Easy Ways to Streamline & Increase Production Before Winter

Added October 29th, 2014

As the cooler months approach, orders begin to come in and business starts booming again. Make sure your company is ready by streamlining your production process to increase your output and profit this winter. Don’t worry, we won’t suggest rebranding or making TV commercials, we know you don’t have time for that. Instead, make these practical changes to keep your production steady and your customers happy.

Order all your components from the same distributor
When you’re ordering components for your manufacturing application, it’s easy to get yourself into an unnecessarily stressful situation by trying to cut corners. While it may seem appealing to order your those capacitors directly from Japan because it’s a few dollars cheaper, or buy coils in bulk from an unknown distributor because they are unbelievably cheap, this practice can be detrimental to your production in a many ways. The only way to ensure consistent, quality, fast shipping and reliable inventory is by finding a distributor who you can trust.

Waiting for multiple orders to come in from different distributors can be frustrating, and it’s a waste of time. Don’t be fooled by thinking you saved money by ordering from out of the country. You’ll pay extra for shipping, then deal with unpredictable shipping times which can set back your production by weeks. All of that cancels out any amount of money that you “saved”. Ordering in bulk from small, unknown distributors can often seem like a good deal, but there’s almost always a catch. Chances are, the supplies you ordered are coming from someone’s garage, or are old, damaged leftovers from a company that’s gone out of business. 9 out of 10 times, if the price seems too good to be true, it is.

Trim the Fat
While your company may be capable of making 100 different products, it’s likely that some are more popular than others. Examine your sales in the last 2 years and you can expect to see a clear trend of what’s selling and what isn’t. If there are a few items that just aren’t being ordered, and you’re still purchasing components for them, “just in case”, you might want to rethink your product list and trim the fat. Focusing on your best sellers and discontinuing anything that isn’t making you money is a quick way to expedite your production and focus on what your customers want. Producing a few things really well is much more cost effective than spreading yourself too thin and trying to offer too many options. If you still have the wherewithal to produce these less popular products, offer custom orders to appease demand for these items.

Tune up your production line equipment
Fall is the perfect time to make sure all your equipment is up to standard. The cost of inspection, calibration, and cleaning may seem steep, but it’s worthwhile considering the amount of business you’d lose if you had to replace a piece of equipment mid-season. Before orders start pouring in, take the necessary measures to make sure everything in your production line is ready, and that includes your workers. There’s no harm in brushing up on training and SOP’s, especially if you’re introducing new workers or changing someone’s shift. Preparing your whole team for a busy season with encouraging words and an optimistic sales projection will get everyone on the same page and ready for your best winter yet!

For more tips on how to increase production this season, to learn about new products or place an order, contact Solid State Inc.

AVX extends MLC tempeture range

Added April 19th, 2010

AVX is proud to announce the release of our new X8L High Temperature & High Capacitance dielectric. X8L dielectric offers extended capacitance ranges when compared to X8R.

Some key features/benefits include:

  • High Capacitance for 150°C applications
  • Flexiterm® available for critical mechanical and thermal cycling applications
  • AECQ-200 available
  • Epoxy termination available for hybrid applications
  • X8L Temperature characteristic is: +/-15% in the operating temperature range of: -55°C to 125°C; and +15/-40% in the temperature range extending to +150°C
  • X8L has a higher capacitance range than X8R, up to 1 uF and it enables high capacitance designs where operating temperature will approach 150°C.
  • Together with the AVX Flexiterm® option, it is an ideal product for critical mechanical and thermal cycling applications. Typical applications include automotive engine management and temperature sensors. Optional epoxy terminations also allow this component to be used in special hybrid industrial/automotive applications as well.

A new segmentation for electric vehicles

Added April 8th, 2010

NOVEMBER 2009 • Nick Hodson and John Newman : Automotive & Assembly Practice

Global carmakers are trying to define a future market for electric vehicles. To reach beyond affluent, environmentally conscious, or technically enamored buyers, these companies will need to develop products that satisfy the consumers’ main concern—good value for money. Given the current cost of energy storage, that is a considerable challenge.

