When I joined the Company’s imaging products group in 2006 as the production manager, the group had 16 people operating in a 5,000-sqare foot section of the X-ray tube factory in Salt Lake City, Utah. The group produced about $5 million in revenue per month. Today that figure has significantly increased due to incredible growth in technology, as well as innovations in operations and manufacturing. In addition to technological innovations, our investment in expert people and custom-designed equipment has made it possible to successfully manufacture high-quality products in repeatable and price sensitive ways.
Custom-designed Equipment and Automation
Being one of the first in the world to develop digital flat panels for medical imaging was challenging, particularly because the necessary equipment for producing our product didn’t exist. In 2006, the equipment we had was sufficient for the needs of research and development (R&D), but it was not designed for high volume production. We worked with custom machine manufacturers to create custom design machines to meet our needs.
We began automating our processes in 1999 when we bought a TAB (tape-automated bonding) placement and bonding machine, which reduced the six hours it took for the manual precision placement of tabs using a microscope to 15 minutes. Next, we automated our final tests using custom-designed, in-house software. While manual final tests had taken eight hours on some of the longer processes, we were able to reduce this to two and a half hours per panel using our software. We are still using this software today and improving upon its performance, and in 2010 we installed new TAB bonding equipment.
Expanding our operations from a few operators who fulfilled all production roles to specialized operators by area also helped increase our production capacity. We also specialized our manufacturing operations as we realized that the technology was evolving to meet the needs of different end users and applications.
As a result, we divided our manufacturing operations into modality-focused product lines to serve specific markets.
Expanding to Increase Capacity
Our Salt Lake City facility has gone through many expansions to help us increase our capacity by providing the infrastructure to support our manufacturing processes and production operations. The first expansion was finished in the fall of 2006, which added 78,000 square feet to our facility and included space for flat panel production as well as an expansion of the shipping and receiving area servicing both panels and tubes. Office and conference room space was also added to accommodate the growing support teams of engineering, supply chain, documentation, quality, and other functions.
Until 2008, we were using a portable clean room that had been brought to Salt Lake City from Tempe, Arizona, when the imaging products group moved in 2000. A major redesign of the cleanroom layout to support our growth was done in 2008, which expanded the soldering area and added an ultra-clean space for radiographic panel cleaning. In 2013, we decided to add the capability to deposit Cesium Iodide scintillators. This necessitated the construction of a new cleanroom with unique capabilities to enable that process, which was completed in early 2014.
As we began to outgrow our facility in late 2014, plans were made for another addition to the building. In 2016, we completed our new addition, which added 90,000 square feet of production space and a two-story office building of 55,000 sf.
Over the years we have grown both our teams and footprint. In addition, we have expanded our technology and product portfolio. Last year, we acquired the PerkinElmer Medical Imaging Division. Leveraging our joint expertise has enhanced and grown our medical and industrial product portfolio. As a leader in the market, we continue to make technological innovation and operational excellence a priority for better patient care.