Who Needs a Dog That Doesn’t Bark?

By Tom Forsythe

My wife and I have always been Sherlock Holmes fans. While not as exciting as Harry Potter, who can forget those old Basil Rathbone black-and-white episodes, or the newer ones starring Jeremy Brett and his slicked-back hair? A favorite is the Hound of the Baskervilles, and the famous dog that didn't bark. Holmes reasoned that the dog didn't bark because it knew the intruder; therefore, it didn't sound the alarm.

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You are probably wondering what this has to do with advanced packaging. As we all know, new product design has plenty of mystery involved. If it's a team project, there is room for intrigue as well. Not that I have a hidden agenda. When I say team, I don't exclusively mean an internal team. In the new millennium, we're all in this together — manufacturers and suppliers of process hardware, components and consumables.

Now, I happen to fall into the consumables category. We make cleaning agents, principally for defluxing. Advanced packaging has many manufacturing challenges, and those flux residues — be they “no clean” or “yes clean” — often become “you'd better clean.”

Players on the team have a responsibility to provide their best counsel and honest opinions to the team. It's about optimizing results. Simple enough you might say, everyone knows that unless we all win, no one wins. But has every team you participated on lived up to that standard? Or have some of your supplier team members been dogs who didn't bark?

In our business, standard practice requires performance testing during process design or scale up. This testing can occur at three locations: the cleaning agent supplier's applications laboratory, the equipment manufacturer's demo room or the end user's shop floor. Depending on the cleaning agent supplier, often there are only two choices because some do not have fully equipped applications labs. From the end user's perspective running these tests on the factory floor is the least desirable option, so this testing often occurs in the cleaning machine manufacturer's demo room.

Here is where things can start getting quiet. If you're the average vendor, during these trials you are simply trying to show that your product can accomplish the desired task. Process optimization is not on the agenda — meaning that what the customer really needs is not on the agenda. Some think, “I'm not on the team yet, I'll worry about the team after I make the cut.” In fact, this is precisely when the end user needs to hear that dog barking.

After all, these tests are called trials for a reason. Does anyone like going on trial? While trials are the on the critical path to a sale, most suppliers don't like trials either. Why? Trials are just like exams. If you have done the work, done those famous Ps — proper prior planning prevents — then things go swimmingly. But who among us has never missed a few of those Ps for at least one test? Those exam days were a bit more nerve racking, more edgy, and since we've been trained over many years never to talk during and exam, the result is a dog that won't bark!

Therein lies the problem. In this year of downsizing, rightsizing and just plain less people, is it any wonder that detailed review meetings prior to the trial are rarely held? Detail tasks need to be reviewed weeks ahead of time to allow for effective follow-through. It is my belief that this is why so many trials have “mixed” results.

So what happens is that the “ill-prepared” are surprised when that first part fails to meet spec. Then the scramble begins and everyone's blood pressure is up. About then, there is plenty of growling — but it is too late! Chances are this scenario is a waste of time, a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

As Mr. Holmes knew all too well, an effective guard dog barks long and loud before it is too late. The best dogs (and suppliers) start barking early in the process to prevent problems and help get the team to its desired goal. Be sure to have a few snacks in your pocket to thank them.

TOM FORSYTHE, vice president, may be contacted at Kyzen Corp., 430 Harding Industrial Dr., Nashville, TN 37211; (615) 831-0880; e-mail: [email protected].


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