A recent McKinsey study suggests that one way companies can achieve this goal would be to focus on tailoring battery-powered vehicles to the actual driving missions of specific consumers—that is, to the way they use their vehicles. Most existing gasoline-fueled cars, as well as many electric ones now on the drawing boards, are intended for multiple driving missions of differing lengths and speeds. By focusing on specific driving missions of consumers, a company can match a vehicle’s energy storage requirements to a consumer’s particular needs and thus design more economic vehicles. It can also shape its brand and advertising messages and go-to-market strategies for such products more efficiently.

Our study, which focused on typical driving missions in the United States, examined the factors underlying the energy storage requirements, and thus the costs, of car batteries. We divided energy use into two major categories: the energy required, first, by the vehicles’ physical characteristics (such as rolling resistance and mass) and, second, by the way the vehicles are used (such as driving distance, speed, and the frequency of stopping and starting). It is well understood that the addition of incremental energy storage increases an electric vehicle’s cost substantially. (That isn’t true for gas-fueled vehicles, since a larger gas tank is almost cost free.) But we found that the energy storage requirements of cars used for different missions could be vastly dissimilar, even if their size and total number of miles driven remained the same. Driving missions—much more than the size of vehicles—determine energy storage requirements.

AS&E to service Z Backscatter Vans

Added April 2nd, 2010

BILLERICA, Mass., March 30 (UPI) — The U.S. government selected American Science and Engineering Inc. to provide maintenance support for the company’s deployed X-ray scanning units.

U.S. company AS&E, a developer of X-ray security systems designed to counter terrorism and other threats, received a contract to provide the U.S. government with service and maintenance on its Z Backscatter Van inspection units.

The Z Backscatter Van, a mobile screening technology integrated into a commercial-grade delivery van, has been widely deployed in the United States to support the U.S. Homeland Security Department and other applications .

“We are pleased to provide continued first-class service and support for the U.S. government’s fleet of Z Backscatter Vans deployed overseas for critical counter-terrorism operations,” Anthony Fabiano, AS&E president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“As the No. 1 selling non-intrusive mobile inspection system, the Z Backscatter Van provides our customers with unparalleled detection and mobility to support efforts to uncover vehicle-borne explosives and other contraband.”

Energy Star program comes under attack

Added April 2nd, 2010

The article posted in governmentexecutive.com caught my attention. I’m not sure what to believe anymore but I do believe we need to continue to march forward with our efforts to minimize energy consumption while creating new generation technology.

Does a gas-powered alarm clock the size of a small generator sound energy efficient to you? Or how about something a company claims is a room air cleaner — actually a space heater with a feather duster and fly strips attached to it, judging by the product image on the company’s Web site? Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency gave both products the Energy Star seal of approval without asking any questions.

Both items were the inventions of covert investigators at the Government Accountability Office, demonstrating that GAO officials have a sense of humor and the Energy Star efficiency rating program has a credibility problem.

A GAO report last week showed investigators had little trouble setting up sham companies that sought and received Energy Star certification for more than a dozen bogus products, including the alarm clock and the air cleaner. The Energy Star program is managed jointly by the Energy Department and EPA to certify and promote energy-efficient appliances and products.

“The results of the GAO’s investigation are astounding and raise doubts about the validity of the Energy Star rating,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Collins requested the investigation.

The program purports to give consumers, businesses and federal agencies valid information about the most energy-efficient products in 60 categories. In 2009, more than 40,000 products by 2,400 manufacturers were Energy-Star qualified.

Federal policies have given the Energy Star program significant clout. The government requires agencies to buy many products certified through Energy Star or the department’s Federal Energy Management Program unless an agency head declares in writing that a statutory exemption applies. What’s more, federal money funds tax credits and product rebates for businesses and consumers who purchase Energy Star products. Nearly $300 million of Recovery Act funds were appropriated for a state rebate grant program to further encourage such purchases.

“The GAO’s investigation proved that the absence of controls and oversight make the Energy Star program highly vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” Collins said.

Between June 2009 and March 2010, investigators set up four fake companies, each of which easily entered into the required partnership agreement with either EPA or the Energy Department, under which manufacturers agree to comply with Energy Star eligibility criteria. The fictitious companies then submitted 20 products for Energy Star certification. Fifteen of the products were approved, two were denied and GAO withdrew three because they had not received a qualification determination by the time the investigation was completed in March.

