EMS - more than just electronics production!

Industry 4.0 requires smart solution concepts.

Electronics production is changing! Fast quote preparation, elaborate work preparation and short delivery times for ever smaller batches pose new challenges to the organization of quotation management, work preparation and production. With the "EFA SmartSuite" software solution, Fercad Elektronik from Wiehl has significantly optimized its processes and introduced augmented reality inspection.

appeared as title story in the Productronic 03/2017

The demands on EMS service providers are high! With the aim of customer satisfaction, customer ideas of the highest quality starting from lot size 1 should be implemented cost-effectively and as quickly as possible, with a high degree of flexibility. However, a considerable amount of time is required before the order is placed. The offer management has to process the customer data in such a way that a competitive offer can be created. If it does not come to the commission, this temporal investment remains inconclusive. In the case of an order, the data must be prepared and verified by the work preparation department for efficient use in production. The smaller the production lot is, the more this effort becomes more important.

In the tightly calculated prices and times there is no room for error. Not only assembly errors are meant here. An error in the data, a faulty process step or missing information can drastically reduce the profit margin.

Challenges in practice

The key to an efficient process in the run-up to production lies in the handling of non-standardized customer data. Their processing begins before the actual job. When making the quotations, the customer details for the components are assigned to the item numbers of the own material database for price determination. By using different spellings and units, the search in the own material database often takes time. If no order is placed, the time invested here is free.

If it then comes to the job, the actual work begins for the work preparation. The updated BoM file usually has to be reconciled with the own material database. In addition, the data must be examined for changes, checked for correctness and prepared for production. Frequently, different applications are used for these steps, especially Excel. However, the processing options for the special requirements of summary BOMs are often restricted and, as a last resort, entire lists are already depreciated. This process is therefore not only time consuming, but also error prone.

The production uses the processed data for the production. Immediately after the production of the first sample, the assembly is checked against the BoM list and the assembly plan. If this inspection is carried out not against the customer data but against the processed data, any processing errors remain undetected. The mostly manual first sample inspection is also a very time-consuming and error-prone process. Meanwhile, the ready-armed line waits for the "go" before production can begin.

EMS provider Fercad Electronics

In order to further increase the quality of your products and to reduce line downtime, Fercad Elektronik GmbH from Wiehl was looking for a suitable application.

The family business was founded in 1990 and has been growing steadily ever since. In 2012, the new headquarters could be moved in and already expanded in 2014. Since 2015, the new hall is in operation. Fercad serves customers from a variety of industries, including medical, automotive, industrial, aerospace and instrumentation and control.

True to the motto "perfected electronics production", regular investments in modern machinery and new technologies ensure competitiveness and high production quality (Fig. 1).

Fercad found the company Lebert Software Engineering when they were looking for optical inspection support. However, everyone involved quickly realized that the EFA SmartSuite system can achieve much more far-reaching optimizations.

Fast quoting

In the quotation phase, the EFA Supply and EFA ERP applications support the quick preparation of quotations. As a basis, only the customer BoM list is used. Format and structure of this list are almost irrelevant for reading. EFA uses fuzzy search algorithms directly to search for the correct article numbers in the connected material database directly from this scanned customer BOM. EFA interprets the specified values and suggests possible hits from the material database. The order of the individual details within the component description plays just as little a role as the spelling or unit of the respective sizes. Significant time savings can be achieved with this automated search.

"Linking to our component database makes creating bills of material much faster. At this step, we can save at least 50% of the time ", so the first conclusion of the company Fercad.

Efficient work preparation

The EFA Processing work preparation is geared towards the non-standardized requirements of customer data. As a central interface, the system manages all available information, such as the BoM list, the pick-and-place file and the associated placement plans. The data are linked to one another and can therefore easily be checked against each other. If the customer sends an updated BoM file with possibly undocumented changes, these are automatically recognized and supplemented with the existing data. Differences are highlighted in color and necessary adjustments such as a different part number are indicated

"Changes to components can now be integrated more easily into the current assembly data," explains Mr. Libera from Fercad's work preparation department.

The possibility of adding alignment information and text to the placement plan, as well as the extensive export options for the production machines, round off the functionalities for work preparation.

"Our processes are now significantly faster", summarizes Mr. Libera the advantages of the application for work preparation.

Augmented Reality Inspection reduces line downtime

The EFA projects set up in the work preparation can be seamlessly used in production. If the system is supplemented by a pick-up of the first printed circuit board, an initial sample check can be carried out. This process is automatically supported by EFA Inspection. For example, all components of a part number can be displayed and evaluated jointly. The image sections are rotated back to zero degrees in accordance with the rotation angle from the placement data (Figure 2). The tester only has to check the same alignment of all displayed components. In line with Industry 4.0, the inspection is additionally enriched with data and information. With augmented reality, the operator always has all the information he needs in view and can make a well-founded inspection decision without time-consuming programming.

“Since we insist on an initial inspection before SMD soldering, we are now using the EFA inspection system there too, so that subsequent errors can be excluded in advance. In addition, this type of control reduces our downtimes on the production lines. ”Managing Director Waltraud Aumüller sums up the advantages.

Fercad also decided to use the EFA Picture Touch device. The camera-based recording device generates high-resolution images with which “even small components can still be easily recognized”. The extensive lighting options ensure that lasered inscriptions are also recognizable in the recording. In addition to the image quality, Fercad also impressed the handling.

"Compared to a system with a scanner, the EFA device saves time when setting up and taking pictures."

Thanks to the user-friendly concept, the EFA Picture device was able to go into productive operation on the first day after delivery and training (Fig. 3). With EFA Inspection, Fercad now achieves a time saving of 70-80% in the initial sample inspection.

Smart solution found

"The result of the search was a system for placement control in order to further increase the quality of production and thus of the products". With the continuous use of EFA SmartSuite, Fercad was not only able to achieve this goal.

“The functions for work preparation convinced us. Our processes are noticeably optimized. "

EFA SmartSuite is designed as a complete solution that can be used in various production steps (Fig. 4). As the central control center, the system ensures a uniform database, which can provide the required information to every production step. Smart automatic functions support close cooperation with the user and automate previously purely manual production steps. This combination of the strengths of man and machine can significantly increase efficiency. The software solution is supplemented by the recording devices EFA Picture Touch for use as a desktop or inline device (Figure 5).

The software company LEBERT Software Engineering relies on close cooperation with users for continuous further development. Their experiences and ideas are regularly incorporated into the software.

"We put people at the center of our software development", describes Hans Jörg Lebert, Managing Director of Lebert Software Engineering, the proven concept.

The result is a practical application “by customers for customers”, in which each customer can find their own individual solutions through personalized processes.

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