Precision and accuracy are the keys to endoscopic surgery. As a manufacturer of disposable instruments for this minimally invasive procedure, Boston Scientific/Symbiosis (Miami, FL) also requires precision and accuracy within their manufacturing facility. To guarantee the optimum performance of their production line, Boston Scientific/Symbiosis utilizes high precision counting scales from Setra Systems, Inc. (Boxborough, MA).

Boston Scientific/Symbiosis manufactures a variety of devices (e.g., subassemblies for stent delivery systems, needles, biopsy forceps) for prominent medical equipment suppliers. Instruments utilized during endoscopic procedures need to be quite small. "We manufacture minute devices that must perform huge feats. Therefore, we take the necessary steps to ensure accurate production," states Mike Voss, Business Unit Manager for OEM products at Boston Scientific/Symbiosis.

Endoscopic surgery greatly reduces the level of trauma to the body, and overall recovery time. As a result, the use of this type of surgery is on the rise, as is the demand for requisite instruments. The use of disposable devices arose because hospitals were having difficulty sterilizing instruments. "We began to develop disposable equipment in response to requests from our customers. The small size of each tool made them hard to clean properly," states Voss.

In producing medical devices, every component (e.g., spring, screw, stainless steel tube) that is received has to be cleaned, counted and bagged before they are delivered to the manufacturing floor. "We are dealing with thousands of tiny parts. It is crucial that we know the exact quantity. Therefore, we need scales that give us the most accurate counts possible. We found this accuracy with the Setra counting scales," says Voss.

Boston Scientific/Symbiosis contacted Setra distributor, Scalemen of Florida, and selected the Models C and CP series of counting scales. Boston Scientific/Symbiosis chose Setra's scales because of their high accuracy, ease of use, and bar code system compatibility. Both models are interfaced with Setra's Auto Count accessory for bar code scanning and label printing. By utilizing Setra's patented variable capacitance technology, these scales offer counting resolution as fine as one part in 750,000. "Setra's C and CP series are ideal for our facility. Their ability to accurately count extremely small parts is phenomenal," states Voss.

When Boston Scientific/Symbiosis counts a piece for the first time, the average piece weight (APW) is determined through a sampling process. The scale prompts the operator to count 50 pieces onto the scale pan. By pressing a key, the scale determines how much one piece weighs, based on the weight of the entire sample. Once calculated, a bar code label containing the APW is printed through the Auto Count via the RS-232 communication port of the scale. This label is kept on a chart located above the counting scales.

An attractive feature of the C and CP series is the ability to input the APW at the time of counting. When a shipment is received and is ready for counting, if a bar code label for that part is on the chart, the APW is simply scanned into the scale. "We count the same type of parts over and over. It is a great benefit to be able to scan the bar code and have the APW automatically entered into the scale. We are able to count quickly and accurately," says Voss.

Another bar code is placed on the bag of counted parts along with the drawing number and quantity. The bag is then stored in a bin until it is required for production. The bin is also labeled with a bar code and additional pertinent part information to ensure proper identification. When a work order comes in for 500 biopsy forceps, production simply goes to the correct bin and takes a bag containing that quantity of parts. States Voss, "The Setra scales assure production has the correct number of parts needed when manufacturing a product."

Continues Voss, "We are receiving tremendous benefits from the Setra scales. Initially, we had hoped for 98% accuracy in the counts. We are actually receiving better than 99% accuracy. Additionally, we save a great amount of time by scanning the APW into the scale."

"Finally, our employees find the scales to be extremely easy to use. We have 900 employees in our 145,000 sq. ft. facility. It is a great comfort to know that training takes just minutes."

Boston Scientific/Symbiosis strives to deliver their products as soon as possible to their customers. Concludes Voss, "in the medical equipment field, time is an issue. It is crucial that we manufacture the parts quickly, so our customers can provide the equipment to their clients. The Setra scales have streamlined our operation through quick and accurate counting."

As seen in Medical Equipment Designer, July 1997.

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