Toxic Metals Prevention: Reducing the use of lead and improving quality and efficiency
Decagon Devices, Pullman, WA, manufactures electronic sensors for the food, environmental research, and agriculture industries.
A leader in their field, Decagon had long used traditional lead-based soldering for manufacturing circuit boards. With half of their business in the international marketplace, they needed to find a lead-free solder to retain sales and expand overseas markets.In 2009, Decagon began a two-year project to reduce their use of lead and improve other aspects of their manufacturing. Decagon collaborated with Impact Washington in lean and environmental efforts to eliminate their use of lead and improve productivity.
The focus on lead was important to meet the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) Standards and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive of the EU and minimize hazardous waste and other environmental impacts of using lead. The focus on other lean efforts helped Decagon achieve productivity goals as well.
How they did it
Impact Washington worked with Decagon to conduct value stream mapping (VSM) and several kaizen events. The future-state value stream map identified these priority opportunities:
Decagon and Impact Washington engaged a certified trainer from Weeks Solder Training to begin the transition. Lead is a toxic element and an important environmental priority for Washington. Because of this, the state Department of Ecology agreed to use funds from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to help support the training.
The trainer trained and certified the company’s staff to an international standard for lead-free soldering, rework, and inspection soldering methods. This certification of in-house staff allows those certified in the processes to train new staff in the methods. This training provided the information and skills for Decagon to begin the transition to meet the WEEE and RoHS standards and continue supplying international markets. Decagon Devices also invested about $300,000 in new equipment as part of the quality improvement effort.
This story is based on a case study prepared by the Pollution Prevention Resource Center, Seattle, Washington (www.pprc.org) with support from Impact Washington.
For more information on the participants and lean and environment resources:
Decagon Devices (www.decagon.com)
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