Schweitzer: The Captive Partnership

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Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) is in a unique position as a greenfield captive facility that both fabricates and assembles boards. The approach at SEL is reminiscent of the vertically integrated electronics giants of the past, like Hewlett-Packard, Tektronix, IBM, Zenith, and so many others. Now, as some companies are beginning to dip boards back into hometown tanks, SEL’s long-standing commitment to becoming a captive facility has bolstered its position in the market.

In this conversation with SEL, we spoke with John Hendrickson, engineering director; Frank Harrill, vice president of security; and Jessi Hall, senior director of vertical engineering. We wanted to learn more about the best practices they developed while specifying, selecting, and preparing to install an entire facility’s worth of equipment all at the same time.

Nolan Johnson: You just went to the trade show, and you bought new equipment—what comes next in this process? SEL is probably one of the most active purchasers of equipment in North America right now. Walk us through the process you use to identify which equipment fits your specifications. How do you move from deciding what you want to accomplish to determining the specific equipment you need to meet that goal? What are the feature sets in that? How do you build out your integration plan?

John Hendrickson: The biggest thing I’ve learned on this project is that it’s all about having the right partners. Pick the right partners and things will go well for you. When it comes to the specification piece, we’ve collaborated with our partners to specify the equipment and features. We have a lot of new engineers, and our partners have been instrumental in teaching our team the importance and details of those processes. This close collaboration is important not only for today’s needs, but future needs; we want to look beyond today’s technologies. An example of this is additive technologies. How can we set ourselves up today—how can we select the equipment with the right features—that will allow us the flexibility to move into that space in the future without having to buy our base equipment all over again? We might not have all the equipment sets today, but if we can lay that groundwork now, we can avoid having to make significant investments from scratch at a future date.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the February 2023 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.


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