
[00:04:43] I just figured it might be an interesting thing to talk about the effort it takes to evaluate.
[00:04:50] Melissa: yeah.
[00:04:53] Chris: So this has been a project that's been ongoing for, at least since we bought our last AOI machine. Other people can evaluate machines quickly. I can't not for our environment anyway.
[00:05:10] Right? So for our environment where we're taking orders from anybody around the world, we have to be super flexible and kind of prepared for anything. And also we don't want to make a million dollar decision and make a poor one. I don't want to get into specific numbers, but to, for a company like us to spend a million dollars, you got to make a whole lot more than a million dollars to pay for it a whole lot more.
[00:05:37] You make a decision like this carefully. So it takes a lot of time. I have actually been working on this evaluation process at least since like the summer of 2020, somewhere around there. So over a year we've been working
[00:05:54] Melissa: yeah. Around when we started the podcast, I think,
[00:05:57] Chris: literally. yeah.
[00:05:58] literally. And why exactly did we need to look at new pickup place gear? The equipment we have has served us well and has done a fine job and has produced a lot of circuit boards. And a lot of customers are very happy with, but it takes a lot of effort to get to that point. And we feel that new pick and place gear can get us to that point more easily. Less manual labor, less headaches, less rework you know, greater uptime, all these kinds of things where it's just at the end of the day, you're having to make less of an investment in the day to day operations by making a greater investment in capital.
[00:06:38] Right? So in theory, if your day to day operations cost you X dollars with your current equipment, and then you spend a million dollars on new equipment, it should be, X minus, whatever. You're trying to reduce what it takes to do that.
[00:06:52] While also preparing for the future because we have, we have big plans and we want to grow, grow, grow zoom, zoom, zoom.
[00:07:00] Right. And, and we gotta prepare for the future. So how exactly does a company like Worthington or CircuitHub. Cause we're both working on this. It's a, to be clear, it's a joint project between the two of us. I have a counterpart at CircuitHub that's helping me with it. And yeah, it all starts out pretty simple.
[00:07:19] You got to reach out to a sales guy, right? You got to contact somebody who sells equipment and say, okay, what do you got? And I mean, that sounds simple enough, but there's so there's actually a surprising number of pick and place machine suppliers out there. Oh, yeah, I like just, to name a few off the top of my head in case it's interesting to anybody, if anybody themselves are shopping for pick and place gear.
[00:07:46] Cause I do know that some circuit board manufacturers listen to this too, but you've got your you've got your big names. Probably the three biggest name in this industry is a company called Fuji. They're a Japanese company. Probably the largest market share in the world for pick and place gear.
[00:08:02] Almost certainly, certainly by their metrics and by most metrics I've seen they're the largest in the world. You have a company called ASM, which used to be called Siemens now, Siemens, as in the huge German yeah. Massive company. They sold that division of their company to this company called ASM, which is a Chinese equipment manufacturer.
[00:08:23] But largely all the engineering, everything is still done in Germany. And then you also have Panasonic which everybody knows Panasonic. Those are kind of the three, the three big gorillas in this industry, they move a lot of machines. And of course it should be no surprise that a lot of those machines are going to the largest manufacturers, typically in Asia.
[00:08:43] But they're all around the world. There's plenty of automotive manufacturers here in the United States and Mexico, Canada that are buying a lot of these machines as well. Then you start to get into what they call them like a tier two manufacturers. And there's a whole lot of them, a whole lot of them.
[00:08:59] You have a company called Juki, which they have a great brand. They have a great history of making machines, selling machines. They also sell sewing machines. It's interesting if you pay attention. Yeah. If you pay attention to like movies where they're like panning through like a textile factory or, you're watching a show where they're making clothes or something, you'll often see a Juki sewing machine.
[00:09:21] It's pretty funny. And like, because I see the logo all the time and from what I do, you pick up on these things, you see like the, the Juki logo here and there. Then you also have a company called maybe you've heard of them Yamaha. The, you know, it's like one of these, you know, they make everything Yamaha makes motorcycles and forklifts and pick and place machines. Of course they do.
[00:09:40] Melissa: just playing on one of their keyboards earlier today.
[00:09:43] Chris: Exactly. Exactly. They make a lot of pick and place machines, nice machines. You've got you've got an American company, as far as I know the only American pick and place company left. There might be one more out of Connecticut, but I think they may have gone out of business and I'm going to hear about it if they haven't, but the only American pick and place company I can think of that's left is Universal Instruments, which they're right out of Binghamton, New York, they make, they make a nice machine, a company I actually used to work for.
[00:10:12] I used to I used to be a manufacturer's rep, a sales rep for them.
[00:10:16] Then you've got formerly Samsung may have heard of them. they used to make, pick And place machines, but then they sold it, noticing a trend here everybody selling to everybody. They sold that division of their company to Hanwha.
[00:10:28] Which is a horrible American butchering of the Korean word, but I'm just going to call it Hanwha. I'm thinking of, there's also a company called Euro Placer. I think they're like a French slash UK. I'm not really sure where their headquarters is. Exactly, but they're a, you're obviously European pick and place machine company.
