Microtronix Manufacturing (Microtronix) has a history dating back to 1993 when it was established by Michael and Louise Goodyer as an electronics contract manufacturing business. From a small beginning the company has grown significantly over the years and recently (July 2004) moved into a new custom-built premises in Strydom Park in Randburg.
The manufacturing and assembly area has some 3500 m² of floor space and has been uniquely designed in a circular layout where product only moves forward. A large entrance lobby houses the two interfaces to manufacturing, namely goods receiving and dispatch (together with a reception area for customers). The company is still privately owned by the Goodyers with Michael acting as managing director and Louise the financial director, while the staff complement has risen to more than 95 highly trained people. The staff are regularly trained to keep up to date with new technology, new equipment and any changes in the industry. While the new building has been specifically designed for manufacture, a canteen and comfortable shaded outside sitting area is provided for staff for use during their work breaks.
When it was formed, the main business of the company was the supply of populated PCBs for the smartcard reader, cashless gaming and vending industry but more recently the activities have been expanded to include electronics for the GSM cellular, mining, aerospace and defence, automotive, security, display (including LED screen assemblies) and other industrial and commercial industries. The facility is certified to ISO 9001:2000 and its high level of quality has seen it get continued repeat business from the local electronics industry as well as companies in the UK, USA and Japan. And despite the strong rand, this business continues to grow mainly as a result of customer satisfaction with the delivered product. Those customers who have visited the new Microtronix facilities know exactly what the company's capabilities are.
In terms of the service provided to the customer, Microtronix is very flexible. Its procurement department can source everything from PCB boards to components and connectors, and here pricing is very attractive as a result of the high-volume purchasing power. The customer on the other hand, can supply kits of components and the PCB or any other combination, such as supplying high value critical components, with Microtronix supplying resistors, capacitors and diodes. Microtronix holds a large stock of a wide range of commonly-used lower value devices as well as customer-specific items. A well laid out kitting room is used to sort out the various kits
An exploration of the premises is very informative as to how the process, quality and productivity are maintained by the company. It starts with the order receiving in the admin department where a job card is created and a bill of materials is issued, it then moves to the configuration management department where a detailed data pack is prepared including photographs of boards and special components, and actual assembly instructions, including machine settings. The data pack is bar coded and contains a flow chart through the manufacturing process where each manager signs the job off as complete and scans the bar code into the tracking system. The data pack follows the product through the factory and the bar coding system allows total job tracking and clients can be quickly informed of where their job is in the system.
All of the parts, including the company's own stock, are delivered to goods receiving and from here they move through to the kitting room where operators assemble and check the full inventory required for the particular run. If there is a shortage of any component, the job does not proceed to the factory floor until the components, at the customer's discretion, are either delivered by them, or drawn from the Microtronix stock for later charging. Once the kit is complete and checked against the bill of materials it is delivered to the holding area of the factory before being assigned to one of three SMD lines depending on the type of product and volume. The factory itself has an anti-static fully-dissipating floor and clever use of both underfloor and roof insulation ensures comfortable control of temperature year round. The factory is well lit with the use of natural light and a multitude of super white phosphor tube fittings providing a white, almost clinical, environment.
There are three SMD production lines, all using Yamaha gantry type pick-and-place machines, the latest addition being a Yamaha YV 100 XTg which is in the fastest line with a capability of placing around 25 000 components per hour. The second line is used for medium to high volume runs and is mainly used for high technology products. The third line is made up of two Yamaha YV 100X pick-and-place machines. This line can be split up to work on two jobs simultaneously or it can be used to double up for high volume production. Most of the small runs, including prototypes, are run on Line 3. In total, the SMD department has a capacity of around 45 000 SMD parts per hour.
The main line is split into two machines, the first being a 'chip shooter' and the second a fine pitch placer. The first machine is very high speed and places all the standard components like resistors and capacitors, the second machine in the line is slower and is used to place the fewer, but more sensitive and complex components. Each line has a dedicated reflow oven with the main line equipped for nitrogen reflow. Although the company is still using lead-containing components, the demands of its export customers will be met later this year with a conversion to lead-free technology, the current reflow ovens having this capability. Transferral from the pick-and-place machines to the ovens is done via an automated conveyer with an inspection station in-line, where a visual inspection is made of every PCB.
Where customers require a special manufacturing technique, with SMD devices on both sides as well as conventional parts an automatic glueing machine is used to fix the components on one particular side, during the wave solder process. After the SMD process all boards are inspected using automated optical inspection machines before moving on to the next stage. A small rework area also is positioned at this point in the factory so that small defects found during the inspection can be corrected.
The next phase is of course to mount non-SMD components and here Microtronix has a unique advantage over many of its competitors in that it has two fully-automated Universal Instruments axial and radial insertion machines that are used to insert conventional components. These machines prove their worth in large volume production runs. Conventional components that cannot be machine inserted (eg, transformers and other irregularly shaped components) go to one of three hand insertion lines before the PCBs are soldered using wave flow solder machines. Following this stage, there are four hand soldering lines where post-fit or more complicated work is done on the product. Here cables looms and special connectors are manually fitted ready to be plugged into the customer's application.
This is followed up by the test area where boards are tested, programmed and burned in (often overnight). Microtronix can, for example, provide bed-of-nail testers and other test fixtures for specific PCBs, the customer in most cases being responsible for defining his own test procedures. Following the test area there is a repair department that deals with product returns and test repairs.
The final stage in the manufacturing procedure is coating of the PCB to one of several different specifications. This is done using an automatic conformal coating machine that is programmed for each product so as to provide a precision spray valve coating. It avoids connectors and other no-go areas. An environmental chamber is also available here to ensure that military PCBs, for example, can meet the required extreme temperature specifications. For those customers that want their PCBs 'washed' to provide an absolute no flux finish, a special PCB cleaning machine is available at this stage.
Following this, the boards are bar coded (so that every batch of boards can be traced back to the specific production run). Products then go through to the packaging department before arriving at dispatch ready to be delivered to the customer. As previously indicated, dispatch is located right next to goods receiving so the components move in a clockwise fashion from the latter, through manufacture and packaging to a point right next to where they originated. This layout, that minimises wasted time and effort in taking product backwards and forwards, has been cleverly created to increase productivity and efficiency.
With its combination of equipment and skills, Microtronix is really a world-class turnkey electronics contract manufacturer. Its ability to sell its products into First World markets is a true indication of the company's quality and pricing and it has the ability to greatly increase throughput by introducing extra shifts. Another major benefit for customers is that the company regularly works with its customers advising them how best to industrialise their products - both for efficient manufacturing techniques as well as to meet the rigorous military and IPC610c specifications. Also, its expertise in the assembly of LED array devices is probably unique in this country.
There is no doubt that customer service, total commitment to quality and the investment in best-of-breed assembly and test equipment are core to the company's success and continued growth.
On a personal note from the MD Mike Goodyer: "I would sincerely like to thank all our customers and suppliers for their support and loyalty over the past years. We look forward to serving you, our customers, in the years to come as your partner in manufacturing. Thank you also, to my loyal and dedicated staff who have followed my vision for this company over the past 12 years."
For more information contact Mike Goodyer, Microtronix Manufacturing, +27 (0)11 792 5322/3, firstname.lastname@example.org