After having exposure to the processes of manufacturing, I felt as if I had a good understanding of how to implement certain improvements to product-line processes. With that, my supervisors felt comfortable in giving me definite tasks that could be accomplished on a week-to-week basis. We made sure that our goals had a reasonable scope but also long-term benefits to the production team. Being that I am working on the coating processes with Stents and NVI, my first task was to analyze various metrics that had been collected over the past years and find correlations. Certain metrics that are commonly measured in coating include:
- Isocyanate Percentage
- Solid Percentage
These are general readings that allow for monitoring in the shelf life of the coating. If the coating fails the metric thresholds, a new coating batch is required to avoid imperfections and potential defects. Issues with coating can range from flaking and bubble-formation to discoloration. These are issues that can cause significant amounts of ‘scrap’, a term that refers to product that cannot be shipped out due to defects. My task for this week was to analyze the aforementioned metrics and find certain correlations (such as Dew Point temperatures in San Jose for the last 3 years).
After preliminary analysis, I proposed certain improvements to make the process control of dip-coating more efficient. The one aspect of the manufacturing process that I was not fully cognizant of was the degree of intricacy and interconnectedness to which decisions are made and just how much they affect various people. One example included a proposal to change a certain GOI which is essentially a graphic operator instruction to make sure all the product-line workers have the same standard of reference. To change a GOI, you may need to fill out a PCAF form. A PCAF form is a notification to the company identifying and justifying a suggestion in changing the process of a certain aspect of the GOI.
As an incoming engineering intern (without much experience in manufacturing), I felt as if I could come and propose all these innovative ideas and have the implementation process go smoothly. However, in now having a better understanding of manufacturing processes, I realize that every decision has certain intended and unintended consequences. It is an ethical obligation to not only make sure every decision is sound, it is also part of the GDP and GMP practiced at Boston. These procedures (although tedious), really do ensure product quality and traceability (if events such as recalls occur).
Next Week’s Agenda
For next week’s objectives, I would like to conduct more testing on the coatings (daily) and do a root cause analysis. This approach to problem solving helps eliminate solutions that only solve a fraction of the problem (surface level). Although short-term ‘band-aids’ to problems can be helpful in getting quick results, for a company as large as Boston, effective solutions to problems can save thousands of dollars a day. This is the aspect of Engineering that had always enticed me the most, to holistically approach a problem. As I emphasized in my previous blog post, although I want to learn as much as I can in my brief stay at Boston Scientific, I do want to have a palpable impact. Hopefully I can turn the knowledge I have gained this past week into tangible results. I am glad to have the opportunity here to flex my Engineering term knowledge (however basic it may be). Understanding these terms have proved crucial in helping me understand the background processes of what an Engineer does in Industry.
After a long week at work, it is always nice to have some relaxation time and enjoy what Costa Rica has to offer. This weekend I was able to tag along with a church group from Amarillo, Texas who happened to be staying at the same apartment complex we were. We helped in organizing a VBS for local kids and set-up face painting stations, arts and crafts and a bounce house (reliving my childhood briefly). Being able to go into a community here in Costa Rica and serve had been one thing that I really wanted to do, and being able to do that with a group from Texas (which is highly ironic), was an unforgettable experience.
To end the weekend off right, the group decided to hike up a nearby trail to get a view of the city. Mind you, I am not really a morning person, and so waking up at 6:30 a.m. to go on a 5km hike up a steep mountainside was something I needed a lot of motivation for. Thankfully, the group encouraged me along to get this amazing view of San Jose:
I made it back in one piece so that is always a good sign, but I can guarantee you I will feel this in the morning.