Sr. Manufacturing Engineer
Adrian Nicholas

Case study – Conformal Coating Drying Cabinet

Summary: Shaved a day off production time, improved ergonomics, saved capital outlay of maybe $20-150k.

Problems: a. Production was bottlenecked by a primitive coating drying cabinet that operated on the Last In, First Out (LIFO) principal. Parts had to be left in overnight, to avoid coating damage. b. The operators had been doing things this way for years and saw no need to change. c. research showed that commercial, motorized coating equipment, to match our throughput, would cost $20-150k which wasn’t in the budget.

Solution: I designed and built a manual system for around $500 that doubled cabinet storage capacity and cut throughput to 4 hours, allowing some parts to be shipped the same day; and the operators loved it.

Some unused tool track had given me an idea for sliding racks. 24 of these, made from angle-iron, could be cut and welded at a local shop, for only $15 each, but the matching wheels seemed expensive at $60 a set. Noticing that my home wardrobe door had similar-sized wheels; a trip to the hardware store unearthed suitable wheels for only $3 per set, saving nearly $1,400 on wheels alone.

Ergonomics was improved, both for loading and unloading, since operators no longer had to reach inside the cabinet. Emptied trolleys were place on a below-bench As a further enhancement on the downstream end, where the coated single board controllers were tested, I mounted the test fixtures on furniture rollers to allow lateral motion.

Case study – Tool Support Posts

Summary: Reduced clutter, improved ergonomics, saved maybe $3k+

Problems: a. The production area was cluttered by electric screwdrivers and their power cords. b. ergonomics was receiving attention due to a worker’s compensation claim. c. commercially available tool support posts were expensive* and not in the budget, (we needed about 20 x at least $200 apiece).

Solution: A trip to the local hardware store showed I should be able to make something for under $20. This was more like it. I took a selection of hardware back to work to get input on height and reach from the production leads.

The hardware store cut and threaded pipe to length, which I then degreased and spray-painted as an after-hours project to minimize paint fumes.

The posts were sized for aesthetics, as much as function, and were very sturdy. Mounting with 4 x ¼" through bolts, they could be used to pick up the tables!

*expensive - this link shows current pricing as $330 each (

Case Study – Documentation improvement

Summary: Developed an easy to use, single file, PowerPoint format for Method Sheets that replaced an unwieldy, multiple file, Word format.

Problems: Existing Method Sheets were prepared in MS Word. They looked nice, and contained all the necessary information, but had major problems. a. Word had a hard time managing the necessary multiple illustrations and symbols and often crashed, so that b. sheets had to be stored in individual files with individual part numbers. c. Any added intermediate steps were likely to have out of sequence part numbers and, with time, d. keeping track of revisions, to match numerous ECN’s became a real challenge. Even our documentation specialists had a hard time with this and, for the shop floor leads and workers it was a real nightmare. e. opening multiple files, out on the antiquated production floor computers to check details, was impractical so hard copies were used that were sometimes out of date.

Solution: I transferred the basic data from Word to PowerPoint format, then combined individual pages and part numbers into a single file/part number. This reduced the number of part numbers needed and made changes easier to make and track. I got buy-in from all the various manufacturing plants before re-writing the relevant Work Instructions and ECN-ing the format change. Existing Method Sheets were transferred to the new format only when material changes were needed.

The PowerPoint files ran so well, even on the out-of date shop floor computers, that production leads could readily link to the latest documentation.

Work History:

2006 - Present: Mechanical Engineer, Sea Tel, Concord, CA.
(Manufacturer of stabilized antenna platforms for TV, phone and data systems installed primarily on boats).

·         Designs and engineers components and assemblies.

·         Writes ECOs, manufacturing and ISO procedures.

·         Approves designs, ECOs, drawings including GD&T.

·         Researches alternative materials, components, processes and methods.


2005 - 2006: Administrative Project Planner, Sea Tel, Concord, CA.

·         Planned and administered engineering development projects.

·         Wrote ECOs, manufacturing and ISO procedures.

·         Coordinated the company’s successful ISO re-certification.

·        Researched WEEE and RoHS and developed a company position statement.


2004 - 2005: Drafter Sea Tel, Concord, CA.

·         Generated and updated AutoCAD 2000 and Solidworks drawings.

·        Implemented ECO changes to BoMs and other documentation.

1995 - 2003: Sr. Engineer/Manufacturing Curtis Instruments, PMC Division, Livermore, CA.
(Manufacturing transferred offshore)