[00:10:48] Oh gosh, I could go on and on, but you see, here's what happens when you start to add up all these machines and all these various suppliers, it can get really, really complicated, really, really quickly for somebody like us with limited resources to do an evaluation. If you are you know, somebody like Jabil or Sanmina or even apple themselves, right.
[00:11:10] Apple will directly evaluate, pick and place machines for Foxconn. They're going to have a team of people. And all they do is evaluate, pick and place machine, right? Like they're going to get this done in like two weeks
[00:11:24] Melissa: And here we have Chris.
[00:11:26] Chris: here we have Chris who can spend like an hour a day, maybe, maybe an hour, a week trying to do all this. There's so much that goes into trying to figure out what your needs are. Literally just forget the features that these machines offer and trying to compare them first. You've got to figure out what you need
[00:11:45] Melissa: Yeah. And not only that our needs change very quickly.
[00:11:50] Chris: very quickly, very quickly, like for example. So we currently have mycronic that's another company I didn't talk about. I'm sure we've talked about them on the podcast before, but that's currently the gear we're using they're out of Sweden and they have an American outfit here in the Boston region. That suited our needs very, very well for many years. I think we started with them about eight years ago. Maybe a little more than that could be closer to nine years now.
[00:12:15] Yeah, let's just call it eight years. I can't remember exactly. And at the time that upgrade was huge for us. We got all kinds of things. We didn't have the ability to program our machines offline before we got the skier.
[00:12:26] We couldn't reliably place 0402s before we got these, like we were kind of in the dark ages for a while there. You know, but we were a small company back then a very different company than we are today in some ways, and in other ways, very, very much the same company. funny. You know, when, when you live in it, it feels the same, but if you, if you take a step back, it's, it's changed a lot.
[00:12:47] And that was a huge leap forward for us. It really was a huge leap forward for us. And we, we considered sticking with them and just decided it wasn't the right machine to move forward with. They make a fine machine and plenty of people are going to be happy with them. I don't want to say that they're not a fine supplier, but just for what we're looking for, the, what they were offering, just wasn't going to fit our needs.
[00:13:11] No hard feelings just. Not really fitting our needs anymore.
[00:13:15] So we start to look at other suppliers. And so here you are looking at 6, 7, 8, 9 different suppliers. And how do you narrow all this down? You talk to everybody on the floor, who's actually using the equipment. You figure out their challenges, you figure out where you're losing time.
[00:13:30] For example, I can point to one specific example of a specific feature that we're we were looking for. So when you load a pick and place machine you need to make sure that the components are presented to the machine in such a way that the head can pick the parts. Now I know this sounds obvious, right?
[00:13:52] It's like, well, duh, of course you have to do that, but it's not as simple as just like plugging the feeder into the machine and hitting go. Depending on the style of machine, there's a few different ways this is done and we'll get into the weeds a little bit here, but I think it'll help illustrate the point.
[00:14:10] You know, we can, we can use this as sort of a lens to focus in on one particular aspect of features we're looking for. And then you, you know, you can use your imagination to expound on, on greater things. But when you, when you plug a, Mycronic feeder into a machine you, you have a split access motion system on of Mycronic.
[00:14:31] And what that means is your pick and place head is on one axis, a single axis. So in other words, it's only moving in one direction left and right. It is not moving forward and backward. The, the circuit board itself is on a separate access and moves forward and backward. So in order to pick up parts, you have to present those parts to the pick and place head on that perfect axis. It has to be perfectly lined up because again, that pick and place head does not move forward or backward in the y direction. So that requires a process that we call trimming the feeders. In other words you, you, I don't know where the term trim comes in, but it's to think of it.
[00:15:15] That doesn't make any sense at all. Why would you use the word trim?
[00:15:18] Melissa: You're not cutting anything, but yeah,
[00:15:20] Chris: Yeah, it's like trim. What does that come from? I don't even know where that comes from. There's actually a phrase for where you say a word often enough and it stops becoming a word and starts becoming a sound. I forgot what that's called.
[00:15:34] That's a thing it's legit a thing. Trim, trim, trim, and all of a sudden, you just don't even hear the word anymore. Isn't that fun? We'll leave that in. We'll leave that in for the folks at home. They're going to love that.
[00:15:46] Melissa: If anyone knows, let us know.
[00:15:47] Chris: Yeah. that'd be cool. Be cool to find out anyway. So, and what that requires is an operator standing in front of a machine, look into the camera, or, looking at a monitor and the camera's pointing down at that feeder and they're pressing various buttons to advance and reverse, this tape until it lines up exactly with this this X axis of the pick and place head, it is very time consuming. And it's especially time consuming because it's on a machine that you want placing parts. Like, ideally you want to do all that stuff offline. You don't want to have to do it. You like, you want your machine still running while you're doing these sorts of things.
[00:16:28] Now, obviously there's certain things, you know, you can't change the width of the conveyor while the machine is running.
