Case Study

Substantial Development Facilities, Experienced Personnel, Extensive Know-How

With a difficult challenge suddenly imposed on a plating company by its customer, how did they achieve cost reductions and 20% improved productivity?

Plating Processing Company; P Inc. September 2010

In today's rapidly and continuously changing business world, the environment of the plating industry is also gradually becoming tougher. Cases requiring advanced technologies, such as plating processes using precision equipments, are no exception. In this situation, the important key to win throughout the trade (survive in the industry) is how the company could offer added values to customers.

PROBLEMCost reduction request from a customer. However, P Inc. faced limitation without downgrading quality

P Inc. is mainly engaged in the plating of precision equipments and parts such as printed-circuit boards, ceramic substrates and contact parts. The company was vexed by a demand of cost reduction from T Inc., an electronics company which has been a customer of P Inc. for many years.

P Inc. has been satisfying such cost reduction requests from T Inc. several times so far. But, P Inc. had run out of measures this time to meet T Inc.'s expectations again. As P Inc. is a company running by few elite staffs, it has no room for further reduction in personnel costs nor reduction in facilities costs as a conclusion of the company, after repeated discussions among relevant personnel.

If P Inc. did not react, however, there was a risk that the company's business may be lost to competitors in China and other nations in Asia. Without doubt, P Inc. and its customer are desperate for survival in the industry. Due to this problem, P Inc. ended up reviewing the plating solution costs. In fact the change of the plating solution has the possibility to influence the quality.
P Inc. totally don't accept quality downgrade of electronic circuit parts, therefore P Inc. wondered if making such a high risk decision was the right move. P Inc. had hesitated to make a final decision as it could not find the best solution.

SOLUTIONComparisons using fully-featured prototypes brought the actual performance to light

P Inc. had a problem finding the best solution that would eliminate all of the risks. It was at this point that it received a proposal from EEJA (Electroplating Engineers of Japan Ltd.), a TANAKA PRECIOUS METALS, suggesting that P Inc. should use EEJA's equipment to test plating solutions.

Although P Inc. was reluctant to replace the plating solution that they had been using, it asked that the person at EEJA who had made the proposal conduct tests of EEJA's plating solution using P Inc.'s product samples, in the hope that the results could be used for reference purposes, at least. The person from P Inc. who had requested the test was later surprised by the finished samples that he received together with a report explaining the results. They indicated that using EEJA's plating solution would improve plating process productivity by 20% compared to P Inc.'s existing plating solution.
P Inc. became confident it could achieve a price reduction without sacrificing quality and that it could meet its client's request. In addition to these results, the following three points were decisive factors that led P Inc. to decide to adopt EEJA's plating solution.

Deciding factors that led P Inc. to adopt the new solution:

• EEJA's wide range of equipment allowed P Inc. to visualize what the results of plating would be
-->EEJA owns a wide range of equipment suitable for all product applications.
Since plating solutions could be compared using equipment similar to that used by P Inc. in its own production environment, it was able to get a good idea of what plating finish could be achieved in production.
• Professional work performed by personnel with extensive experience
-->Not only can EEJA provide equipment and test environments, its highly expert staff can also carry out plating processes and give advice.
• A sense of security, thanks to EEJA being a TANAKA PRECIOUS METALS
-->EEJA has established a system for the reliable supply of products that is based on its proven track record and that takes advantage of its expertise in precious metals.
Switching to the use of palladium resulted in significant cost reductions.

In addition to changing the plating solution, replacing the Ni/Au plating process used for connectors and packages with an Ni/Pd/Au process has improved heat resistance. Preventing nickel and copper wicking has led to the upgrading of product specifications, and a reduction in gold use has resulted in significant cost reductions.

EEJA's proposal, which combined a superior plating solution and cutting-edge technology based on its best practices, has made a large contribution to solving the challenge faced by P Inc.
P Inc. successfully met T Inc.'s challenge, and they have still enjoy a good relationship.