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Better, Faster, Simpler

Boothroyd Dewhurst : 05 November, 2006  (Company News)
Symbol Technologies creates devices that capture, manage, and communicate information over networks. It makes bar-code scanners, radio frequency identification systems, and mobile handheld computers used in a wide variety of industries.
'Our products are at work nearly everywhere you go,' says Chris Foley, the manufacturing process engineer at Symbol, which is located in Holtsville, New York. 'They’re checking out purchases and stocking storerooms. They’re monitoring luggage and tickets inside airports, and they’re tracking returned rental cars in the parking lots. They’re even scanning tickets at Mets games.'

Symbol’s products are subject to strict regulation and security requirements set by the credit and banking industries. They must also endure being handled hundreds or thousands of times a day without failing, often in challenging environments. 'Our products have to pass a battery of environmental and other physical tests,' Foley says. 'We drop them, we tumble them, we spray them with water, we zap them with electricity.' Symbol even tests its products on equipment designed to simulate the rigors of shipping on a delivery truck.

The MC9000 from Symbol Technologies
The MC9000 is available in a number of customized options. The redesigned product had to offer the same form factors as the old model. Also, the company wanted to standardize the assembly process for various customized options as much as possible. To accomplish that, engineers emphasized part count reduction and shorter assembly times. Click to enlage.

With all these performance requirements, it’s tempting to overengineer, but Symbol has begun to actually reduce part counts on existing designs by using Design for Manufacturing and Assembly software from Boothroyd Dewhurst.

'We’re looking to reduce cost, cut assembly times, and improve quality, all at the same time,' Foley says. 'We can do all that by reducing the number of parts in our assemblies.'

In one recent redesign project, for example, Symbol was able to reduce the part count of its MC9000 mobile device by 20 percent and to cut assembly labor time of the device by 17 percent.

Redesigning the MC9000
The MC9000 is a rugged, handheld device that includes a scanner, a small computer, and a wireless transmitter for sending data over a local area network or a wide-area cellular network to a main computer. The MC9000 provides real-time information to companies in shipping, retail, manufacturing, and other businesses.

Like many Symbol products, the MC9000 is available in a number of customized options. The redesigned product had to offer the same form factors as the old model because it represented a considerable installed base in the field. It also had to be compatible with existing accessories, use the same batteries, and incorporate the same key service features. But engineers were charged with standardizing the assembly process for the new version’s customized options as much as possible. As part of that process, engineers hoped to reduce part count and shorten assembly times.

The design team was cross-functional and included mechanical, electrical, and process engineers. The team followed a well-documented product development path that is a part of a larger product lifecycle management (PLM) program. 'The company uses any number of metrics for PLM, including costing and scheduling,' says John Wick, manufacturing process engineer at Symbol. 'DFMA analysis is our most important design metric tool.'
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