Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Publication Date: 12/1/2007
Archive >  December 2007 Issue >  Electronic Mfg. Services > 

At Adco, Diversity and Quality Rise to the Top

Being based in Michigan, it's only natural to assume that EMS provider Adco's customers are in the automotive industry, and this is true to some extent. The fact is the company also serves major customers in aerospace, as well as the medical, telecommunications, commercial and industrial sectors — all part of its overall philosophy of being broad-based.

The company, based in Rochester Hills, Michigan, is one of the oldest, pure Electronics Manufacturing Service providers in the U.S., sporting an impressive 26-year history of stability and growth.

Many of Adco's strengths and capabilities are a result of servicing a very diverse customer base in its long history that include industries such as capital equipment, medical, military, aerospace, and automotive. In addition to providing the stability of not being overly reliant on one industry or customer, the broad customer base has benefited the company by being the impetus for the development of advanced process and quality systems to meet each industry's unique requirements. Not many mid-sized EMS companies can match the company's ISO 9001, TS 16949, and ISO 13485 certifications. This wide swath of customers also have very divergent demand models, including low-volume/high-mix, mid-volume/complex, and high-volume/low-mix. Adco currently has about one third of its business in each of these models and is successfully meeting the quality and delivery requirements in all three through its utilization of advanced information technology and strict adherence to proven process and procedures.

So just how does the company succeed with such divergent customer requirements? Adco has been able to take the unique requirements from each customer and develop robust control processes that are flexible enough to meet every customer's needs. The result has been consistently very high quality. This means that any product launched, whether it is a 5-piece order or one for 50,000 pieces, must go through the same intense launch process, have full component lot tracking, have first piece part approval process, etc.

Flexible Standardized Structure
A key element here is the ability to structure this flexible, but standard system, that addresses any unique customer requirements within an overall standard operating process. This system involves several important components: process control; a skilled workforce; disciplined use of advanced information systems; quality management system; and an up-to-date manufacturing facility and equipment.

Process Control. Adco manufactures all customer assemblies using the same overall standardized processes, no matter the complexity or the volume. An order for 5 pieces is set up and manufactured in much the same way as a 50,000 piece production order. No corners are cut.

At the heart of all this is the company's APQP (Advanced Product Quality Planning) launch process where the precise customer specifications and delivery requirements are reviewed and a manufacturing and planning process that will meet these needs is formulated and documented. Adco involves all departments of the company in this APQP launch process including Program Managers, Sales, Engineering, Purchasing, Manufacturing, Quality, and Contract Management. Exact processes including custom tool development, material planning, manufacturing, test, quality, and even shipping, are determined and documented.

The output of the APQP is a control plan that defines all manufacturing and test processes for the specific assembly. This control plan includes information gates where quality data is gathered. Adco is able to closely monitor ongoing production through these gates and regularly reviews overall data by assembly, process, or customer to spot trends or opportunities for continuous improvement.

Skilled Workforce. Adco's 125 employees are all focused on customer success. Employees are organized by function and then by customer. Program managers, buyers, planners and teams in Production are all tied to specific customers and learn the nuances associated with specific customer products; it could be hard-to-obtain components or unique manufacturing processes due to design that are incorporated into the control plan.

The company has a formal training plan; all employees are trained in-house by certified trainers. All manufacturing employees are trained to IPC 610 Class II standards and some are trained to Class III.

Energetic Environment
The environment at Adco is very energetic with all employees focused on meeting customer expectations and needs. This personal vesting and the personal satisfaction it brings is why Adco experiences very low employee turnover. It's not uncommon to find employees with 15 or more years of service.

Skilled Disciplined Use of Advanced Information Systems.: Adco's ability to successfully meet its customers challenging specifications, schedules, and changes, while at the same time prudently managing costs and inventory levels, is a testament to a strict doctrine of disciplined use of advanced documentation, ERP, and Quality IT systems.

The control plan output from APQP is the central manufacturing document for all assemblies. Tied to this are numerous assembly visual aids, software components, and test procedures, that require strict revision control even when customer changes are flowing in for that order that "must" ship tomorrow. The company has embraced the Microsoft Share-point system as the basis for document and engineering change management. All documents are electronically stored and tight revision control is achieved through ECN's that are processed via an electronic workflow approval process that ensures quick and effective implementation.

ERP Always There
Adco has been using an ERP system since the company was founded in 1981. In late 2007, it implemented a new advanced system that allows for improved data management and better incorporates more of today's Internet and e-mail systems. For example, critical long-pole components can be tagged to send an e-mail notification when they are received so the planner knows that he can now start production. The key to a successful ERP in the EMS market is the upfront work of loading demand in a manner that meets customer requirements and allows for smooth material and production execution. Adco performs a very detailed contract review process in conjunction with the APQP process. The output from this enables Purchasing to utilize a vendor auto-release system.

Quality Management System (QMS), is a very ingenious process flow-based system that resides on all employee computer desktops to promote use and a culture of continuous improvement. Within the QMS is an advanced quality metric tracking system and a corrective active/preventive action system (CAPA). The metric and CAPA systems allow the entire company to analytically review quality stats to drive the culture of continuous improvement.

Up-to-Date Manufacturing Facility and Equipment. Adco's 43,000 square foot facility will produce approximately $30,000,000 worth of electronic assemblies in 2007. All of the manufacturing area is climate controlled and the whole floor is antistatic epoxy. Three surface mount lines, three AOI machines, two solder lines (one lead-free), potting and conformal coating lines, and dedicated cells for system builds, allow the company to service almost anything involving custom circuit board assemblies. A fully automated stockroom with barcode readers and 4 vertical storage units make sure the correct quantity of the correct part is at the correct work center.

For more information, contact: Adco Circuits, 2868 Bond, Rochester Hills, MI 48309 248-853-6620 fax: 243-853-6698 Web:

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