FCI OEN to expand facilities and increase product offerings

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FCI OEN Connectors aims to expand its market share with the introduction of new product lines

By Kartiki Negi

fcieon_chennai_plantFriday, March 14 2014: Located in Kochi, FCI OEN Connectors Ltd is a well-known name among the country’s major suppliers of professional grade connectors and cable assemblies. Incorporated in 1981, the company is a joint venture between OEN Connectors and FCI, a French company specialising in connectors for the telecom and defence sectors. In the course of the company’s many technological collaborations and corporate changes, in 2000, FCI acquired a major share in OEN Connectors, after which the company was subsequently named FCI OEN Connectors.

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Initially, the company began with a product portfolio that included DIN 41612, card edge, IDC flat cable, DSub, IC sockets, circular connectors and MIL series connectors. During the early years prior to the current collaboration, the company focused on the Indian market. However, gradually we began to export a sizeable volume of our Kochi-manufactured products as well. But the evolution process gained traction after the company became a part of FCI. Given its technological strengths and engineering capabilities, several global products were transferred to India for manufacturing too. At present, FCI OEN Connectors manufactures many of its sophisticated products, like the Millipacs and Metral smart cards and modular jacks in our Kochi facility,” says Rajesh Arakkal, general manager, FCI OEN Connectors Ltd.

Today, FCI OEN specialises in high-end connectors and cable assemblies, including DSub, modular jacks, 2mm hard metric connectors, smartcard connectors, wire-to-board and board-to-board connectors of different pitch sizes.

Manufacturing capacity and infrastructure

Stamping unit
Stamping unit

FCI OEN operates two manufacturing facilities. It commenced its manufacturing operations from its 12,000 sq m facility at Kochi. With the company’s expansion and to address the market’s potential, it later set up a cable assembly plant in Bengaluru in 2000. Our fully integrated manufacturing facility has high speed stamping machines, high speed reel to reel plating strands, barrel and vibratory plating lines, vertical and horizontal molding machines, automatic & semi automatic assembly lines.

In addition to these manufacturing facilities, we have a business center in Kochi. They support all the FCI functions—sales and marketing, engineering, finance, purchase, IT and HR etc, by providing key business intelligence and analytics.

FCI India has an annual capacity of more than 500 million connectors, and almost half the total units manufactured are exported to various countries.

Best manufacturing practices

FCI OEN Connectors follows several best manufacturing practices including customer focus, lean manufacturing, value analysis and engineering, supplier development and people empowerment. Some of the key achievements worth mentioning are the company’s quality enhancement procedures. “FCI OEN follows a quality culture where everyone is responsible for the quality of the product it offers. The company firmly believes in the team approach when it comes to operations and our prime focus is on the customers’ requirements. FCI OEN continuously works towards the improvement of processes by educating and training the employees to enhance their skill levels,” says Laurent Petit, VP ASEAN, Japan and India.

Laurent Petit, VP, ASEAN, Japan and India
Laurent Petit,
VP, ASEAN,
Japan and India

To reduce wastage, FCI OEN follows the lean strategic programme in the manufacturing process. This is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value. In this context, value is defined as any action or process a customer is willing to pay for. As waste is eliminated, quality improves while production time and costs are reduced. A non-exhaustive list of tools and systems used for wastage reduction are SMED, value stream mapping, Five S, Kanban (pull systems), Poka-Yoke (error-proofing), total productive maintenance, control charts, QRQC (quick response quality control), red bin review, line balancing, visual control systems and automation.

The automation department of the company started operations in 1991, and is of prime importance in terms of the company’s focus on design and manufacturing. Examples include assembly tooling and equipment for connector assemblies with emphasis on low cost automation solutions. At present, the company has a team of 16 people skilled in automation, including tool designers, electronic controls designers, toolmakers and technicians.

Latest technology and machinery

In order to survive in today’s competitive market, the company has always kept itself up to date with the latest technology and machinery. Some of the prominent technologies used by the firm include IMLA (insert molded lead frame assembly) – vertical and horizontal molding, hot runner molding, and high temperature plastic molding for reflow soldering of up to 350 degrees Celsius. It also uses multi-cavity molds, closed loop micro-processing, pick and place robots, auto loading and a constant humidity dryer. All the electric molding machines save significant amount of power. These quiet machines are also oil-free and environment-friendly.