[00:16:33] You can only change it with the conveyor, you know, once it's done running, duh, right? So when you go from job a to job b you can change it with the conveyor. There's certain things you cannot change while you're still running, but as much as possible, you want to change things and you want to prepare things offline off the machine, you know?
[00:16:49] So the machine is still running. So when we've been talking to these other pick a place providers when I was describing. And when I would ask them a question like, okay, so how what's, what's the process for trimming feeders? And they would, they, they kept talking about how you do it offline. I'm like, Yeah.
[00:17:08] But how do you do it on the machine? And they're like, why, why would you do it on the machine? Like, well, hold on a second, what do you mean? so show me, show me what you mean. So they they'll, you know, they'll we were doing a lot of this over zoom, so they have a camera and they go, look, you power up your feeder and you know, you advance it and you reverse it, blah, blah, blah.
[00:17:27] And until you get it exactly where you need it, and it was like an aha moment. It was like, Oh my goodness, you, you sometimes don't know what you're dealing with until you've had exposure to something better.
[00:17:41] Melissa: Yeah.
[00:17:42] Chris: Right. I, I, I'm trying to think of what you experience, you know, in the real world. I'll give you an example.
[00:17:48] I'll give you an. Okay. So here I am living, living in, in new England and go, go to the beach with my friends and
[00:17:56] Melissa: Oh my God. Is this going to be an Australia thing?
[00:18:01] Chris: That would be great if it was no, it's not, it's not, but you, you go, you go into the, you go into the ocean and the ocean is cold in New England man. It is cold. It is cold. Like no, no way around it. It's cold. You get adjusted quick, but it is cold. And you're from California. I'm from New Jersey. New Jersey is not that much further from new England, but the ocean is much warmer in New Jersey.
[00:18:24] And the ocean in California is much, much warmer than New England
[00:18:28] than Southern California anyway. And if you've grown up in new England and all, you know, is the ocean being that cold. You don't know any better until all of a sudden you decide to visit Melissa in orange county and get in the ocean. And you're like, holy cow, I didn't realize an ocean could be this warm.
[00:18:45] Melissa: or Australia
[00:18:47] Chris: Or Australia,
[00:18:48] Melissa: Even warmer
[00:18:49] Chris: much warmer. Like, you don't know that something could be different or something could be better until you've taken the time to say like, what am I missing out
[00:19:01] A very meta example of that. I didn't know how much easier Descript not sponsored, would make my life for editing the podcast until I tried using it.
[00:19:11] Awesome. I'm so excited to hear that. Yeah. That's an example you don't know until you start to investigate and you go, wow. There is a much better way of doing this. And so that, that one experience sort of opened the flood gates to. Okay. What else are we missing out on? You know, like what, what other opportunities are there to improve our processes so that we can be more efficient so that we can get boards out quicker so that we can reduce the lead time, increase the yield, reduce the amount of rework reduce the amount of overhead.
[00:19:46] Can we go from running a pick and place line with five people to four people or three people, right? Like how can you, and when I say running a pick and place line, if a contract manufacturer is listening to this, please understand five people is not just pressing buttons on a pick and place machine.
[00:20:03] It's everything it's setting up feeders it's stencil printing. It's reflowing, it's like, okay, it's a lot of people. All right. Anyway. Can you possibly reduce the amount of overhead? Can you increase the speed with which you get boards through the machine? In other words you know, if a typical board gets through a machine and 90 seconds on our current gear, can we get that to 30 seconds?
[00:20:24] And now what does that do to our operation? Can we, can we reduce the footprint on our floor so that we have more floor space now by buying this equipment that's faster and more compact on and on. And I mean, I could just go on and on and on with all kinds of scenarios. So that's the kind of digging work you do and it's it's hours and hours and hours of speaking to salespeople, speaking to applications engineers, zoom calls, phone calls, PowerPoint presentations, some good, some really bad, you know, and trying to narrow it down, trying to narrow it down.
[00:21:02] And, and the truth is. Everybody's making really good gear nowadays. Like you can buy almost anything and you're going to be successful with it because there's very few people anymore that are making junk. You know, that you're, you're gonna be successful with it. So now you're sort of getting into the, like, you know, the nitty-gritty details.
[00:21:22] Okay. Do you have this particular feature that we're looking for? For example, we one of the things we, we like to brag about because it's built into our machines is the ability to verify the values of components that do not have a marking. So for example, a lot of 0402 resistors and capacitors will pretty much all ceramic capacitors do not have a marking on them that identifies.
[00:21:46] A larger resistor might have a marking on it might say 1 0 1, which represents a 100 ohms. But when you get really small resistors, they no longer print the value on top of the resistor. So how do you verify that you're definitely putting the right resistor down, who who's to say that your supplier put the wrong component in a bag in late or labeled the bag wrong.