“Our investigation found that companies can easily submit fictitious energy-efficiency claims in order to obtain Energy Star qualification for a broad range of consumer products,” the report said. The sham companies even received product and service solicitations from would-be buyers.

“These solicitations are an example of the value placed on being an Energy Star partner, and emphasize why rigorous screening is necessary,” investigators wrote in the report.

Among the bogus products approved were major appliances, including a dishwasher, clothes washer and refrigerator; a commercial HVAC system; a geothermal heat pump; a furnace; a boiler; and computer equipment.

The two products rejected were a ventilating fan (an EPA reviewer rejected it because it did not appear on a trade association registry assuring compliance with standards), and a compact fluorescent light bulb, because it did not have the required third-party certification by a designated lab.

“Our proactive testing revealed that the Energy Star program is primarily a self-certification program relying on corporate honesty and industry self-policing to protect the integrity of the Energy Star label,” said the report.

“Taxpayers are being fleeced twice,” Collins said. Consumers fail to reap the promised efficiency benefits of some products, and federal money funds rebates and tax credits to promote products that might not meet efficiency standards. Companies that produce genuinely efficient products could be outpriced by unscrupulous firms, she noted.

This isn’t the first time investigators have found problems with the program. In August 2007, the EPA inspector general reported the agency’s lax management of controls and oversight of the Energy Star certification process. Last October, the Energy IG found similar problems with Energy’s oversight. Each agency is responsible for setting efficiency standards for products under its purview and for ensuring the proper use of the Energy Star label in the marketplace.

GAO auditors also noted that the October 2008 issue of Consumer Reports reviewed the program and found lax qualifying standards, outdated federal testing procedures and reliance on industry self-policing, without any evidence of its effectiveness.

“EPA and DOE are taking aggressive action to promote confidence in the Energy Star brand through both testing and enforcement,” according to a joint statement from both agencies. The statement noted the agencies have taken action against 35 manufacturers in the past four months for violating efficiency standards.

Last week, Energy issued subpoenas to four manufacturers as part of investigations into potential standards violations of lighting and air conditioner products. “As part of our expanded energy efficiency enforcement efforts, the Department of Energy will continue to open investigations whenever we have credible information that products are violating federal conservation standards,” said department General Counsel Scott Blake Harris in a statement.

Also last week, Energy began testing six of the most common product types: freezers, refrigerator-freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters and room air conditioners. The agency said it will test about 200 basic models at independent test laboratories during the next few months.

EPA and Energy are developing plans to require independent testing of all products seeking the Energy Star label, and ongoing verification testing to ensure continued compliance. An EPA official said the agency was in the process of defining requirements across all 60 product categories. The goal is to require qualification testing by EPA-approved independent labs by the end of 2010, the official said.

Collins said she would push for aggressive internal controls at Energy and EPA to verify product efficiency claims.

“I want to make sure we pursue changes that are more than window dressing. As GAO’s investigation results indicate, increased use of third-party verification may be an effective mechanism to help ensure that energy efficiency claims are confirmed,” she said.


