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Publication Date: 10/1/2007
Archive >  October 2007 Issue >  Electronic Mfg. Services > 

EMS Cirtronics Goes Lean with New Workstations
Ergonomic workbench aids lean manufacturing at Cirtronics.

A lot of companies profess to want to create a healthy and empowering work environment. But it's truly rare to find a company that talks the talk and walks the walk to the extent that Cirtronics Corporation of Milford, NH does.

Cirtronics is a full-service contract electronic manufacturer, offering prototype through end-product builds of electronic and electro-mechanical assemblies — with the emphasis on custom circuit boards. The company is dedicated to delivering the best possible product; an equal part of the company's mission is to provide a work environment that stimulates personal growth. The company credo, which you can literally hear echoing through the halls of the esthetically pleasing headquarters, is "to serve and continuously improve under the DUO philosophy." That's "DUO," as in "do unto others as you would have done to you."

To this end, the company does a few things quite differently from the rest. For example, the privately held company is 20 percent owned by employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Program. Other aspects of the company's employee-pleasing approach include flex hours, no forced overtime and 20 paid hours a year for charity work.

One employee, Christine Turcotte, described her feeling about Cirtronics this way: "It's a very different company to work for. A good different. People here pull together, work together, really communicate with one another to get the job done. We work with the feeling that this is `our company.'"

So it should come as no surprise that when the time came to purchase additional workbenches, the employees were an integral part of the decision-making process.

The People's Choice
When Cirtronics made the decision to move from batch manufacturing to lean manufacturing, the primary goals were quicker turnarounds, lower inventory exposure, higher quality and more responsive delivery. Due to the growth and expansion that followed, it was imperative for the company to replace many of its old, awkwardly large, stationary tables with new individual workstations. In character with the way the company operates, Cirtronics and Team Facilitator, Irene Lemay, had the employees test out a variety of workstations for six to eight months, before any selection was made. The company was already using about 40 different workbenches from Lista International throughout its facility, and was satisfied with everything these benches brought to the proverbial table. But, it was felt that it was important to give the employees a chance to experience all the options and to be involved in the final decision-making process.

After this hands-on trial period, the team decided to purchase 35 Align Adjustable Height Workstations from Lista, to be used in every department including assembly, inspection, machining and many others.

According to Lemay, esthetics and flexibility were two key traits that swayed the decision toward the Align workstation. The company's founder, Gerardine Ferlins, is very concerned about the esthetics of the facility — she wants the best possible environment for the staff. They determined that competitive workbenches that were reviewed were not well made, and not pleasing to the eye. The Align bench, painted in the company's own light gray, fits its high quality image.

"We also came to realize that the Align is much more customizable than the competitive solutions, an extremely important attribute," Lemay added. "We wanted a long-term solution, not a quick fix. Lista's Align bench is a good choice because it can grow with us."

Getting a Perfect Fit
It should come as no surprise that ergonomic comfort and ease-of-operation were also big factors in the Cirtronics team opting for the Align workstation. The worksurface height of the Align bench can be quickly and easily aligned for different tasks or operator preference. The height of the base ranges from 25 1/2-in. to 41 1/2-in. (16-in. total range), which allows setting it at the ideal ergonomic height for each operator, and thus reducing stress, fatigue and personal injury. Align has a three-position memory switch in its motorized frame, making height adjustment nearly automatic, and all uprights and components move in relation to the worksurface height. In addition, leveling glides adjust the worksurface up to 1-in.

"Our old stationary worktables were not ergonomic," said Cirtronics director of HR Training, Nancy Guidice. "The tables would be covered with bins, which dramatically cut into the available workspace. And to top it off, the overhead lighting was far from the worksurface and gave off a lot of glare.

"The Align benches are customized for each worker," Guidice continued, "both in terms of worksurface height and options. The lighting is completely adjustable and glare-free. The bins are stored on the Align shelves, which is much more efficient than having bins all over the table. We also now use an automatic re-supply system, meaning if one bin empties, there is another bin right behind it that is full of the same part."

Customizing Workstations
One of the workers who tried out the Align workstation and appreciated its customizable nature is Prep/Assembler, Kristin Betty. She praised the workstation's flexibility, explaining, "The shelves can be raised to fit the size of the bin. And shelf adjustments are extremely easy to make."

Betty continued, "Before using Align, I had a table with blocks under it. I love the Align because it adjusts to the perfect height for my needs. I can also adjust the light so it's just right for me — and I can use two or four bulbs. It's so great having a bench that's this flexible. I look at my Align and think, `Now THIS is my table.'"

Align is offered with an extensive selection of Lista's Nexus? System above-the-worksurface accessories, including a wide range of shelves, parts bin holders, lights, electrical and air power attachments, tool rails, monitor trays and document holders. A number of Cirtronics' workbenches utilize the Nexus system's variable angle shelves to feed components toward the operator. The decision to switch to the Align workstation has proven to be a solid one, in more ways than one. The rugged and durable Align motorized workstation can support up to 1000 lbs of either static or dynamic load.

Of course, the satisfaction of each employee was the primary driver in this decision. The team wanted a bench that would last. But just as importantly, each employee had to be happy with their bench for a long time to come.

"With our lean manufacturing system," explained Nancy Guidice, "privacy, safety and communication are all key concerns. The Align privacy panels, which also serve as bulletin boards, helped to address these needs. The competitive benches didn't have these panels."

Now each employee has his or her own workspace, custom-configured for their needs. And Cirtronics has a workspace system that perfectly suits its lean manufacturing approach.

Lemay concluded, "As we grow, we will definitely order more Align benches to suit our needs."

And when the time arrives to order more benches, we can also be assured that Cirtronics employees will play a large role in trying out the benches before any purchase is made.

For more information, contact Lista International Corporation, 106 Lowland Street, Holliston, MA 01746 800-722-3020 fax: 508-626-0353 E-mail: Web:

or Cirtronics Corp., P.O. Box 130, Milford, NH 03055 603-249-9190 fax: 603-249-9192 Web:

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