[00:22:08] Right? So they said they sent you a 10k resistor, but they really sent you a 1k resistor. How do you verify that that's not wrong? And this has happened to us often enough that it's something we have to check for. And because when it does happen, it's super, super painful, like really painful, especially if you have a reel of 10,000 parts and you put 10,000 of the wrong part down, but. It can be super painful. So having a pick and place machine that can automatically verify the value of resistors and capacitors and inductors was a total showstopper for us. In other words, if this machine could not do that and end of discussion, no longer talking to this supplier, if you don't have it, we're not interested.
[00:22:52] So that quickly eliminated a few potential suppliers, right? And then you start to just kind of pick away at these various features. Oh, you don't have that. Okay. We have to eliminate you. You don't have this. Okay. We have to eliminate you. And it's taken us over a year to finally come down to basically two, there's basically two suppliers we're still interested in.
[00:23:09] And because I think I may have mentioned in the previous show, I know that some sales folks that I work with do listen to this show. I don't think I want to reveal who it is that we're looking at, but I will in the future. And once we do decide and we place that order, I'm really, really excited about I'm really, really excited to share kind of the details and what it means for our customers and what it means for supplying machines to, or supplying boards, to people, not machines.
[00:23:36] So we've narrowed it down to two people, so, okay. So now when you get to this point, you really start to dig deep, right? Like pretty much everything at this point, it's just kind of been a surface level, show me the features. You know, okay. Maybe I'll sit through a remote demo with your lab and show me with your camera, how things work, but we'll also use that to eliminate potential suppliers.
[00:23:56] And now that we've narrowed it down to two, it's a matter of. Literally visiting these manufacturers. So there's one particular manufacturer that I visited last week. They're in Chicago. Hence why I was on a plane, which we'll get to in the pet peeve, but there's so much wrong. There's so much wrong with the airplane process, it's it's Oh boy... We'll
[00:24:26] Melissa: Save it for later.
[00:24:27] Chris: We'll save it. We'll save it. It's just building up. But it's quite an experience. It really is quite an interesting experience to visit a potential supplier like this.
[00:24:36] We're making a significant investment of my time to go out there, certainly, you know, the cost of the flight and the hotel and the rental car, but also the time away from the factory, right? There's value added things I could be doing. There's people I could be helping there's answers, that I could be making that I can't do while I'm out in Chicago. It's not just the fact that I'm not physically present, but it's also that I can't physically respond. Right. I have to stay focused on this. And if people have questions, like somebody sends you a slack message,
[00:25:02] well, I'm not going to see it until eight o'clock at night, you know, I'm going to be busy. So I can't answer questions. So there is a major investment to a company like Worthington or CircuitHub sending somebody to evaluate suppliers. So you don't take that responsibility lightly. This is not just an opportunity to go like yuck it up and have dinner with some salespeople.
[00:25:22] No, you gotta, you gotta do some due diligence here. And it was a great experience. I had a chance to meet the executive vice president of the company. He's responsible for all of the Americas, north and south America for this company. Good sized company, too. This is not a small company.
[00:25:37] So he was very gracious with his time and I appreciated him spending time with me. You have, of course your local sales rep, your regional sales rep, and then they cycle in and out applications engineers, software engineers, hardware engineers, people from their service department, people responsible for making custom nozzles for the pick and place machines, the stock room people.
[00:25:57] They're also making a significant investment of their time and their people to convince Worthington and CircuitHub that they have the right solution for our needs. It takes a lot of work and it's like so overwhelming, because you're like, okay, I've only got so many hours and you feel the pressure of I'm spending X amount of dollars of my company's money.
[00:26:21] They're spending X amount of dollars of their company's money. Let's make sure we're not wasting each other's time here and we're doing it right. That's why you don't go to visit nine different manufacturers. You try to narrow it down to one or two before you go to visit manufacturers of machines. It was a great, great, excellent, excellent visit. I learned so much, and it's funny, when we sat down together and you know, introduced ourselves and everything and I told everybody in the room, I said, my job here is for the next two days to eliminate you as a potential supplier, I'm trying to find some reason that tells me I should not buy your equipment.
[00:27:00] And they made it very challenging. They had some excellent solutions to every problem I threw at them, everything that we deal with today you know, maybe not everything perfectly, but really darn close. The best thing you can experience as an engineer is going to evaluate equipment like this, and you see how their engineers thought about the problem and came up with a solution.
[00:27:25] And if they thought about it the same way you. It's like, oh, this is great. It's so exciting to see like, okay, somebody else understood this pain that I've been dealing with and they know this is not the right way to do it. So for example, back to our earlier example about trimming feeders, they know you don't want to have to tie up your machine trimming feeders.
[00:27:48] You just want to put the feeders in the machine and start running. And they thought about that and the best way to handle that. It was just, it was delightful. It was so refreshing to see other engineers think about problems, the exact same way that I might, or you know, other people in this industry might do it.
[00:28:06] It was, it was quite a nice experience. You know, I've heard stories about sort of back in the day, the nineties maybe of how these things were done. And it was nothing but like. You know, I, I don't think they were all like this, but a lot of times it was just like a booze Fest, you know, they'd, they'd get there and they'd be like, they'd talk about a few things.