Electric Cars and Hybrids Buzzing at NY Auto Show

Added April 2nd, 2010

Electric cars were front and center as the New York International Auto Show press preview began this week. Nissan revealed the $32,780 price for its plug-in Leaf and said it would start taking orders in April. Chevrolet proudly displayed its plug-in Volt on sale in November. And Ford CEO Alan Mulally said Microsoft technology will help future Ford electric-car owners decide the cheapest time to charge their vehicles (Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a video cameo).
Meanwhile, car makers also showcased new hybrids as part of their push to meet tighter federal gas mileage requirements. Here’s a rundown of these latest hybrids:
Lincoln MKZ-Ford has won praise and sales with its Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids. Now it expands the gas-electric system to its luxury Lincoln brand with the 2011 MKZ, on sale this fall.   Ford officials say it will be highest-gas-mileage luxury sedan in the U.S., with EPA ratings of 41 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. That beats Lexus HS250h. Prices have not yet been set, but this year’s gasoline-only MKZ sells for around $40,000 with options.
Porsche Cayenne S-Though best known for its sleek sports cars, Porsche sells more Cayenne SUVs than any other model.                To boost mileage, this sporty SUV will combine a 3.0-liter V-6 with an electric motor for a combined 374 horsepower in the hybrid available in early 2011. Impressive acceleration? Of course.  Look for zero-to-60 in about 6.7 seconds. Though U.S. mileage ratings aren’t yet available, translation from the European figure suggests about 24 mpg on the highway. That sounds like so-so mileage for a hybrid, but it’s a big improvement over the 2010 V-8 Cayenne S at 19 mpg highway, 23 city. And on the highway under certain conditions, Porsche says the Cayenne hybrid can cruise up to 85 mph on the electric motor alone- unusual for a hybrid. You’ll pay for this combination, with an estimated list price of $67,700. Porsche, which owns Volkswagen, plans to put the same system into its VW Touareg SUV in the 2012 model.
Honda CR-Z-With its hybrid Civic and Insight already in its line-up, Honda’s adding this sleek sports car with hybrid power late this summer. The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine and the electric motor combine for 122 horsepower. Especially appealing: The CR-Z will sell for a non-stratospheric $23,300. Some environmentally-minded reviewers grouse that the estimated 36 mpg city and 38 highway isn’t high enough for a two-seater (and lower than the much-heavier Ford Fusion hybrid). Can’t please everyone.Jerry Edgerton

SIA: January sales rise

Added March 1st, 2010

“If the current trends continue, there is upside potential for 2010 growth above our November forecast of $242.1 billion, but a growing global economy driven by consumer purchasing will be key to sustaining these trends,” says SIA President George Scalise.

By Ann Steffora Mutschler, Contributing Editor– Electronic News 3/1/2010

Reflecting the improving business environment for the worldwide semiconductor industry, the SIA (Semiconductor Industry Association) reported today that worldwide semiconductor sales in January rose slightly — 0.3% — to $22.5 billion, from $22.4 billion in December, but were 47.2% higher year-over-year from $15.3 billion in January 2009.

“January and February of 2009 were the low point of the industry downturn as the semiconductor industry and electronics manufacturers quickly responded to the global economic recession,” reminded SIA President George Scalise, in a statement.

He also noted that the SIA is currently seeing strength across a range of demand drivers for semiconductors, including personal computers, cell phones, automobiles, and industrial applications.

“If the current trends continue, there is upside potential for 2010 growth above our November forecast of $242.1 billion, but a growing global economy driven by consumer purchasing will be key to sustaining these trends,” Scalise added.

Commenting on the SIA’s January Global Sales Report, market research company iSuppli Corp. reminded that while worldwide semiconductor sales increased only slightly from December, sales typically decrease in Q1 following the Christmas revenue peak at the end of the previous year.

“iSuppli predicts global semiconductor revenue in 2010 will rise to $279.7 billion, up 21.5% from $230.2 billion in 2009. This will mark the first year of double-digit percentage revenue growth for the semiconductor industry since 2006. Following the 11.1% decline in revenue in 2009, the strong growth in 2010 represents a major improvement in market conditions for the global semiconductor industry. Semiconductor revenue growth this year will swing by 32.6 percentage points in the positive direction, from negative 11.1% in 2009 to positive 21.5% in 2010,” Dale Ford, senior VP at iSuppli said in a statement.

In terms of semiconductor products, iSuppli believes the strongest chip segment in Q1 will be memory, a category including DRAM and NAND flash, which will experience a 99.3% increase in revenue compared to the same period in 2009.

Further, strong revenue growth this year for DRAM will be due to the suppliers’ deft management of manufacturing capacity, which will keep inventories in check and prevent prices from eroding too precipitously, iSuppli said.

And on the NAND flash memory side, the company expects strong sales growth of smart phones will generate insatiable demand for NAND-type flash memory this year and will contribute to strained supplies for the year and help to boost pricing.

Finally, in the wireless communications area that is dominated by cell phones, iSuppli expects major growth in semiconductor consumption in Q1 with semiconductor sales to the wireless communications market amounting to $13.1 billion in Q1, up 53% from $8.6 billion in Q1 2009.