Rajesh Arakkal, general manager, FCI OEN Connectors Ltd
Rajesh Arakkal,
general manager, FCI OEN
Connectors Ltd

Among the latest equipment FCI OEN uses are high speed stamping and forming machines with SELBER fault detection and online vision system inspection systems. The company also uses several high speed reel-to-reel plating and semi-automatic barrel and vibratory plating lines, which support plating with cadmium, copper, tin, nickel, silver, gold and palladium. In addition, the machinery used has the capability for selective plating too. “Technologies used in this procedure include spot, brush, belt masking, controlled department, and FRS. We have X-ray SEM inspection, composition analysers, semi and automatic assemblies, laser marking, ultrasonic welding, high speed EBRAHARD and IMLA stitching machines,” informs Rajesh Arakkal.

Trained workforce—company’s asset

The company engages approximately 1100 employees at its Kochi facility and 160 in Bengaluru. The workforce consists of post-graduates, engineers, as well as skilled and unskilled personnel.

Employees are encouraged to work together closely to improve the espirit de corp within the company, which translates into improved productivity as well. The company holds several engagement and motivational activities such as an annual sports event, FCI’s family day, national safety day, world environment day, employee tour programmes, special occasion gifts, Onam and Christmas celebrations,” says Laurent Petit.

The employees are also motivated to work as a team and, yet, foster an attitude of healthy competition with each other. Various contests like the safety slogan, posters, suggestions and quizzes are held with this aim, and also help to enhance the safety culture among the employees. As part of the environment day celebrations, children of employees are also given a chance to showcase their talent in the form of a painting contest. A flower carpet competition is held each year during the Onam celebrations within the factory premises. In addition, qualified members, including executives and non-executives, are given an opportunity to showcase their talent in technical areas by participating in external competitions.

The Quality Circle competitions and Kaizen events are the platforms that enable employees to exhibit their analytical skills and innovative ideas. The company has always appreciated its employees’ active participation during meetings and values their suggestions.

To further motivate employees, a special recognition award is given to employees for exemplary contribution in areas such as cost reduction, quality improvement, business improvement and customer satisfaction. The ‘Turning the impossible to possible’ award is yet another incentive to motivate employees to put in their best efforts.

Expansion plans

Tool room in Kochi plant
Tool room in Kochi plant

The company has witnessed consistent growth for the last several years. In a bid to widen its market coverage, it is planning several investments for new product developments so as to expand its product portfolio. “To maximise our operational capacities, production lines are now fully automated or semi-automated. These factors also enable us to be more innovative, inventive, and flexible towards customer demands. As of now, we are looking forward to incorporating more sophisticated products into our production lines,” says Rajesh Arakkal.

FCI OEN’s upcoming facility near its existing Kochi plant will focus on new production lines and products for the market. “This is just the beginning of our expansion plans in India,” adds Rajesh Arakkal.

KEY FACTS AT A GLANCE
Year of Establishment 1981
Turnover (2012-13) Rs 2500 million
Workforce 1300
Production capacity Over 500 million connectors per annum
Manufacturing units/locations 16000 sq m plant in Kochi, 5000 sq m plant in Bengaluru
Machines High speed stamping machines, vertical and horizontal moldings, tooling room with optical profile grinding, wire/sink EDMs, barrel and vibratory plating lines, reel to reel plating, automated assembly lines…
Major customers Siemens, L&T, Schneider, Ericsson, Ceragon, ECI, NSN, Tejas Networks, etc
Product range 2mm modular (metral) & 2mm hard metric (millipacs) high-speed connectors, DIN 41612, DSub, modjack, smartcard, IC Sockets, board to board and wire to board connectors, battery connectors and respective cable assemblies, etc
Sectors catered to Telecom, industrial, power and energy, automation and process control, LED, transportation, data, consumer, etc
Contact details  29/2089, Tripunithura Road, Thykoodam, Vyttila, Kochi -682019, Kerala, India; Ph: 0484 48090700, Mathew Manoj-AGM, [email protected], www.fci.com

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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