Jessica Castillo, HR Business Partner
Welcome to Mini-Circuits’ facility in Hialeah, Florida, one of the company’s many manufacturing locations around the world. The office has been home to three assembly teams for the past 45 years, with members at this location producing many thousands of units each year. One team, in particular, has specialized in surface mountable components, pin units, and test boards. This team is known as General Assembly and reports to the General Assembly Supervisor, Raquel Brito.
Raquel’s highly skilled team is made up of 14 members, most of whom have an average tenure of 25 years with the company. One member in particular, Maria Salinero, an L3 General Assembly Operator, has been part of the Mini-Circuits family for 37 years!
Some of the specific model families assembled by this team include: JCIQ-, MIQA- and MIQC-series demodulators, JCPS-series power splitters, SYBDC-series bi-directional couplers, SRA, SBL and SYM-series mixers, and RPD-series phase detectors. The General Assembly team continues to expand in the variety of the units they assemble as our product line grows.
This team unique from the other two assembly groups at this location in that they are the only ones experienced in assembling test boards (or “TBs”. In case you’re not familiar with the term, TBs are circuit boards with a Mini-Circuits surface mount component mounted onto the transmission line and coaxial connectors at the input and output. Customers use TBs to evaluate our parts in their own labs before designing them into their systems. The General Assembly members are fully trained and skilled in performing various functions of TB assembly such as placing gunk (shop speak for a soft protective material) on components and transformers, applying solder paste, solder tap-off, pins, and welding to name a few.
This team has the capacity to produce thousands of units per week depending on the complexity of the model. It is also important to note, that aside from this sheer number of units produced weekly, the members face the additional challenge of the high-mix nature of our product line, sometimes assembling as many as 20 different models in a given week under tight production schedules.
Maria Elena Castillo works as the Production Control Manager at MCFL. In this role, she receives notice of the runs that need to be assembled on a weekly basis and is responsible for delegating the production of the kits for those runs to the three assembly groups, keeping in mind the areas of expertise of each group.
Once the work is delegated, Raquel prefers to prioritize the rush orders followed by the more difficult assemblies as these typically require more steps and have a higher level of complexity. She takes into consideration the steps that each unit requires and the availability of her operators. This allows Raquel to better determine the order in which the kits will be assembled. Once the units begin their production phase, the operators must work together with the department inspectors to ensure that they are doing everything correctly as stated by the drawings.
The In-Process Inspectors play an important role in assuring the quality of the products coming off the line. They inspect units under a microscope and compare the device construction to the drawing specifications for each model with sharp attention to detail. They must be able to spot even the slightest mistake on an extremely small scale, sometimes inspecting devices that measure only a couple of millimeters in any dimension. This step in the assembly process is called taking a controlled sample because five units must be presented and inspected at each step of the process, to catch flaws where they occur and prevent the operator from completing a run before defects are detected.
Once a run is completed, the units are taken to Final Inspection and Packing where the finished products are inspected one last time for quality control and packed to be shipped to our New York location, where the unit continues its lifecycle.
Raquel believes that it is very important to motivate her team every morning, not only by reminding them that quality is key and one of our most important goals, but by also rooting for her team. On any given morning, you might hear her pep talk to her members: “We can do this!,” “Let’s go!” “Let’s turn on the turbo for today!” are all standard fare. “We may be called co-workers,” she says, “but deep down we are one big family. I encourage them every day to do better and to respect each other. We are so united that the achievements of one person are the achievements of the entire group.”