[00:28:24] And they're like, all right, let's go out drinking. And if they liked you, they buy your machines. It was like, oh man, Nope, not anymore. Not at all. It is so intense. And if you have time for dinner afterward, you might go, you know, but a lot of times, I mean, we were there until seven o'clock at night at the factory.
[00:28:42] And that's the other thing. Talk about an investment made. These folks, they live there in the Chicago area. They have families to get home to and, you know, it's, they're not punching out at four 30, they're staying there until seven o'clock at night and sticking with me. I'm very grateful and appreciative of, people willing to do that because like I opened with, you're going to make a million dollar investment.
[00:29:09] It's going to take an enormous amount of revenue to pay for that million dollar investment. And it's the kind of purchase you make once in a decade well, it's the kind of decision you make once in a decade you might make that purchase multiple times because you add a second or a third, you know, assembly line.
[00:29:24] But once you've made that decision and you're confident in it and it's successful the first time, then you, then you're going to buy more. So it's really, it's like a decades long decision. And Yeah.
[00:29:34] so it's, it's, it's wonderful that there are people who are willing to make such sacrifices to go through all that, you know?
[00:29:43] Melissa: Do you have something scheduled for the other supplier that's still in the running?
[00:29:47] Chris: Yup. Yup. That's a potentially the week of November 8th. oh, I didn't even touch on. So, so you you'll, you'll go to visit the manufacturer. Certainly. So like, I went to this one in Chicago last week and I'm going to another one in November. And when you, when you're doing this, you're also taking the time to talk to their customers.
[00:30:09] Melissa: oh,
[00:30:10] Chris: Right. So, yeah. So like you want to buy a car, you're going to talk to other people. Who've bought that car, not just the dealership, right. It's like, oh, Hey, you know, I wanna, I want to buy a Camry share. You're going to, you're going to go to Toyota, talk to Toyota. And you're going to go to your friend who has a Camry.
[00:30:23] Huh? How do you like your Camry? You know, it's that's what you do. So, we're probably going to be visiting one of their customers this week and seeing how they're using it. That gets really tricky though, because a lot of times they don't want you like a lot of times they're competitors.
[00:30:42] Melissa: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:30:44] Chris: So. And they're like a competitor with a podcast. No, you're not coming in here. So that gets really tricky. You have to kind of two types of businesses that buy this gear. You have businesses that make things for other people and you have businesses that make things for themselves. And so, unfortunately, you know, we want to see, we wanna see people who were making things for other people.
[00:31:09] We don't want to see necessarily people making things for themselves. However, unfortunately, a lot of times that's, that's our only choice because yeah.
[00:31:17] Melissa: They don't want to reveal their own processes. And of course,
[00:31:22] Chris: or there people, right. Sometimes like they're worried that you're trying to poach their people or something like that, you know? It's it's they they're like, Nope, Nope, Nope, no competitors in the building, even though it's it's a small world and let's be honest, not many people have a whole lot of magic sauce when it comes to this stuff, but I respect it. I appreciate it. I can understand why people feel that way. Worthington does not feel that way. We are. We are quite comfortable with competitors coming to visit less so than we used to be.
[00:31:48] But you know,
[00:31:49] Melissa: CircuitHub CircuitHub definitely not.
[00:31:51] Chris: Definitely not comfortable. No, no, but again, as we talk about many, many times CircuitHub is a very different company. Very different operation than Worthington. So that's where we're going to visit. We're going to visit a company that makes things for themselves for their own product.
[00:32:03] And that'll be interesting then, then you can, a lot of times contract manufacturers are, are open to phone call. So, I know a lot of contract manufacturers from my previous work and this work, to be honest with you, I've met plenty with this job too. And yeah, so you just call them up and you say, Hey, are you using so-and-so's gear?
[00:32:22] What do you think of it? You know, how's it working? How's their service? How much maintenance does it require? What breaks on it all the time? What are you constantly having to repair? How do the nozzles hold up? You just start to ask them all of these sorts of questions to try to figure out how satisfied they are.
[00:32:37] Just like, you'd ask somebody, does it go through breaks all the time? Is the air conditioning still holding up? Are you having to replace the tires every 10,000 miles? How does it work? So, it's a, it's an in-depth process and you go through all this because you want, how do I put it. I don't like disappointing customers. Right. And you, as you grow, if, if you're growing with your existing equipment that maybe you bought to be able to handle, you know, I'm not, I'm not saying these are not our numbers, but let's just say, let's say our current equipment was, we bought it when we were doing $2 million in revenue, and now we're doing $10 million in revenue.
[00:33:16] And when you bought that equipment and you thought, okay, we could probably get to five with this equipment. And all of a sudden you're doing 10 million and you're like, how this is nuts. You know, you're breaking the system at a certain point. And it becomes it becomes painful. That's kind of where we're at.
[00:33:30] We've been growing and selling more than ever and pleasing a lot of customers. We bought this platform for X number of dollars and capacity, and we're exceeding it. There's just, there's no other way to describe it. We're exceeding the expected capacity of this equipment, the uptime of this equipment.