Technology continues to offer us data that can save lives !!!

Added February 27th, 2010

As we all watch carefully the turn of events it reminds us how important technology is and the impact data can have on human life. Friends we at Solid State Inc have at our fingertips the science and are committed to assist future green engineers by providing a broadline of manufacturers which can push the limits of technology in the decade ahead .  We await the news from customers and friends in Chile and also watch carefully how the Tsunami will affect the Pacific Rim. 

One reporter on CNN described how oceanagraphic devices can measure changes in the ocean and it sparked my interest to read on what kinds of technologies are designed for these exact purposes.  GlobalSpec, the search engine for engineers, describes various instruments which are used to detect oceanagraphic events.

Oceanographic instruments measure various physical characteristics of the world’s oceans. They include devices such as thermometers, fluorometers, depth sensors, acoustic current meters, echo sounders, tide and turbidity gauges, coastal buoys, meteorological instruments, water samplers, and salinometers.

Oceanographic instruments provide important data about tides and currents, as well as water quality characteristics such as chemical composition and salinity. Oceanographic instruments can also provide data about weather conditions; natural disasters such as typhoons, hurricanes, and tsunamis; and a myriad of sea life. The data collected from these devices can be shared with scientists all over the world using satellite communication and computer networks. There are several collaborative projects, such as the Argo project, which share real time data gathered by their oceanographic instruments with anyone interested in it. 

Oceanographic instruments give scientists and researchers an enormous amount of invaluable information. The devices range from very simple buoys to very complex and sensitive sensor systems that capture the unique characteristics of a body of water. For example, turbidity devices measure the quantity of solids in the water, such as phytoplankton or sediment, or dissolved particles such as pollutants or chemicals. Fluorometers detect the presence of impurities by measuring fluorescence, or the emission of particular wavelengths of light. Salinometers use the electrical conductivity and specific gravity of the water to measure its salt content. Other oceanographic instruments measure physical characteristics such as depth from the surface of the water to the ocean floor, the speed of water currents, and the height of tides. An acoustic doppler current profiler is a sonar device that uses transducers to detect and record the water’s current velocities across a range of depths. These current profilers are used to detect potentially damaging underwater tornadoes or measure the amount of freshwater melting off icebergs.

Other sonar-based oceanographic instruments include echo sounders, which use sound waves to measure the distance from the surface to the bottom of the sea floor. Echo sounders are frequently used to evaluate the quantities of fish in a particular area of the ocean, but they can also be used for navigation. High resolution bathymetry, or details of the ocean floor itself, can be made using a multibeam echo sounder attached to an autonomous underwater vehicle or submersible. 

Buoys are some of the most ubiquitous oceanographic instruments, serving as simple maritime markers and navigational aids to more complex profiling devices. Profiling buoys are designed to sink below the surface to measure temperature and salinity. Profiling buoys sink at a predetermined rate and resurface after a set period of time. Waverider buoys are specialized oceanographic instruments that measure the movement of the water’s surface to determine characteristics like wave height and period. Tsunami buoys can detect sudden changes in the ocean’s water pressure and are used as part of an early warning system in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  

Other oceanographic instruments are used for meteorological or climate studies. Weather buoys measure air and water temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, and wave height. These buoys may also be configured to transmit data to satellite networks, allowing meteorological centers to make real time predictions and warn people of impending storms.

We challenge our customers, veteran engineers, young aspiring scientist to push the limits in their fields.  Create the products using the visions and interest they have,  use their resources and to continue their contributions. Let us know if any of our product lines interest you , visit our site for a list of manufacturers we franchise and our in house stock.  Get to know us : www.solidstateinc.com

Bergquist pre-applies Bond-Ply 450 to PCBs

Added February 27th, 2010

Found this interesting article regarding Bergquist Edited by the Electronicstalk editorial team Feb 23, 2009

The reflow-resistant thermal interface tape saves product manufacturers from manually applying thermal interface material after assembly.

This streamlines production, allowing to quickly bond the metal-core PCB to a heatsink avoiding laborious attachment of individual screws or clips.

The pre-applied Bond-Ply 450 tape is designed to retain its adhesive properties after passing through reflow soldering, allowing the assembly to be directly attached to a heatsink.

