Hermetic Connectors

How Do Plating Capabilities Grow 5x?

Learn How Capabilities Grew 5X at PA&E Division

By Bob Van Lith, PA&E Division Plating Manager -  About the author. 

Hermetic Solutions Group is completing a significant expansion of the plating facilities at our PA&E division in Wenatchee, WA. In this blog post, we’ll have a conversation with Bob Van Lith, this site’s Plating Manager, who is deeply involved in the new plating lab’s construction and start-up operation.

HSG: Bob, can you give us a high-level view of the improvements the new plating facility provides?

BV: We are constantly trying to serve our customers more efficiently and cost effectively so one of our main focuses was to design the new facility around established, lean manufacturing concepts similar to those that we have in place throughout HSG:

  • We now have 8 different process lines that cover approximately 97% of our core processes. These lines are also set up in a linear format for extra efficiency.
  • Each line has designated process tanks and rinse tanks for the particular substrate that is being plated.
  • Our new plating tanks have also been designed to support standardized load sizes, which can be adapted to support most of the parts we process.

HSG: How much larger is the new installation?

BV: This was a major construction project, possibly one of the largest renovations we’ve done, and it involved some significant construction. Our business has grown substantially since we first added plating capabilities here and the scope of this effort reflects that growth. The new plating facility footprint is almost 5 times the size of the old plating facility, sitting just over 10,000 square feet.

HSG: What is the completion date for the new facility?

BV: As you can imagine, a project of this scope is complex and presented a number of challenges. Things never happen as quickly as you want, but the 1+ years of work are finally paying off. The new plating facility is about 80% complete and should be fully operational by the end of 2021.

HSG: What were some of the challenges that you faced with the construction of this new facility?

BV: There were many challenges when designing and constructing the new facility, all of which certainly presented our team with a great learning experience. Some of our challenges included:

  1. Permits: Early on, worked through a variety of details around the initial permit process to ensure compliance for years to come. As I mentioned, we have been experiencing significant growth and we had to ensure that we appropriately sized the air scrubber and waste water treatment system to not only supported current production levels, but to accommodate the future growth we anticipate. Our chemist, Anthony Reynolds, was instrumental in helping us make sure that this new infrastructure can support our needs for the next 20+ years.
  2. Plating Tanks: Another interesting challenge that we worked through was the design and layout of the plating tanks. We plate a wide variety of items with varying requirements here. Our goal was to make this new plating facility as efficient as possible. For example, we paid special attention to ensure our tank designs would accommodate the majority of our processes.  That meant the tanks had to be appropriately sized to support a high level of standardization across a range of parts.
  3. Testing: Our biggest challenge, and one that we are still face today, is getting each line tested so it’s processing to the highest standard possible.
  4. Administrative: There is also the issue any new facility like this must deal with; the administrative challenges of getting the new processes approved by customers. We are making great progress here and appreciate all the customer feedback we’ve received.

HSG: How much has the new facility improved HSG’s plating throughput at this site?

BV: The new facility has improved our throughput tremendously:

  • Load size: We have increased our connector and aluminum housing load sizes by a minimum 20% for most of the products.
  • Operator Movement: We have significantly reduced operator movement to process a load, in most cases by as much as 40% during processing.
  • Shift Operators: With the new lab we can add more operators for each process during a shift, which was not possible in the old facility due to space constraints.

HSG: What different plating process do we provide?

BV: We currently have the ability to plate mid-phos electroless nickel, electrolytic nickel and electrolytic soft and hard gold. Most of our processes have stayed the same, but have gained operating capacity. However,  we did add some extra tanks in a few locations for future additions.

HSG: What materials are we capable of plating?

BV: We plate a wide variety of materials including, but not necessarily limited to:

Copper 6061 & 6101 aluminum Inconel X750
Copper alloys Grades 1 thru 4 titanium 304L & 303 stainless steel
Kovar: Alloy 42, Alloy 46, Alloy 48, Alloy 52

HSG: What certifications do we hold?

BV: We are Nadcap certified in special processing for specifications:

  • AMS-C-26074
  • ASTM-B488
  • AMS-QQ-N-290
  • MIL-DTL-5541

Find out more about our certifications for each business unit.

HSG: Are there other efficiencies the new facility provides?

BV: With a more efficiently designed plating area, we can now staff the facility with more operators, supporting our growing workload and customers for years to come. We accomplished this by ensuring the design could fluctuate from 2 to 4 operators per line during each production shift. There is also more space in the plating area for increased inspection personnel and support staff.

HSG: What environmental and safety considerations were included when constructing the new facility?

BV: We put a number of new systems in place:

  • Waste Water Treatment: The new facility has implemented a waste water treatment system so we can efficiently treat and discharge waste water.
  • Air Scrubber System: The lab now has a new, state-of-the-art push/pull air scrubber system to ensure our operators have good clean air and what we do discharge is safe for the environment.
  • Guards: Process tanks now all have guards to help prevent splashes on the operators.

Find out more

This new plating facility at HSG’s Wenatchee, WA location is the latest example of the company’s investment strategy to increase capacity and quality while controlling costs and lead time. To learn more about our plating capabilities at all of our locations, email us at info@hermeticsolutions.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob has been with HSG’s PA&E Division since July of 1997. He has worked in a variety of roles in the company including: machining, painting, plating, planning, production control, design and he is currently plating manager at this location.