[00:33:49] And now, now we got to do something about it because I want customers to be happy. I want them, I want them to get their boards on time. I want them to get it with the quality they expect and the reliability that they expect and, and the yields that they expect. The only way to get there is to continue to make investments in your company.
[00:34:09] And Yeah, we're just doing the best we can with it.
[00:34:12] Melissa: Yeah, it'll be really interesting to see this journey. And even for me to find out what you choose seem like a bigger, big reveal episode.
[00:34:23] Chris: It will be, it'll be a big reveal episode. That'll be fun. Maybe that'll be our first video episode.
[00:34:28] What do you think
[00:34:29] Melissa: Oh yeah. That'd be cool.
[00:34:31] Chris: that would be cool.
[00:34:31] to kind of like show off like the equipment we bought. It's going to be many months from now because I don't know if you've heard, but there's like this global chip shortage thing.
[00:34:39] Melissa: Really
[00:34:41] Chris: It's, it's interesting. I was talking to them and I said I said, you know, if we, you know, whoever we decide to buy from, if if they come back to us and they say, Hey, look, we can't get you a machine for six months. Then that's going to be, maybe not a deal breaker, but we're going to either look more closely at the other company we're interested in and see if there are any faster or is it depending on how close the evaluation is obviously, or we'll just have to find something on the used market, which to be honest is drying up, right?
[00:35:14] Like, cause everybody's buying up used machines to.
[00:35:17] And the interesting thing is they said they said, well, look, you know what we're going to do. What we have been doing for our customers is if they really want the equipment and they wanted it as quickly as possible, we are still building machines and much like Ford and their F-150 is they're shipping them to customers without circuit boards in them, literally.
[00:35:37] So like, they'll do the whole machine, the wire harness and everything.
[00:35:41] They'll put all the test circuit boards inside of it so that they can, they can do their certificate of analysis, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, you know, verify the accuracy and everything.
[00:35:50] And then once they verify that it all works, then they pull out the circuit boards that they don't have and they ship the machine. You'd have to agree to it, obviously Worthington would have to say that that's okay, but then they would drop it in your building and you'd line it up and get it in line to get power.
[00:36:05] You get air, you get all ready. And then finally, you know, they ship the board to you and one other guy shows up and installs it. that's literally what we're talking about at this point.
[00:36:15] Melissa: that's such an ironic problem.
[00:36:17] Chris: Isn't it?
[00:36:19] Melissa: We can't build circuit boards cause we don't have the parts to build the machines that build the circuit boards.
[00:36:27] Chris: It's like the most meta problem ever. It's unbelievable.
[00:36:31] Melissa: So, would the machine work if they were to do that? No, right.
[00:36:37] Chris: If they were to do what, if they were to install it without circuit boards?
[00:36:40] Melissa: Yeah.
[00:36:41] Chris: No, not at all.
[00:36:42] Melissa: I'm assuming most factories don't just have extra floor space hanging around. Like you can't really get rid of your existing equipment.
[00:36:50] Chris: That's right. Yeah. Yeah. So.
[00:36:52] you, you you, you either have a situation where that's acceptable or you say, no, we can't do that. You know, or you find some hybrid, maybe you maybe you ask them to hold it in their warehouse if they have space. Right. So for example there's companies from all over the world, like I said, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Korea, China, maybe you say, okay, do you have space in your warehouse there in Chicago to take the delivery and hold it for us until you get the circuit board?
[00:37:19] Okay. And then it's just a two day truck drive. Right. Then you get it to us pretty quick versus wait for it to ship from the factory overseas. You know, and then it's like, okay, well that's going be a while. You could rent a short-term storage facility, right? You, you know, if you find a big enough one, you could put it in a climate controlled storage facility there there's there's options.
[00:37:39] And there's ways of doing things like that. But there's also the potential where maybe it's a non-critical component, right? Maybe this is a circuit board that's designed to automate the board support pin placement. And it's like, well, w w we can manually install the pin supports for now. So then you can still run.
[00:37:59] Right. So it could be a situation like that. If it's a motor control card. No, you're not. you're Yeah.
[00:38:05] You're not going to be able to run, but it may be at some accessory you can live without, for a couple of months. Yeah. It's it's wild, man. It's just, it's nuts. I've never seen anything like this.
[00:38:14] Never. And I've, I've been in this industry for at least 20 years now. I was trying to do the math. Pretty sure. I started when I was 16. So Yeah.
[00:38:22] going on going on 21 years now, and I've never seen anything like this, this kind of a shortage, there has been shortages in the past for like, there was a tantalum capacitor shortage in the early two thousands.
[00:38:33] There was a multilayer chip capacitor shortage a few years back every now and then you'll get like a random microchip maybe or NXP, or, you know, somebody kind of a product line run short because you know, we had to build a bunch of ventilators or something and they use all these tools, you know, who knows, you know, who knows it?
