If you’ve ever stared at an idle production floor and wondered what went wrong, you’re not alone. Looking at a non-operating PCB manufacturing floor is truly like watching money go out the window. All you can do is call your clients and explain to them why their shipment is going to be late. But it wouldn’t have to be this way if your PCB manufacturing process was streamlined and efficient. Unfortunately, many manufacturers consistently focus on soliciting new clients, rather than taking the time required to improve services for their incumbent customers. In Part one of this two-part series, we’ve outlined some easy steps you can take to ensure that your production line is living up to its real potential.
Know the Product Before You Begin
Design and manufacturing should no longer be seen as two separate steps in producing printed circuit boards. When this is the case, production issues can easily go unnoticed by a floor supervisor who is ignorant of the PCB’s design. This is a problem because fixing a design or production issue after manufacturing has begun is extremely expensive and sometimes not worth the cost. To avoid these problems, an efficient PCB manufacturer should have a thorough understanding of how the PCB functions and its unique requirements. This way, as the manufacturing is taking place, or even before it begins, you can constantly be checking the PCB against the required standards.
While every manufacturer should have at least a basic knowledge of the PCB design, Design For Manufacturing technology aims to assist manufacturers with even the most basic knowledge produce pristine PCBs. DFM software will analyze the PCBs and ensure that they operate in the way the designers envisioned.
Keep Resources for Large Orders on Hand
PCB manufacturing is a highly complicated process, and factories often have a hard time keeping track of their inventory. Factory operators have to ensure that each machine in the assembly line has the required parts on hand to complete a job in its entirety and place orders to fill any shortages. However, if there is a shortage in one area, it’s impractical to halt the entire production line waiting for the shipment to arrive. Rather, the factory will begin the manufacturing process with the resources it has on hand, completing the rest when parts arrive. While production doesn’t stop, there will be times when only a fraction of the floor is operating. Instead of a smooth assembly line production, the process is fragmented and inefficient.
To remedy this problem, PCB manufacturers need to ensure that they have a sufficient stockpile of commonly used parts. This doesn’t mean you need enough to finish the job completely, but enough to hold the factory over while the shipments arrive. When placing orders for current jobs, always remember to order extras just in case of emergency and the extras can act as backups for the next job as well.
Use Software to Monitor Every Step of the Manufacturing Process
A PCB manufacturing factory is like a locomotive. Each car on the track is required for the entire train to get from point A to point B. Like the factory foreman, the conductor can’t simply sit and assume everything is going as planned. Rather, he has to take an active role and ensure all is running well.
The same applies to the PCB manufacturing process. Even though the production machines are highly technical and operate at autonomously, the factory supervisors cannot just sit idly by. Rather, they must know what is being performed at each stage of the process and regularly monitor machines for efficiency.
Admittedly, it is impossible for one person to have such a comprehensive view of their production facility. This is why supervisors must utilize software that monitors and analyzes the factory floor at all times. Programs exist that will monitor the efficiency of the shop floor and dictate any drops in productivity. Furthermore, when a machine does shutdown, the software will immediately tell the operator what went gone wrong, allowing them to get it up and running with minimal downtime.
Get on The Path to Streamlining Your PCB Manufacturing Process
This is part one of a two-part series on how to optimize your PCB manufacturing process. In the PCB industry, time is money; it’s as simple as that. If production is halted because of easily avoidable issues severe losses can occur. Streamlining your process means utilizing the tools available to your to keep your factory running 24/7 by understanding your PCB design, maintaining an inventory surplus, and using software wherever possible to monitor your systems. Read part two of this series for more ways to streamline your PCB manufacturing.