Real-time Data Gives Samtec the Edge in Improving Manufacturing Processes

Sepasoft OEE Downtime Module helped Samtec transform its manufacturing data processes to provide real-time visibility of process variables, as well as monitoring for key quality and process indicators.

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If a manufacturer constantly needs to monitor process variables to maintain product quality, manual data collection will just not cut it. That’s the situation Samtec found itself in. 

With manufacturing locations around the world, the company turned to Sepasoft’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Downtime Module for its continuous improvement challenges.

Samtec has been a provider of industrial computer connection technologies for more than 40 years, making cables, board-to-board connectors, fiber optics, and other components, while also offering tailored products for customers and quick prototypes for testing.

To ensure consistent product quality, Samtec needs constant, real-time visibility of process variables, as well as monitoring for key quality and process indicators—like chemical compositions, temperature, and line or plating speeds. Until the automated, OEE Downtime Module was implemented, data collection and user input was manual and often unreliable, hiding actual conditions from process engineers and the manufacturing floor.

Built on the Ignition platform from Inductive Automation, the Sepasoft OEE Downtime Module helped Samtec transform its entire manufacturing data process. Allowing Samtec to harness and contextualize its raw data, using it to drive continuous improvement and bring in a more efficient production environment with large cost savings.

“Having visibility of those process variables in real time, seeing the temperature of our baths, chemical compositions of the baths, the speed of the line, the rate of our plating from our rectifiers, is very important to making quick, informed decisions for manufacturing,” says Jeff Matheny, global technical manager at Samtec. “We were looking for a system that could connect to our devices on the floor and provide that data to us in real time, and also to provide some historical information so we could review the manufacturing process after the fact and make improvements.“

One significant area for savings was achieved by tracking gold consumption rates during the plating process. By more tightly managing the process, Samtec was able to eliminate waste and achieve a substantial cost savings over what was possible with its previous monthly manual tracking process.

“Our gold saving numbers have been our biggest financial benefit from this real-time monitoring. Raw materials are a big cost for us. We plate with gold, so being able to monitor our consumption rates in real time has been big for us,” says Matheny. “We used to have to wait until the end of the month to balance our gold numbers, now we can see them on a daily basis—by line, by part number, and by operator—so we can quickly identify areas where we are using too much gold.”

To ensure reliable integration, Samtec initiated the project with a systems integrator. Following that initial phase, internal engineers, who had completed hands-on training and received design consultation support, completed the customized system. Sepasoft guided Samtec every step of the way to ensure the system was ready to hit the ground running. It continues to provide Samtec with design consultation and technical support by phone as needed.

A step-by-step approach rather than an instant changeover to the new system was central to the success of the project. “Certified integrators came in and helped us,” explains Jordan Rajchel, systems integration engineer. “We implemented one machine first, got it as solid as we could, and then we built it in a way that could be scaled out to multiple machines.”

The ability to customize Sepasoft’s manufacturing execution system software to Samtec’s business model was also important to the success of the project. By offering features such as custom scripting, Samtec was able to capitalize on the flexibility to add to an existing manufacturing process and help enhance the production environment moving forward.

Samtec already had its manufacturing systems in place, machines in operation, and people trained to utilize the current structure. By introducing Ignition and the Sepasoft OEE Downtime Module, Samtec was able to connect, enhance, and provide real value for continuous improvement.

“We have the ability to pretty much integrate with any system that we have already built and to build alongside those things like our Auto-Tech Dashboard that’s completely based on data from one of our Samtec-built systems, but it shows data in a different way than it ever had before,” says Rajchel.

“PRISM is the acronym we came with up for our Ignition platform,” explains Matheny. “It stands for process reporting and integrated systems management. The process reporting is us being able to see process data both in real time and historically. The integrated systems management is where we’re taking the Ignition platform by integrating it with our ERP [enterprise resource planning] module, our quality system, and our inspection tracking system, and we’re pulling all that together and allowing the operator to see it in one place.”

Consolidating the data allowed Samtec to quickly identify opportunities that could be improved with real-time data. “We were able to show other opportunities for Ignition to help us manage not only process-driven data, but OEE and efficiency data as well,” says Matheny.

“The managers in stamping, for example, just could not live without the Ignition platform to manage their information. We’ve been able to see which dies are running efficiently. If an operator decides to turn the rate down on a die and run it slowly, that’s a big opportunity for us to go and find out whether there’s a problem we need to address that’s not allowing him to run at rate.”

The forward-looking system that Sepasoft provides continues to surface new ideas for improvements. “We’re always looking for new opportunities to be able to get data in real-time and get reports out to provide the engineers with what they need to advance the manufacturing production process and our products going forward,” adds Matheny. “So as we advance into [applications of the system with] the glass core technology, microelectronics, cables, and backplane connectors, there are all kinds of opportunities for us to use PRISM out of the gate to collect that data and help define our manufacturing processes and perfect them as we go.”

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