Volume 5 | Issue 5 | Year 2002

First, let’s recall history. Dictaphone Corporation is a direct descendent of a company founded by Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter in 1887 to make office dictation machines. In 1907 the name Dictaphone was trademarked, and the Dictaphone Corporation was founded in 1923. The corporation eventually bought the successor to Bell’s business and made Dictaphone a premier name in voice-recording equipment.

Fast forward to 2002. Dictaphone maintains world headquarters in Stratford, Conn., and has become a leader in the dictation and call-recording markets. The $250 million corporation offers both analog and digital recording systems and software used by police, financial firms and hospitals to record all types of voice communication as well as process routine dictation and transcription, much of which is done using state-of-the-art speech recognition techniques. On the hardware side, an integral part of Dictaphone’s network is the Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) division in Melbourne, Fla.

Dictaphone-EMS is a business with volume – turning out more than 1 million printed circuit boards (PCBs) of more than 500 types, 250,000 cables and almost 100,000 final assemblies a year. The 120,000-square-foot plant has been ISO-9002 certified since 1994 and has multiple assembly lines with built-in flexibility to achieve a high mix of products, in medium to high volumes, efficiently. Jim Davis, Sr. vice president of operations, emphasizes that Dictaphone-EMS offers full service in its vertically integrated facility. “Many companies are looking to outsource their PCB assembly. We offer so much more and want them to say, ‘Let Dictaphone do it all’ – especially if they want to reduce their supply base and minimize the problems associated with coordinating between many different providers.”

Describing the operation’s capabilities, Davis says “We produce not only printed circuit boards, we also do conformal coating, custom sheet-metal fabrication, custom machining, cable and harness, powder coating and silk-screening, and final assembly (‘box build’). We can ship to our customer or directly to their customer.” Taking things a step further, Dictaphone also offers third-party field service, call-center support, depot repair, and training via its already well established customer service operation. As Davis points out, “When you consider these customer service capabilities in addition to the vertical integration in the manufacturing operation, you have a combination that no other EMS provider, that I am aware of, can offer. This can be very powerful as it would allow smaller corporations to grow without having to deal with the problems associated with developing their own infrastructure. Or, larger firms may want to consider outsourcing some of these functions.” Bert Pooley, sales and marketing manager, adds yet another element to the list of Dictaphone-EMS capabilities. “We also handle test development and support internally. We feel that thoroughly testing a product is an important element to customer satisfaction.”

The Word is Quality
Davis notes that Dictaphone-EMS manufactures many types of PCBs, including: through-hole (component leads come through holes in the board and are soldered); surface mount (component leads are soldered to pads on the surface of the PCB allowing both sides of the board to be populated); ball-grid array (connections are on balls beneath the parts – no longer visible once assembled) and mixed technology (through-hole and surface mount). He explains that the technology is determined at the design stage, by the customer, which is another area in which his company has the capabilities to be involved, from concept to prototype production to full production. “Many of our customers involve us in their design processes. This helps to ensure that the final design has high levels of manufacturability, testability, and quality and the lowest level of cost (material and labor) and time-to-market possible.”

“We’re very dedicated to quality and a high level of cooperation between us and our customers. With today’s complex technologies, if we’re not involved up front in the design cycle, the customer may end up with something that no one can manufacture well.”

According to Davis, that focus on quality extends throughout the operation. “We take extra steps, involving production, engineering, and quality, when we do the initial build of a product to make sure all the issues are identified and resolved on the first one produced – we call this our First Article inspection. We have a set of instructions, detailed by operation, for our people to build the product, and we check at every step to see if we are doing it right. On subsequent builds, production personnel perform their own First Piece inspection. The overall objective: build it right, the first time.”

Pooley comments on the approach Dictaphone-EMS takes to already designed products that come in for bid. “During the quotation process, we do an in-depth analysis of the manufacturability and testability of the product. This analysis is important as it allows us to see potential problems early on. If we ask the customer to make a change and they opt not to, we may choose to not bid on that product because we may not be able to produce it with a high level of quality.”

Davis points out that the 350 employees at Dictaphone-EMS are integral to the quality program. “We’re also unique because of the longevity of our employees. They average over 10 years of service with the company, and some have been with Dictaphone for 15, 20 years, or more. This has also allowed us to do considerable cross-training, which further improves our quality and flexibility.” He notes that the continuity is important to customers, many of whom have been doing business with them for more than 10 years.

The Dictaphone-EMS client list includes Dictaphone Corporation, Pitney Bowes (mailing systems), ESAB (cutting and welding products), Paxar (Monarch Brand label printers), Equitrac (cost recovery and control terminals used in Document Accounting Systems), Paravant Computer Systems (rugged computer systems for military applications), and Acterna (cable broadcast system monitoring equipment).

Future Callings
Referring to Dictaphone Corporation’s recent separation from its short-term (May 2000 – March 2002) parent company, Lernout & Hauspie, after the Belgian company declared bankruptcy, Davis comments, “Dictaphone has emerged revitalized, better capitalized, and looking to grow the business and expand the services offered.”

Even during that difficult period, Dictaphone-EMS was successful at adding new customers to its roster. Now, Davis and Pooley speak in terms of growing the business. The executives said they are “very excited” about two particular projects in the works. While keeping the specifics under wraps, Davis and Pooley indicate that the work involved would take full advantage of the company’s capabilities.

Pooley explains that a Dictaphone-EMS marketing goal is to obtain future contracts by getting the word out. “When people who are looking for an EMS provider find out we have a manufacturing facility in Florida, especially with all of these capabilities, they are surprised. In the next five years, I expect to see Dictaphone become recognized as one of the top contract manufacturers in the world.”

Davis echoes that thought from his perspective in operations, stating, “We want and envision a tighter coupling between what we do here and the Dictaphone Contract Services group. To the already powerful list of capabilities, we want to be able to offer full-service design for customers and to increase our capacity and our capabilities, in part through implementation of Lean Manufacturing techniques, in response to our customer’s needs.”

“There is more to contract manufacturing than a simple business relationship with customers. We have to become partners, develop a strong team, and believe in each other and what we can do together.” Pooley concludes.Sounds like the best-kept secret is out.For further information, please call 1-877-308-8400 (ext 8410) or visit www.dictaphone.com/ems.