Peter Bigelow

Less bureaucracy and more practical certifications line the path to better quality.

Sometimes I truly believe that less is more.
Typically people will talk about less being more only when they have less, not more, to say, do, or sell. In many events – global as well as hyper-local – we find examples of how less really is more.

Consider:

Surface finish plating. Why is it that those who like to, say, wire-bond will demand a zillion microns of gold to get the job done – all while whining about how expensive the circuit board is for their well- (if not overly) specified design? Perhaps if they looked at their process and really understood what their employees were doing, they could easily (or maybe with some professional help) hone their manufacturing process to more efficiently wire-bond and thus provide a better, more consistent end-product without spending the extra money for excessive gold. I know, strange concept, but use less gold, improve your process and save money – that’s a trifecta of “less is more” – all in one fell swoop!

It’s not just gold. All surface finish options, noble or organic in material, seem to attract the same nonsensical approach: if a little is good, a lot is even better. More OSP will not improve shelf life. More silver will not reduce the propensity of whiskers. And so on.

Useless certifications. Who was the genius who decided that if the desired level of quality isn’t met, adding another certification would do the trick? If nowhere else but in this area, the military guys are world-class. I have countless times been at companies that require some level of MIL, ISO, AS, NADCAP, etc. certification just to hear that what they buy is specified to an IPC standard. Gee, if you are having problems with supplier quality, invest a little time to work with those suppliers! Don’t bury everyone with a wasteful, pointless and time-consuming (read expensive!) “alphabet soup” of certifications that are typically based on theory, not practical reality. Creating yet more certifications will not fix or improve quality. More often than not, similar but different certifications just camouflage the root cause.
Safeguarding against deficient quality always involves one of the following three root causes: either the supplier has a problem producing the quality requested because they do not have the ability to do so (capability), or the supplier flubbed-up execution (process), or what the customer asked of supplier was impossible to consistently produce (specifications).

Bureaucratic large OEMs, please save everyone, especially yourselves, serious time and money by working with suppliers on a one-on-one basis so they understand what you need, you understand what they can produce, and everyone can focus on higher quality and lower total cost of ownership for optimal manufacturability. Less certification bureaucracy and more active supply chain involvement, and everyone benefits.

Government “help.” We all want to save the world; it’s just some of us are focused on a more pragmatic approach. Wouldn’t it be great if government legislation could help save the world one company (or industry) at a time, instead of causing ever greater headwinds for all? This is not a Republican or Democrat thing. This is not just in any one country; all government officials, regardless of country, seem to pile on regulations, well intended as they may be, that create more nonproductive work for all. Just imagine if the wasted effort filling out regulatory forms was instead spent developing new technology, products and processes. How much better off would we be? Mr./Ms. legislator, understand, please, the best way to save the world is with less, not more, useless regulation!

“Clever” HR programs to build spirit. Ample time and resources are spent developing exciting team-building programs to create the atmosphere and environment that will foster each worker to achieve greater heights. Regrettably, even after such efforts, too many companies still lack the high morale or productivity they strive for. World-class programs are great, but sometimes the best way to build morale is doing less in the way of programs and simply remembering the personal touch.

That’s tough to do with an emerging workforce that often values texting over conversations. It’s tough when some employees’ only goal is to make it through the day, doing the best job possible at a task they understand. We are too quick to forget that we all have bad days; we all screw up; we all fail. Of all the areas where less can be so much more, it is in how we address our employees and coworkers. Less means simple, and a simple “thank you” or a “how are you?” can mean much more than any formal program. Random acts of genuine interest in each and every person we spend so much of our time with has a far more positive impact. Too often we forget that despite the risk, demands, and ever-changing technology – despite competitive pressures of being in a truly global industry, regardless of company size or location, it is always people who make the difference. Less artificial hype and more genuine concern is just the ticket to enabling stellar performance and heightened morale.

In so many ways, less truly is more. As we approach the holiday season and begin to focus on the upcoming year, let’s focus less on more.

Peter Bigelow is president and CEO of IMI (imipcb.com); pbigelow@imipcb.com. His column appears monthly.

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