Release of the back-side liner is also unaffected by soldering temperatures.  It is available only as a pre-applied thermal interface for T-Clad circuits. It is 0.127mm thick and is rated for continuous use from – 30 to +120C.

High bond strength to low-energy surfaces such as aluminium heatsinks and a variety of plastics assures secure assembly, even for products used in harsh environments.  The Bond-Ply 450 is available in both standards as well as customised T-Clad circuits.

These include outlines such as power rails and star- or square-shaped LED boards, as well as a limitless variety of sizes for use in markets such as architectural, automotive, medical, military, signage or aerospace.

The path to successful new products

Added February 25th, 2010

Is your company finding it hard to develop new products? If so, you might try learning from the masters.

We found after surveying more than 300 employees at 28 companies across North America and Europe, that the businesses with the best product-development track records do three things better than their less-successful peers: They create a clear sense of project goals early on, they nurture a strong project culture in their workplace, and they maintain close contact with customers throughout a project’s duration.

The teams in our study that embraced these tactics were 17 times as likely as the laggards to have projects come in on time, five times as likely to be on budget, and twice as likely to meet their company’s return-on-investment targets.

While we focused on companies in the automotive, high-tech, and medical-device industries, we believe that product makers of all stripes could benefit from our work.

Here is a closer look at what we found:

Keep it focused

Whenever project requirements were clearly defined and communicated to teams before kickoff, the project had a greater chance of success.

In our survey, 70 percent of the people working on high-performing projects, those that ranked in the top quarter of a performance index linking best practices to outcomes said they had a clear view of the project’s scope from the beginning, compared with just one-third of poor performers. We found that not thinking through a project’s scope early on say an appliance maker asks developers to design a new cooking range in the four-burner category but then later expands the project to include ranges with six burners can create delays.

The teams with a clear understanding of project requirements appeared better able to make trade-offs between product performance and things like cost, time to market, and project risk. Only 19 percent of poor performers said they had the necessary information to make those decisions.

Top performers also focused more intensely than low performers on staffing projects with the right people: 47 percent of the former researched employees’ skill sets before the project kicked off to ensure the project team was well rounded. None of the low performers did.

Nurture a project culture

The top-performing companies in our survey also nurtured a strong project culture by making product development a priority. They made more of an effort than the laggards 39 percent versus 12 percent to minimize staffing disruptions due to external demands and to staff projects adequately. When people with critical skills become overburdened, they often decide on their own which of their many projects is the most important, a decision best made at the management level.

Two-thirds of top performers compared with 39 percent of poor performers said team members focused more on the success of the project than on satisfying the needs of their job function when those interests competed. They also were more likely than the laggards 44 percent versus 17 percent to give team leaders responsibility for reviewing team members’ job performances.

Three years ago, a North American medical-device maker in our study began an effort to stem market-share losses. Recognizing that one of the company’s underlying problems was that project culture was weak, the device maker gave senior team leaders ownership of projects from beginning to end, as well as authority over staffing, personnel reviews and, in some cases, profit-and-loss responsibility. The new structure encouraged leaders to make better decisions, resolve conflicts quickly and reduce delays.

Talk to the customer

The successful innovators in our study kept in close contact with customers throughout the development process. More than 80 percent of the top performers said they periodically tested and validated customer preferences during the development process, compared with just 43 percent of bottom performers. They were also twice as likely as the laggards to research what, exactly, customers wanted. That made them better able to identify and fix design concerns early on, minimizing project delays.

The medical-device maker we mentioned created a matrix to identify and weigh the importance of various product features to different customer segments. It then tested trade-offs between product performance and things like price by bringing in surgeons and other medical specialists to use the product in simulated clinical settings. That allowed the team to fine-tune the product well before launch.

The result? Three years after starting its effort to shore up market share, employee satisfaction with product development increased, time to market improved for all projects up to 40 percent in some cases and overall gross margin rose six percentage points.

About the Authors

Mike Gordonis a consultant in New Jersey office; Chris Musso is an associate principal in the Cleveland office; Eric Rebentisch is a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Nisheeth Gupta is a graduate student in the MIT system design and management program. This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal on November 30, 2009.