In Part One, we began discussing a few simple ways to ensure your PCB manufacturing process is operating efficiently. A well-operating manufacturing process will help prevent costly factory shutdowns and eliminate the need to re-manufacture products because of defects. Previously, we touched upon the importance of understanding your projects, maintaining adequate inventory stockpiles, and using software to monitor the entirety of your production floor. In Part Two, we’ll further expand on the idea and offer more solutions for improving your manufacturing process.
Use Software to Monitor Your Inventory
As you know, many production floors are filled with dozens of specialized machines. The problem is that most of these machines utilize different software, receive their parts of various suppliers, and don’t communicate with each other. This means that many manufacturers often rely on their employees to provide documentation of their inventory. But this is no easy task and mistakes can have costly repercussion, such as halting the entire production floor.
Thankfully, this problem is avoided by utilizing Process Preparation Tools. These tools operative by managing your inventory and cross-referencing it with the parts required to complete all incoming jobs. The programs can also track individual machines’ output and determine how much inventory has been used. When shipments are received, simply note them in the interface of the program. The software will then provide easy to read graphical updates on any shortages that may hinder your production and tell you when to place new orders. This will decrease your downtime, increase productivity, reduce human error, and ensure that your factory is ready to begin manufacturing as soon as orders are placed.
Implement Quality Assurance Checks
This doesn’t only mean ensuring that the printed circuit boards operate efficiently, but putting into practice safeguards that help remedy problems and ensure accountability. These are going to be the differences that separate average PCB manufacturers from a great PCB manufacturer.
- Tracking: Tracking means that if a defect is found, the part can easily be tracked back to the production sequence. An effective tracking method will allow you to determine what other printed circuit boards also suffer from the same defect. Warnings can be sent out to fewer customers that you are 100% sure have received defective parts, rather than simply playing a guessing game. This also means that fewer replacement parts have to be made.
Tracking will naturally increase upfront costs. However, when a defect is found, the benefits will easily eclipse the cost of implementation. Finally, monitoring can be used as a selling point for potential customers who will appreciate your commitment to quality.
- Conformity: Conformity is simple; produce every PCB in order the same exact way. Don’t make changes either in suppliers or production mid-way through the process unless necessary. For your PCB manufacturing process to operate in conformity, you’ll have first to ensure that you have everything required to complete the job from start to finish before you begin. The fewer variables you insert into the manufacturing process, the less likely something will go wrong.
Establish Teams Throughout the Manufacturing Process
PCB manufacturing is a complicated process that is hard for any one person to wrap their head around. Therefore, it’s impractical to expect your employees to be involved in every part of the process. This is why production teams are an effective way to localize expertise and increase efficiency. Teams should be set up for design, maintenance, quality assurance, inventory, and all other key aspects of the manufacturing process.
Now, there’s an obvious problem. What happens when the teams become too comfortable in their teams and conflict occurs because of differing opinions or blame passing? The solution is to integrate the teams wherever possible. Simply because the teams are separate, doesn’t mean that the individual members have to be as well. Members of the design team can quickly have limited roles on the quality assurance team or the other way around. This will encourage dialogue between the team members because they will build relationships throughout the entire process.
The Beginnings of an Increasingly Efficient PCB Manufacturing Process
Efficiency is never something that is finished. Rather, it is something that must constantly be improved upon. In Part One and Two of this series, we’ve discussed six different ways to increase your PCB manufacturing efficiency. In Part Two, we touched upon using software to manage inventory, ensuring quality assurance, and developing production teams that work together. However, these are merely suggestions to get you started. Once these have been implemented, take it upon yourself to monitor your production line and spot areas for improvement. By continually improving your efficiency, you’ll keep your producing line operating costs low, and customers happy.