We spoke at this year’s Apex with a number of people interested to learn more about our automated logistics systems. One conversation was with iConnect 007’s Andy Shaughnessy. Excerpts from that interview follow:
Andy Shaughnessy: Rich, we talked a few times last year, and I understand that you’ve got some updates on what’s been going on in the company. What’s the rundown?
Rich Heimsch: Absolutely. Nice to see you again. We’re consistent with our “More than just dry air” slogan. The rate of product development has continued along the lines of moving beyond dry cabinet and moisture-sensitive device storage.
The clock reset options have been greatly expanded. Now, the entire logistics management process is inside of that realm. We won a major technology award last fall at Productronica for our Dry Tower, which is a fully automated component management and logistics system that handles, in some cases, 30,000–50,000 reels and trays, with multiple inputs and outputs. Parts come in, they’re automatically recognized as either trays or reels—7-inch reels or 13-inch reels—and the details of the part on those reels are recognized. The amount of floor life left on the part is known and the system automatically seeks out the most efficient place to store the part.
That might be a temporary floor life reset area, or it might be simple dry storage; maybe the same storage area. It might not be a moisture-sensitive device and doesn’t require any controlled RH but nonetheless it’s optimizing the space. The system maintains track of every part, and dynamically calculates the remaining floor life time as it is either increasing while in reset or decreasing while out on the floor. The location of any given item can be determined. Absolute, complete and error-free traceability is a significant benefit of a system like this. It’s Industry 4.0 being executed, in short.
Shaughnessy: You were talking before about the differences between Europe and the Americas and how it’s like a completely different ballgame.
Heimsch: As moisture management goes certainly the Europeans, Northern Europeans in particular, are five or six years ahead of us here as far as implementation of the most imaginative solutions. A lot of that time lag was triggered by the RoHS legislation that went into effect some years ago. Lead free increases the urgency of proper moisture management. A lead-free device is typically two MSLs higher than that same device in the lead process, and triple the saturated vapor pressure. A much greater percentage of the typical European shop had to be tracked. Thus the need to fine tune the solutions was in earlier and greater demand there than here.
The nice point is that the North American market has mature, developed products to pick and choose from that are also extremely leading edge. Whether it be the accelerated drying cabinets or these fully automated logistics systems and complete warehouse management, or the software that is the brains of the automated system which is available in a reduced form for people with two or three cabinets and a few hundred or 1,000 reels to keep track of. They can manually barcode parts into and out of their dry storage systems and know the location, know the time at which it came in and out, and keep the floor life time dynamically calculated the same way the automated system does — but without the robots.