Electronics Assembly Knowledge, Vision & Wisdom
Does Your Assembly Line Suffer From Floundering Time?
Does Your Assembly Line Suffer From Floundering Time?
At a recent workshop you mentioned the term 'floundering time' which affects overall line efficiency. What does floundering time mean? The Assembly Brothers, Phil Zarrow and Jim Hall, answer this question.
Board Talk

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Board Talk is presented by ITM Consulting

Phil Zarrow
Phil Zarrow, ITM Consulting
With over 35 years experience in PCB assembly, Phil is one of the leading experts in SMT process failure analysis. He has vast experience in SMT equipment, materials and processes.

Jim Hall
Jim Hall, ITM Consulting
A Lean Six-Sigma Master Blackbelt, Jim has a wealth of knowledge in soldering, thermal technology, equipment and process basics. He is a pioneer in the science of reflow.

ITM Consulting
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* SMT Process Consulting and Troubleshooting
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* SMT Process Optimization
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Welcome to Board Talk. This is Phil Zarrow, and Jim Hall, of ITM Consulting, but today known as Pick and Place, the Assembly Brothers. We're here to help you solve your SMT process problems, assembly problems, questions, dilemmas, and whatever.

What's our question today, Phil?

This is interesting. The question is on line efficiency. This is from F.B. in San Jose, CA. F.B. writes, at a recent workshop you presented at my company, you mentioned the term 'floundering time' as a specific category of downtime, which affects overall line efficiency. What does floundering time mean?

The term "floundering time" was created and documented by Dr. Ron Lasky, professor at Dartmouth College. In its simplest form, it means, when the line is stopped, and no action is taken because nobody knows what to do, or the appropriate person is not available.

A classic example would be, the line's down. That's Joe's responsibility. Where is Joe? Joe's not here. Did you call Joe? Yes, but he didn't answer his phone. We sent him an e-mail, we sent him a page. And 20 minutes later, the line still isn't running, and Joe hasn't responded, and nothing else gets done.

So the organization flounders along. The line is not running, is not generating any value, it's not producing any product, and nothing is getting done. And a procedure isn't in place to find Joe, or to implement what should happen.

Dr. Lasky defined it as a specific form of downtime that is very real, but doesn't necessarily fall into the typical categories of downtime, of unscheduled maintenance where something breaks, or assists where a feeder jams, or the solder paste on the stencil needs to be mixed, or changed, or the stencil needs to be cleaned.

Things like that, all of which stop the line, reduce overall efficiency, and require some action. But typically, people know what to do. A feeder's jammed, a specific person comes over, they know how to fix it. It's resolved in a reasonable period of time.

What we always ask when we're talking to people is, "Okay, you're fixing it, but are there things we can do to prevent those from happening?"

In case of feeders, feeder maintenance is a huge issue. Making sure that damaged feeders don't get put back on the machine, but are taken off and repaired properly, so that you don't have those continuing little stoppages that just eat away at your overall efficiency.

And you just accept them, and nothing happens, and at the end of the day, you haven't assembled nearly as many boards as you can. The only thing that makes money for your company is finished boards coming off the end of that line.

So when anything stops the line, that's directly subtracting from the bottom line of productive output. Floundering is particularly bad because it can go into hours, or a half a day.

Professor Lasky often says, if you have a line down and your line worth $500,000, $1 million, $2 million depending on how big it is, if that line is down for more than 15 minutes, or half an hour, some time interval and nothing happens, there should be a defined procedure that escalates it back up ultimately to the plane manager's desk.

He's got a major assembly line sitting there not doing anything because the right people aren't involved. The foundering should be resolved.

Well, speaking of which, you just floundered five minutes, listening to Board Talk. And I'm advising you, among other things, no matter whether you're floundering or not, don't solder like my brother.

And don't solder like my brother. And keep the kids out of the flux pot.
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