Prototypes in record time

Innovative concepts for the production of lot size 1

For EMS providers, time-efficient prototype production is a major challenge. In addition to the actual production, the import of the customer data, the comparison with the own component library and the overview of changes are time-consuming process steps. In terms of lot size, this preparation for prototypes takes up most of the time. This was significantly reduced by R & D Elektronik from Mönchengladbach using the EMS software "EFA SmartSuite".

appeared in the Productronic 11/2018

EMS providers are constantly reinventing the high demands of their customers. In particular, high flexibility in production, cost-optimized production and high quality are among the basic features. Incidentally, the customer product should be manufactured as fast as possible from batch size 1. Long waiting times for the completion of a prototype extend the time until the market launch of a new product.

Therefore, the company R & D Elektronik from Mönchengladbach offers its customers a very special, fast 48-hour service. In order to accomplish the production in 2 days, the process in the apron of the production came into the focus. The preparation of the data and the comparison with the own component library are much more important for prototypes in relation to a single board than for large series.

EMS provider R & D electronics

R & D Elektronik already has over 40 years of experience in electronics manufacturing and device assembly. Prototypes, medium and large series are manufactured completely or partially for different industries. It was not until 2017 that the company significantly expanded its production area and machinery (Fig. 2). Of course, R & D Elektronik is ISO 9001 as well as UL-certified for years. 

Shorte communication channels and close personal attention characterize the customer-oriented business relationship. As early as the prototype phase, R & D focuses on the mechanical manufacturing processes and thus achieves production of the prototypes in series quality.

The realization of the timeframe of 48 hours, however, again put a high demand on the organization the production. In addition to fast production, R & D Elektronik has already identified optimization potential in the work preparation phase. In order to produce the prototypes within 2 days, it must be clear as soon as possible whether the required components are in sufficient quantity in stock.

So far, this process step has taken too much time, so that R & D Elektronik went in search of a suitable system. They found what they were looking for at Lebert Software Engineering in Hanau.

Import customer data

Due to the lack of standardization in the data exchange format, the processing of customer data by conventional means to a high amount of time. This is where the EFA SmartSuite software comes in (Figure 4), which was developed specifically for the requirements of EMS providers. The customer bills of materials can be read into the software "as they are". Extensive special functions are specially designed for the special features of summary BOMs. In this way one-click syntax can be broken down and area information (such as C1 to C5) can be enumerated. Summaries of subareas across rows or columns are also possible. The goal is to process the data as quickly as possible in such a way that they can be used in the preparation of quotations and also in production without further processing.

Find the right components

In the second step, EFA SmartSuite performs the necessary comparison with the component library on the basis of the customer data. To do this, EFA SmartSuite interprets the values from the customer BOM according to the corresponding component category and suggests possible hits on 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. Components that are not described with values run automatically via fuzzy search. EFA SmartSuite also displays hits that differ slightly from the original name from the customer data. The colored marker marks a match as good (green) or less good (up to red).

Bachelor thesis confirms time saving

For R&D Electronics, the two steps "reading in customer data" and "comparing with your own component library" are of central importance.

“These process steps simply cost too much time,” explains operations manager Theo Schelasni.

In order to improve one's own process steps, the current processes were carefully examined in a bachelor thesis. This made it possible to clearly determine which steps cost the most time. The main points were the processing of the parts lists, the comparison with the own component library and the comparison between parts lists. If the customer sends a corrected list, it can take a long time to find the differences from the previous list. With EFA SmartSuite, changes are immediately highlighted in color. In addition, the changed values can be displayed in the list comparison. This allows you to quickly check which information has changed and how (Fig. 3).

With EFA SmartSuite, offers can now be created in record time.

“In no time at all it is clear which components are already in stock,” says operations manager Theo Schelasni.

Components that are not available can be requested from distributors by email or searched online.

Inspection solution for prototypes

In 2016, R & D Elektronik invested in the EFA SmartSuite system. At the time, the focus was on the inspection application EFA Inspection. The system is designed to check initial samples, small batches and prototypes. For a first sample inspection, for example, all components of a part number can be displayed and evaluated jointly. The image sections of the individual components are rotated back to zero degrees in accordance with the angle of rotation from the placement data. The inspector only has to check the same alignment of all displayed components (Fig. 1). The inspection is additionally enriched with data and information. With this augmented reality, the operator always has an overview of all required information and can make an informed inspection decision.

The basis for the inspection is a high-resolution recording of the printed circuit board. For this purpose, an EFA Picture Touch HR device is available from R & D Elektronik. The device has extensive adjustment options. Each board can be set up a separate recording profile that guarantees the repeatability of the recording quality.

The inspection system is used by R & D Elektronik for both initial sample inspection and small series inspection in the THT area. For small series, the change image display is used with a golden board to quickly and reliably detect errors as motion in the image.

The use of EFA Inspection at R & D Elektronik has led to significant time savings in manual optical inspection. At the same time, this previously purely manual process step has become repeatable and comprehensible, thus contributing to the improvement of production quality.

Smart instead of manually

R & D Elektronik achieved significant time savings for the 48-hour prototype service through the use of EFA SmartSuite. In addition, the bidding process has generally improved. Since the parts lists can now be exported as standardized, they can be used directly in production without further processing. This also saves valuable time.

The EMS software EFA SmartSuite supports many process steps of an EMS provider, from quoting through preparation to production (Figure 5). It manages the customer data and enables fast, standardized work with imaginative customer formats. Interfaces to ERP and MES systems ensure the necessary data flow. Working closely with users, EFA SmartSuite continues to add functionality that efficiently supports day-to-day customer data. In particular, this process can be relieved again and again, which combine the know-how of the people with the automatic of the computer - and thus bring the man significant time savings. In the spirit of Industry 4.0! EFA SmartSuite thus enables close cooperation between man and machine for flexible production, even from batch size 1 upwards.

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