Week 8: Full Steam Ahead

Reviewing Progress

Our team made it a key point to review progress weekly, this ultimately ensures that we stay on target with our specific objectives. On Monday, I had presented the previous week’s work, detailing the research I had done. Although the information was useful, one thing that my supervisor suggested I improved on was the general detailing of the problem. At Boston Scientific, they use “problem-solving” and “fish-bone” diagrams. The reason behind these diagrams is to show the step-by-step process in tackling an issue. Being that I am only at Boston Scientific for three more weeks, I think I wanted to jump ahead and propose solutions to problems without taking a tiered approach. Although it may seem that a solution that could fix a problem relatively fast is a great approach, in reality, it can be ineffective for a few reasons:

  1. The solution does not solve the root problem
  2. The solution is not the most-effective option
  3. The solution can add cost in the long-term
  4. The solution may not be validated

Fish-bone Diagram

As an Engineer, my first instinct when seeing problems is to immediately fix them, but as this internship is teaching me, sometimes being patient and thorough can be the only way in addressing problems.  There are three main driving principles in correctly defining a problem:

  1. Data-Driven
  2. Team-Based
  3. Right the First Time

These three principles help ensure that the problem is first understood at a fundamental level, and that you have the necessary justification to further pursue solutions. Boston Scientific emphasized that “a correctly defined problem is 50% solved” and after going through the process of problem-solving, that statement makes perfect sense.

Weekly Objectives

After we reviewed last week’s progress, we also discussed what was on the agenda for this week.  Some of the objectives I had included the following:

  • Designing an Experiment to Justify a Machine
  • Conduct Daily Chemical Testing of Coating
  • GEMBA Walks (Internal Audits)
  • Begin Joint Raw Material Characterization Project

Justifying L&D Machine

For Boston’s Stents and NVI, they needed a more controlled process for lubricity and durability (L&D) testing. With the variability in testing (various French sizes, material composition, etc.) it was difficult for them to validate a specific L&D machine as they were unable to get the same tolerances across their varying products. With that in mind, I did some research on finding an alternative machine capable of adjusting to that variability. After contacting some sister plants that had used similar equipment, we found that it may be viable to implement a specific machine, but further testing needed to be done. This requires that we send samples (using a “design of experiment” method) for testing. The samples must be representative of the wide range that would be seen in the Stent and NVI product lines.

Coating Testing

An important aspect in improving the shelf-life of a coating is to look at humidity saturation over time to see what might be improved. Typically, these humidity tests were only done on a weekly-basis and so it was difficult to pinpoint exactly where a problem with the humidity was occurring. As of recently, there have been more efforts in conducting daily-testing to help in the process of identification. With that, I analyzed the conditions of the room in which the dip-coating was done and tried to see if instances of lost conditions in the room affected the coating humidity. Records of room conditions from the last year were given to me to analyze. This is just a step in data collection that could help us get closer to a solution.

An ongoing project by a colleague involved improving the tank in which the dip-coating was done. An idea was proposed to better enclose the coating to prevent any external factors from adversely affecting the coating. This of course had some overlap with what I am currently working on, and by pitching and brainstorming ideas together, we perhaps can propose an efficient solution later down the road.

GEMBA Walks (Internal Audits)

Another objective we had set out this week was to go on a “GEMBA” walk. Essentially, this is an observatory walk around the production room to see if there are any improvements that could be made and ensure that non-conforming events are not occurring. This is referred to as an informal audit of sorts and keeps a system of accountability between coworkers. Internal audits are especially helpful to a company such as Boston Scientific in that it prepares everyone for external audits (where the ramifications are much more significant) and keeps the company running smoothly from a regulatory perspective.

Joint Raw Material Characterization Project

As an additional project to work on, Ryan and I began the preliminary research on the raw material characterization project. Our objectives were the following:

  1. Understand the specifications required from the Coyol-Spencer transfer
  2. Evaluate the variation in values
  3. Try to control parameters to get better pull-test results
  4. Receive process parameters from Spencer

Boston Scientific’s Spencer location provided the raw materials needed for extrusions and among the specifications required, among the most relevant to our project revolved around us understanding the melt-index and molecular weight of the raw material received. We need to further analyze the effect those specifications have on extrusions, and then as an output, meet with Spencer’s plant and see if we can tighten the parameters of specification on the raw material coming into Coyol.

Weekend Fun

As our time in Costa Rica is winding down, we wanted to see one of the most popular destinations in Arenal. After a 3 hour drive, we were able to relax some at the Baldi hot springs and of course, have impromptu photoshoots (which I am sure Tasha and Sanjana will provide pictures for). To start the next day off right, the group went on a hike near the Arenal Volcano and got some amazing views!

Hiking Views of Arenal

And if those views weren’t stunning enough, Lake Arenal is another great place to get in tune with Mother Nature. Still in awe of Costa Rica after 8 weeks!


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