Freaky March


Last night the weather changed direction as often as a teenage girl changes outfits on the first day of school. First there was mist, a gentle cloudy heaviness. A few hours later lightening and thunder split the skies with fury and excitement. As everything calmed down, I drifted off, thinking that the next day would harbor in a gentle spring day. Not so. Teenage behavior prevailed. To be an adult or to cling to childhood where things are certain seemed to be the choice for this March day. I awoke to a winter wonderland, a last clutch of winter.

Change is difficult. In our industry where innovation and creativity can mark the survival of a company, change can be a good thing, an opportunity. But what we really want is certainty. Recently, I visited Heraeus Contact Materials Division to see how they upgraded their Assembly Materials Production area in Conshohocken, PA. They had lots of news—news that gave a “certainty” factor to our industry involving wire bonds, stacked package fluxing, wafer bumping, and solder spheres. “2007 was our best year ever, and during 2008 we are expanding our business in the U.S. and globally,” said Ferdinand Bartels, V.P. global business unit manager. Heraeus has spent $1M to reorganize their production area by consolidating a natural material and product flow, bringing related processes efficiently in close approximation. Now their production area is designed for ergonomics and future growth. Now flux, solids, and mixers are close by for making paste. Adhesives—both conductive and those used for attachment and coating are organized close to the solder paste areas, but not intermingled.

When other industries talk about slowdown and possible recessions, Bartels talks of investment and growth. “Fortunately, we can afford the luxury of taking a long-term strategy,” he added. “We believe in the U.S. industry.” Six sigma quality programs have taken hold at Heraeus. Measurement and tracking are found throughout with RF guns for identifying real-time inventory control, approved raw materials that are bar-coded and approved, lean principles, cross trained employees, humidity and temperature controlled environments, and the list goes on. Eliminating variation in production was key to this industrious approach.

Rick Lathrop, manager of applications and customer support, reviewed some original tests and applications he developed for specific customer challenges. As we looked up at the wall, a cover of Advanced Packaging magazine loomed large. When we talked of using their no-clean dippable paste in package-on-package (PoP) assembly, or their innovative approach to attaching solder balls to wafers, the information they presented read like the pages of our magazine.

In this time when so much is uncertain, it’s assuring to hear that packaging can add certainty to the electronics market overall. You have to believe in your product, your work, your intelligence; because it makes a difference if applied. Some change introduces opportunity. Recession? As if. After March comes April.

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Gail Flower