[00:38:51] Just some, something just chews up the supply. This is there's never, this is, this is across the board. This is every manufacturer. This is every, It's everything
[00:39:02] Melissa: it's bad.
[00:39:03] Chris: It's bad. And what makes it worse is when, when people like Melissa and Chris talk about this, everybody gets nervous and they start hoarding everything, and it makes it worse. It's unfortunate, but you know, we'll get through it. Hopefully you're listening to this in the year 2023. And you're like, what's shortage, no shortage as that's such a thing in the past, it'll, it'll correct. It, these things always correct. You know, what'll happen is the people that were hoarding for so long, they've redesigned their products now to support a different chip set.
[00:39:35] And so now all these accessory parts that supported this certain chip set, now they no longer need. So a broker comes in and says, Hey, I'll buy all that up from you because you know, Worthington needs all those chips. You know, there's, there's ways of getting it to level out. It's just a matter of money and time. It'll happen. I'm convinced it'll happen, but it sounds like it's not going to be soon. I'm not sure. Do you remember which episode we had with Digi-Key on the show? If you haven't listened to it, that's one it's still relevant. It is still relevant. That episode. That was, gosh, That
[00:40:04] Melissa: That was a while
[00:40:05] Chris: April, may, something like that, but yeah, still relevant, still, still an issue and, and even effecting us, which is the interesting thing.
[00:40:14] Right? So people can't even get spares. Oh, here's, here's an interesting thing while I was there, we're walking through their warehouse, big warehouse and they have all these machines gutted, nice looking machines. Right? Well, they, they definitely showed some age, but they're all gutted. Like everything's removed from them and I'm like, what's going on with these?
[00:40:35] He goes, we can't make spare parts for our customers. So we're buying old equipment and gutting the equipment to get them spares because we literally can't even make the spare parts for our customers.
[00:40:47] Melissa: wow.
[00:40:47] Chris: Talk about compounding problems, right?
[00:40:50] Melissa: Yeah,
[00:40:51] Chris: Crazy.
[00:40:52] Melissa: that's funny. That's that's like almost the opposite of your, your pet peeve from, I think last episode.
[00:41:00] Chris: Yes. About not recycling machines.
[00:41:02] I actually talked to this vendor about that, about that exact topic. And I said, you know, this is something that like bugs me is, why don't more companies like yourselves go in and you know, so you're on version three of your machine. Well, why not? You know, when a version one or version two pops up, take that in and put version three components on it.
[00:41:26] Why, you know, why isn't this something that you do? They made a good point. They said we could never sell that as a version three, because , we had to change the frame on it. We had to reinforce the frame and here and there, because it was, fast enough for that version one, but version three got so much faster.
[00:41:46] We could never brand that as a version three. And so if we tried to brand it as like a version one still, we don't have the components to even make the version one still. So it is a tricky situation. It's like, okay, I do understand their perspective and why it gets complicated. But yeah, I have, I have far more thoughts on that.
[00:42:06] We'll save that for another day though.
[00:42:08] Let's talk about pet peeves, Melissa.
[00:42:10] Melissa: let's talk about pet peeves and you've already alluded to yours for this week.
[00:42:15] Chris: Now , there are process engineers that work at airplane companies. There are people that their only job is to figure out how to more efficiently load people on an airplane quickly. Cause just airplanes are just pick and place machines. They really are. You pick people out of an airport and you place them back into an airport.
[00:42:36] You're trying to do that changeover as quickly as possible. Airlines, they talk about this all the time. Changeover is critical. The faster they can change a plane over the better from a marketing standpoint.
[00:42:50] I understand why they do certain things that they do, right. The human in me goes, okay. Yes. This makes sense. Because from a pure unadulterated engineering standpoint, there's a lot of things they do that don't make any sense. Like if I was to put on my Spock hat for a moment, right. Spock is famous for, for like, not considering the human factor and things.
[00:43:12] He just talks about. He's very clinical about things. The way you should load an airplane is from the very back of the airplane to the front. Because if you load it from the front first and everybody's in your way, and you've got to wait for people to load their bags in the overhead and yada yada yada, you know, whereas if you, if you take everybody who seats are in the back and you load them in first, then you know, you could kind of backfill, as people are getting settled in and you would load the plane so much faster... but they don't do that.
[00:43:43] Right. And, and for, for very good reasons, People who people who perhaps served in the military, you get to be loaded first for obvious reasons. People who have disabilities get to get to get in the airplane first people who paid extra because they they're in first class, they get to get in the airplane first, personally, I don't know why that's a perk.
[00:44:04] Like I would much rather be in this beautiful airport with the, with the 30 foot ceilings and the bar than in the little aluminum tube. Right. Like why, why is it a benefit to get loaded first? I don't understand.
[00:44:19] Melissa: well, I mean, if you're not in first class, I think the benefit is that they often run out of the overhead bins.
[00:44:25] Chris: I think that's it. I think that is it. I'm pretty sure that's why. That's the other thing. I've tried as much as possible with my pet peeves to get more into like engineering and design pet peeves, rather than, rather than personal pet peeves. But I got to get into a personal pet peeve here.
