Oil and Gas Industrial zone,The equipment of oil refining,Close-up of industrial pipelines of an oil-refinery plant,Detail of oil pipeline with valves in large oil refinery.



Chapter 1: Secrets


         A loud roar went up from the main floor, heard clearly upstairs, in the 4,000 worker factory. This was 6:30 am, half-hour after shift change. What prompted the outburst?

Production numbers for the third-shift
Mold room were just posted!

         I was an Expat Engineering Manager at Fairchild in Jakarta, Indonesia. We assembled Plastic Dual-in-line Integrated Circuits (PDIP computer chips). The assembly process included two main steps, the Wire Bond, then the Mold.

Fig. 1.1 2-Step IC Assembly

         The first step was upstairs in the two-floor factory, where clean-room conditions were rigorously enforced (face-masks, super-clean environment, etc.). The molding operation, which packaged the integrated circuits downstairs, required less scrutiny, e.g., no face masks, less air-quality control and a more relaxed setting.

         As we (five new expat managers) began our task, the mold room was a cavalier operation, where twenty minutes before shift change, mold room operators were lined up at the time clock. They would then punch out precisely at shift-end. They somehow timed their activities to coincide with hoorah’s and back-slapping at the time-clock, jockeying to be first in line…

         A lot of re-orienting, training and re-training went on during the weeks and months following. A mindset of how much more can we get done before the final buzzer became routine. The big change included posting in glaring numbers on a wall-sized screen, how many units were completed during the just-completed shift.

         Third shift was routinely the least productive, least directed and least happy at shift end! After two and a half years with new expectations, production numbers were profoundly different, where even third shift caught the vision of production success and how good it could make them feel!

         So, back to the roar we heard… 3rd shift production numbers, when posted, were higher than they had ever been! Higher than even 1st and 2nd shift numbers! That is what elicited the ROAR! The entire first-floor production force, both 3rd shift leaving and 1st shift arriving, witnessed this milestone event, and thus the roar, happy to a man and woman.

         Total factory production was based on a figure of merit, Leads Per Operator Hour. Since the many IC packages had different numbers of leads, this provided a valid measure of total production output. This metric is total factory performance, both floors.

          This difference, higher production with reduced headcount, elicited the throaty roar from all downstairs, when production numbers were posted. Not to mention how favorable the change was for corporate management, a roar in the board room! Contrast the earlier activity, operators lining up before end-of-shift at the time clock, now waiting to see production numbers after shift-end.

         Question? What secret sauce was employed to get this positive change? Is it something anyone can use or is it limited to a select few? Well, first examine what the term Secret means, then how it relates to our story. Here are a few possibilities:

a) Hidden – known only to a few
b) Mystery – unexplained
c) Covert – done so no one notices
d) Underhanded – fraud or deception
e) Furtive – slyly or with stealth
f) Surreptitious – action skillfully done secretly
g) Underhanded – fraud or with deception
h) etc., etc.

         Which of these relate to our use of the term Secret? The production crew voicing their approval rules out hidden. Is it or can it be a mystery? Not even remotely, with management working for months for this change to take root. It also rules out covert, shouting to the world the positive outcome. Taking place all above-board eliminates deception. Slyly and secretly get no votes, likewise any fraud! So, how can we use the term Secret for this production success?

Bob Robertson

Bob Robertson

Bob Robertson is a retired professional quality engineer and educator with extensive experience in manufacturing environments throughout the world, including Singapore, Indonesia, Russia, and various locations throughout the United States. Besides all that, he Leslie Householder's admired and revered father, and she is pleased to spotlight his "Expat" stories here on her Rare Faith blog.