Editor’s note: Indium Corporation’s Ron Lasky continues this series of columns about Maggie Benson, a fictional character, to demonstrate continuous improvement and education in SMT assembly.
Andy Connors never remembered being so nervous. He’d hardly slept a wink and now that his bedroom clock showed it was 6 a.m., he knew he might as well get up. After taking a shower, he ate a light breakfast and headed out to pick up Sue.
The reason for his nervousness? He and Sue, his fiancée, were going to “help” distinguished Ivy University Professor Patty Coleman with a cost-estimating problem. He certainly didn’t feel qualified to accomplish this task.
“Hi, sweetie,” Andy said as he greeted Sue.
“I am so nervous,” she said. “Me too,” he responded.
They both shared stories about not being able to sleep, then Sue said, “Remember, Professor Coleman wants us to call her Patty.”
“When we are with her and I start to talk, my mouth just can’t form the word Patty,” Andy responded. “I have an idea: Let’s call her Professor Patty, like Sam does.”
“I agree. It’s kind of cute and endearing, too.”
After a 20-minute drive, they arrived at Ivy U and parked. A short walk took them to Professor Coleman’s office.
“Hello,” Professor Patty said as they walked in. “How are Ivy U’s two most recent and famous students doing?” Both youngsters blushed at the compliment.
After a brief discussion of their adventures in Mexico, Patty suggested they head to her car to begin the 40-minute drive to the factory for the cost-estimating project. In the car, Sue and Andy shared their experience with estimating costs at Sam’s Auto Repair.
“We both understand how Sam determines what he needs to charge to be fair to his customers yet still make a fair profit,” Sue commented.
“But we are both a little nervous about how to help your friend,” Andy said.
“Let me tell you a little bit about Matt Hartman, the business owner,” Patty said. “He and I went to Tech together. He was a year ahead of me. He worked for a few years and then got his MBA at Ivy U’s Tucker Business School. He was number one in his class. Then he worked for about 10 years at Delle and Tush Consulting and saved enough to buy the electronics assembly company he named Hartman Electronics.
“He’s only owned the company for a few months, so he doesn’t know much about SMT assembly, or even that much about running a small business. Oh, and he was my boyfriend for a while back at Tech,” Patty added with a chuckle.
Andy and Sue asked a few more questions as Patty pulled into the parking lot.
As soon as they walked in the door, they saw a handsome, athletic man run up to Patty. He gave her a hug and a brief kiss on the lips. Patty seemed flustered as Matt exclaimed, “Patty, it’s great seeing you. You look terrific.”
Still a bit flushed, Patty said, “Matt, this is Sue March and Andy Connors, the two students I told you about.”
Sue expected Sam to shake her hand, but instead he gave her a hug that Andy later described as too familiar. Matt also shook Andy’s hand and gave him a big bear hug.
A bit taken back, Sue and Andy looked at Patty. She mouthed the words, “That’s just how he is.”
After a few moments of exchanging pleasantries, Patty shared the story of Andy and Sue’s rise through the ranks at Ivy Benson Electronics and their success at getting their associate degrees through night school. She also mentioned their acceptance as juniors at Ivy U and their recent experiences at Castellanos Electronics, where they held SMT workshops for employees.
“Needless to say,” Patty said, “they are two of the most impressive students at Ivy U, and it is my privilege to be their mentor.”
Sue and Andy stood there with gaping mouths. Finally, Andy whispered to Sue, “Is she talking about us?”
“Yes,” she whispered back. “There’s no one else in the room she could be talking about.”
“Matt,” Patty said, “why don’t you tell us about your new project?”
“We have been asked to perform final assembly of some units for the FAA,” he replied. “It involves taking PCBs that we assembled on our SMT lines and connecting the PCBs together with wiring in a housing about the size of a small refrigerator. We estimate we’ll need 20 operators and five supporting engineers.”
Matt then gave them a tour of the facility, responding to their questions along the way.
“I pay the operators about $20 per hour and the engineers $40 per hour,” Matt said. “I figure a 40% premium is fair. So, in the future I plan to charge $28 per hour for the operators and $56 per hour for the engineers. Does that seem about right?
Sue and Andy stared in disbelief at Patty.
Could Matt make a profit with these new rates? What did Patty and the young couple recommend?
Note from Dr. Ron: I’m sure that many readers think that this post is just a work of fiction. After all, no one could be as clueless as Matt. As with all my posts, this one is based on a true story.
This column originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of SMT007 Magazine.