[00:44:43] For a moment you load your baggage in the long way. When you load your bag into an airplane, into the overhead bin, you should have the narrow view of your bag facing you, not the long view and everybody loads it, the long view, and then the poor flight attendants have to go in and they grab your bag and they pick it up and they turn it because you loaded it wrong.
[00:45:05] If you ever notice.
[00:45:06] Melissa: Yeah, there's signs up there that say how to load it.
[00:45:09] Chris: Nobody reads them. Come on, are you kidding me signs, please. Nobody's looking at that. And nobody ever does. And so it's like, okay, well, why doesn't why as a, as a company policy, why don't you just tell the flight attendants, like offer to load the bags for people? Like, do you, do you want me to load your overhead bag for you?
[00:45:29] I mean, do you imagine how like ripped these flight attendants would be if, I mean, they're already pretty jacked. Let's be honest. They're all, you're like, cause they're doing this all the day, all day anyway, but they would be jacked if they were loading everybody's bags,
[00:45:42] side benefit. I mean, here's the other thing. The poor flight attendents must, they must have like super deodorant, right? Cause like it's a stressful environment to be on a plane. And, but their arms have to be up all the time to kind of balance themselves, especially if there's a little bit of turbulence in there and they're having to walk back to the seats or something.
[00:46:04] Never once I have never once have I ever seen a flight attendant with sweaty or stinky armpits? Like they are on point man. Like they know what they're doing when it comes to that. I, you know, hands off to them, they're doing a good job
[00:46:17] Melissa: it's like a special formulated deodorant just for flight attendants
[00:46:21] Chris: must be. And I want to know what it is and I want to, I want to, I want to buy stock in it. So anyway, that's my pet peeve. Figure out your loading procedure of an airplane. Remind people that it's better to hang out in a beautiful airport than it is to sit on a tiny aluminum tube. And so if you're in first class, you know, you should be loaded last because you don't want to be sitting in the stupid tube, staring at all the plebs as we walk by you because you know, we can't afford your first-class seats.
[00:46:50] Right. That's also uncomfortable. Like you sit there and everybody's staring at you and they're like looking, looking down at you like rich person. You know. what I mean? I think you don't want to, like, how was that a pleasant experience? It's not, It's not
[00:47:07] Except for Southwest airlines because they have a totally different loading procedure.
[00:47:11] If I'm getting on an airplane, I do not wait for my group. I wait until the very last to get on the plane. And I typically only have a small backpack. So if it doesn't fit overhead, it easily fits in front of my feet. And I don't have a problem.
[00:47:23] Melissa: I definitely remember watching some YouTube video specifically about this.
[00:47:29] Chris: I can't be the only one who's had this pet peeve. There's no way. There's no way. And like I said. there are people like it's, they're only like there's probably not a person in American airlines. There's probably like 50 people in American airlines that the only thing they do is figure out how to turn planes over faster.
[00:47:46] And you know, there's probably 50 people at United and 50 people at Southwest and 50 people at like every one of these airlines. I'm sure there's a team of people working on this. And every time I sit down, I go, why, why is this still a problem? I don't know. I, it, it baffles me. It baffles me. I'm sure they've got all the statistics and all the numbers and they could probably explain it to me.
[00:48:06] But Yeah. no, I don't. I don't think it's right. Spock Spock says no.
[00:48:11] No, thank you. But thank you to everybody who tweeted at us or emailed us with their pictures of fiducials. That was super cool. Thank you for doing that. And don't stop. You know, if you got more fiducials FTW, we'll make it a trend every week.
[00:48:26] Melissa: It was definitely trending last week.
[00:48:27] Chris: It definitely was trending. It was definitely trending right up there with you know, some world news about some disaster that happened. It was, it was, it was world disaster fiducials, FTW. I saw it 1, 2, 1 and two. Yep. Thank you people. Thank you everybody. As always. I hope you found this. Interesting.
[00:48:45] I don't know it was super meta, but I just thought it would be interesting to talk about what it takes for a company like us. I mean, what does it take to get an electronics circuit board into the world? It takes companies like us figuring out what we need for equipment so that we can build this stuff.
[00:48:58] And I hope you found it interesting. And if you have questions about it, like. I'd love to talk about it. I, this is like one of my favorite things to do is to evaluate equipment and, and try to find more efficient ways of doing what we do. I love talking about it. We have had some people we had a listener in Canada, reach out to us who has a Hanwha equipment, very happy with it, which was cool to hear.
[00:49:18] And yeah, it was, it was nice. So if you have thoughts on it or questions on it, do not hesitate to send us an email. We, our email@example.com and you can tweet at us. Melissa, you are at CircuitHub and me, this is Chris I'm at w assembly.
[00:49:34] Melissa: Thanks for listening to the pick place podcast. If you liked what you heard, consider following us in your favorite podcast app, and please leave us a review on apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from.
[00:49:47] Chris: Thanks everybody.