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virtex.pngThe cost of the VICKI project was $50,000, and the payback period was less than six months.





High-mix, low-volume manufacturer slashes changeover times

At VirTex Assembly Services, cutting plant changeover times and reducing downtime is critical. As a high-mix, low-volume maker of surface mount assemblies and other electronic systems with 15,000 unique part numbers to manage, VirTex has always struggled to cut changeover times.

The company has tried fixed setups and line-side stocking but found the results lacking. With the economy bouncing back, and the number of assemblies to be produced expected to rise by 50%, stabilizing changeover time became a priority again.

VirTex, a Progressive Manufacturer of the Year winner in 2009, decided to try a new approach that wouldn’t involve hiring more staff, a challenge since finding people to run surface mount placement equipment can be difficult.

Ultimately, VirTex concluded that downtime could be reduced if the setup of jobs were kitted in aggregate instead of individually. The goal was to improve overall setup time and efficiency by 10%-20%.

VirTex first used pick–and-placement software to test the feasibility of the aggregate kitting plan, which the company called VirTex Intelligent Changeover Kitting and Integration (VICKI). Phase two of the project involved implementing a solution through VirTex’s MES system provider, Optimal Electronics, which incorporated the legacy machines into the new process.

After completing phase one of the implementation, VirTex has already improved customer responsiveness, employee training, and energy usage. The company saw reduced cycle times, and machines spent less time sitting idle. Employee training was improved for about 20% of VirTex’s operators.

Total jobs run in a shift were increased by 50%-150%. Setup times were reduced by 30%-60%.

The cost of the project was $50,000, and the payback period was less than six months. The total revenue for VirTex’s Austin facility doubled, with a 70% increase in gross profit and a 200% increase in net profit.

VirTex is currently in phase two of the project, which will continue through 2011.

Says VirTex CEO Brad Heath, “The PM100 has always been a measure for us that even as a smaller manufacturer, the actions and projects we undertake have meaning and relevance in moving the case for U.S. manufacturing forward.”