Positive Improvements from Creating a Connected, Intelligent and Traceable Production System

Davina McDonnell, Saline Lectronics
Mitch DeCaire, Cogiscan
Saline Lectronics examines the benefits to Cogiscan’s enhanced traceability and the positive outcomes of creating an interconnected, intelligent factory.

Different types of machines automatically communicating to each other and seamlessly sharing data is no longer a scenario only seen in science fiction novels. Today’s leading manufacturers are gaining a competitive edge by embracing current technologies and trends, including Industry 4.0, to create a more connected and intelligent manufacturing environment. Many manufacturing companies are equipped with intelligent machines capable of not only collecting and analyzing enormous amounts of data, but are also capable of talking directly with other machines in order to create a smart and unified production system.

Recognizing the ability to seamlessly link production machines together, Saline Lectronics, a domestic electronic contract manufacturer, has intentionally designed its Surface Mount assembly operations around this connected production system concept.

Utilizing intelligent software to create a connected factory, Lectronics has seen positive improvements in:
  • job set-up and changeover time
  • defect rates
  • and overall throughput.

Job Set-Up and Changeover Time

Sensitive to changing trends, and emerging advanced traceability requirements, in April 2014 Lectronics installed Cogiscan’s Track, Trace and Control (TTC) System. The TTC System offers enhanced traceability of materials used on a PCB assembly, plus traceability of all test results, and management of any required repair steps. It is also used to error-proof line set-up, monitor stock levels, and provide real time visibility of products and raw materials throughout the entire factory. Additionally, the TTC software serves as the link between all of the different machines that are used to manufacture a final PCB assembly.

Inherent to electronic contract manufacturing, Lectronics manages an enormous amount of raw part numbers for a wide range of customers. Careful management of this inventory, including correct stocking, precise counts, and inventory movement, is crucial for daily operations. With the TTC System’s Inventory Management software, Lectronics now has real-time information regarding the location of parts, exactly how many are remaining, and when to refill a machine.

Setting up a job for production is one of the most critical tasks in a manufacturing environment, and being able to accurately locate parts allows for a smoother set-up experience. If an error is made during set-up, or if set-up is delayed due to lost or missing materials, it has the potential to wreak havoc on the rest of the assembly process.

Cogiscan’s Inventory Tracking System has drastically enhanced set-up operations at Lectronics, and in certain cases of assemblies with a large number of components, improved set-up time by 33%.

Now that Lectronics has real-time visibility of inventory, Technicians are no longer wasting time looking for parts, because the software communicates the very precise location of a component. Lectronics’ has expanded on this software system in such a way that component locations can even be a bin!

Example: For example, before developing this inventory system, if a Technician pulled a part from the stockroom for set-up, the system would show that part in set-up, but not the precise location within that set-up area. Now, Lectronics’ Technicians can not only see that the part was pulled for set-up, but can see exactly where in set-up the reel is located whether that’s a trolley, a bin, or a shelf.

Additionally, rather than verifying the correct set-up through a manual process, Lectronics now utilizes barcode scanning and Smart Feeders with RFID technology to ensure that the right component is located in the correct slot. A user-friendly and graphical software interface guides the Technician throughout the setup process. This can also be performed offline, so Technicians can verify trolley setup prior to actually loading trolleys to the SMT machines. Instead of finding an error when the trolleys are loaded on the line and ready to go, Lectronics can now identify any incorrect reel placements prior to starting the job.

Naturally, with a reduction in set-up time Lectronics has also seen an average of a 33% time savings during job changeovers.

Offline set-up is a major contributor to this because jobs are ready to go well before an SMT line is free. Since all of these set-ups are previously validated before being loaded onto the machines, Lectronics no longer loses any time rearranging reels into the correct locations.

Additionally, the Cogiscan software is integrated within Lectronics’ Juki SMT machines. This connection enables Juki machines to talk directly with Lectronics’ Juki Fortress, proactively issuing a low-level alarm to tell the Fortress to automatically dispense a component for the Operator to pick-up before the SMT machine runs out. Thanks to this automatic communication, the required reel is ready to be loaded on the line before the machine is down.

This enhanced machine to machine communication has greatly improved asset utilization and productivity. A typical SMT line will stop several times per hour due to feeders running empty. In traditional settings, lines frequently and unnecessarily sit idle while Operators frantically search for components to replenish the empty feeders. In contrast, at Lectronics the Operators have been empowered to minimize such downtime, because the system senses which component will run out next, and triggers the Fortress to make this component available to the Operator just in time.

Improvements in Defect Rate

Another important side effect of connecting all of the machines together within SMT, was a positive improvement in defect rates found at Automated Optical Inspection (AOI).

Analyzing the defect rate for the previous two years, Lectronics placed 139 million components in SMT in 2014, compared to placing 271 million components in 2015, while reducing the defect rate by 150%.

While a large portion of this improvement can be attributed to tighter process controls, and the addition of Mirtec’s Solder Paste Inspection machine, the TTC System plays a significant role in monitoring and lowering the defect rates. Due to the enhanced machine to machine communication, Lectronics’ Juki SMT machines will not run if a feeder is located in the wrong location, or if an incorrect part number gets loaded on the trolley, thus eliminating any defects due to human error. Additionally, any defects recorded at AOI are automatically recorded by defect data software, which ensures that a failed product cannot proceed to the next operation until it has been repaired and re-tested with a passing result.

Overall, Cogiscan’s TTC System Software has better enabled intelligent communication between the different machines within Lectronics’ Surface Mount Department. This communication has not only drastically saved precious time and labor hours, but has also created a better understanding of materials and work flow. The enhancement to an interconnected and unified factory that intelligently tracks traceability and error data has also positioned Lectronics to be the preferred electronics manufacturing provider for many new clients.

Originally published in SMT Today Magazine.