Even before Motorola Incorporated won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1988, the firm's "Bandit" facility in Boynton Beach had attracted considerable attention.
The 1990 Best Plants award-winning Bandit facility, which produces Motorola's alphanumeric radio pagers in lot sizes of one, has the remarkable ability to begin producing customized pagers within 20 minutes after a salesperson enters a rush order (relayed by a computer at Motorola's headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois, to the main computer in the Florida plant).
In Bandit's "paperless" manufacturing environment, 30 Seiko robots, controlled by a bank of Hewlett-Packard A400 real-time computers, handle all assembly tasks. Most of the inspection, including laser-based machine vision to check the positioning of components, is automated.
The Bandit line (which took its name from the development team's willingness to "steal" good ideas wherever found) yielded big quality gains, including a 250 percent improvement in out-of-box quality and a 350 percent improvement in field reliability.
Contributing to the improvements were a simultaneous engineering effort in which the traditional BRAVO pager was redesigned for robotic assembly. Also contributing: A rigorous supplier-selection process that reduced 300 candidates to just 22 source suppliers willing to commit to extremely high quality levels.
One Motorola objective in developing the Bandit technology was to accelerate its learning curve and then adapt the knowledge to other manufacturing operations. The migration of technology from Bandit to the older BRAVO manufacturing operations in the same building has been completed.
The older BRAVO line can now match Bandit's ability to produce pagers in less than two hours.