Penang, Malaysia - Sept 29, 2021
Commitment, customer focus, continuous improvement, results orientated, and ethical conduct of business – these are ESCATEC’s core values, and they were wonderfully displayed and practiced this year in ESCATEC Electronics (EEM). In a tough operating environment due to COVID19 and disrupted supply chains, EEM pulled off an amazing feat by successfully executing the largest and most important contract ever handled by the Group.
The project in question was to manufacture two very important products for a major new customer hailing from Northern Europe. Since its start in 2007, the customer has continuously innovated and developed its real-time supply chain monitoring technology that offers precise location tracking, which is especially relevant to the quality, safety, and security needs of the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors.
Throw the COVID19 pandemic into the mix, and the customer announced in December 2020 that it had won the race to provide a pharma giant with cold-chain monitoring services for the global supply of its COVID19 vaccine. The solution involves real-time IoT data loggers, which transmit critical quality condition information to its cloud-based platform and ensure that the vaccines are kept at the correct ultra-cold temperature at every stage of its global distribution.
Subsequently in early 2021, the customer awarded a contract to EEM for the mass manufacture and supply of their two important products, which in turn are crucial for the assembly of the customer’s data loggers used to monitor the global distribution of the said COVID19 vaccine. The project is the largest ever secured by ESCATEC to date, and due to the urgency of needing to supply the vaccine to the world as soon as possible, EEM had extremely short deadlines to make it happen.
The various teams at EEM swung immediately into action. Firstly, a New Product Introduction (NPI) team applied DFM (Design for Manufacturing), focusing on quality and discovered several design enhancements that would improve the effectiveness of the data loggers. These modifications were swiftly communicated to the customer, and the designs were made ready for the next stage. The entire turnaround time from receiving the initial designs to making the recommended enhancements took less than two weeks.
Concurrently, the Procurement Team started putting in place the requisite supply chains from suppliers while the HR Department initiated an intensive recruitment exercise to expand the production and supervisory workforce. These activities were in high gear for several weeks.
Upon completion of the NPI process, the MYCOM team stepped in to get the new assembly lines ready. This involved purchasing new machinery, setting-up additional lines and multiple new workstations, getting jigs and fixtures ready, identifying and implementing process and quality improvements, testing that everything works as it was supposed to, continuously improving all aspects of everything, plus various other things had to be quickly made ready. All of this was accomplished in close consultation with the customer and took about a month. Meanwhile, the Training Department initiated an intensive training regimen for the newly recruited staff and the supervisory team assigned to the project.
Besides the Business Unit Managers, employees involved in the NPI and MYCOM process credit the senior management – notably CEO Patrick Macdonald, COO Juha Arola, CFO Roman Ziegler, Director of Procurement Steven Lim, and General Manager Lambert Schutters – for empowering and allowing them to make decisions and respond fast as the situation evolved, and for taking the lead to troubleshoot when required by the customer, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
The start of mass production was a complex challenge, largely due to the speed at which the project had to be implemented. Further modifications of the designs were required, some processes had to be revamped, machinery and equipment further calibrated, employees had to be recruited during the government’s Movement Control Order, and the production operators needed more time to hone their skills on these new products. As volumes started increasing, the office staff were drafted in on a roster to help on the assembly lines.
These initial issues were addressed and resolved collectively — and very successfully at that — by an inter-disciplinary and inter-department Kaizen team that enabled EEM to achieve substantial cost savings with 100% OTD to the very happy customer. A summary of this Kaizen project is presented below.
Presently, there are seven assembly lines with about 150 production operators dedicated to the project, and volumes are at a steady 25,000 units per week for each product. According to the NPI team at EEM, they are already working on an upgraded product for the customer and with higher production volumes planned.
This project is indeed a significant achievement by ESCATEC and its implementation was a great display of cohesive inter-department teamwork, effective leadership, and employee commitment. It has also started contributing very significantly to the Group’s growth. Well done to everyone in EEM!
Top Background: A management briefing relating to the project for the NPI and MYCOM teams
On the right: ESCATEC CEO Patrick Macdonald
Below: Seven assembly lines in ESCATEC Electronics are in full swing for the project