Trace, Track and Control is important to an EMS company for several reasons.
The first item on the list is the doors it opens for new customers. Properly implemented, the system will support the requirements for ISO-13485, FDA and AS-9100, as well as larger OEMs’ production requirements.
However, the system can do so much more for the manufacturer. In one facility, the management noticed that solder defects seemed to be trending higher so they ran a report showing defects by printer. The results were very clear – one of the printers had more than double the solder defect rate than the other printers on the factory floor. By tracking the board flow through the facility, they were able to take control of the process by replacing the printer and reducing the solder defect rates. You could run the same report for type of solder paste, by employee or by customer just to name a few. With EMS margins shrinking, there is more pressure to run lean and spend your capital where you know you need to, not where you think you need to. With the proper systems and reports in place, EMS companies should have the knowledge to make razor sharp decisions on what, why and where to spend their precious resources. For many of the same reasons, the OEM looking for an EMS provider should require a full traceability facility.
The top concerns of most OEMs are quality and assurance of supply at the lowest possible price. As an OEM starts the search for an EMS supplier, they have the challenge of finding a supplier that meets these three qualities. By far, the easiest of the three is price. If price were the only variable that mattered, then you could pick a few supplier, have them quote the work, and boom you are done. Unfortunately, life is not that simple. Free puppies are the most expensive pets you will ever have! The same is typically true if you choose an EMS supplier on price alone – the cheapest vendor could have huge long-term costs. These costs could be hidden manufacturability issues or could be as catastrophic as a recall.
One of the best approaches to choosing your supplier is to understand their MES software and how they utilize it. It is one thing to have an electronic shop floor traveler, but is another to have a system that allows you to understand what is actually happening on the manufacturing floor. The Trace, Track and Control system should allow the EMS provider to give you a competitive product with the feedback for cost reductions and the ability to improve throughput over time. You will have the peace of mind that the steps called out on the traveler were followed, manufacturability improved, and God forbid if a component vendor calls to tell you that you have a bad date code on a component, you have a partner to support you in the recall and repair of your product. Bottom line, certifications indicate that the EMS vendor has the processes in place, while Trace, Track and Control prove it.
In the end, it is in everyone’s best interest to have a Trace, Track and Control system in place. Whether you are an EMS facility wanting to improve and open new markets, or an OEM wanting to know that you are getting the best quality and most reliable product for your money, there is peace of mind knowing that process have been documented and followed in a platform that leads to constant improvement across the board.
Libra Industries is a leading provider of integrated Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS), serving OEMs with complex or technologically sophisticated manufacturing requirements in a broad range of industries including industrial automation, medical, military and aerospace, instrumentation and LED lighting. Five world-class manufacturing facilities allow Libra Industries to provide customers with manufacturing flexibility including complete system build, module and subassembly production, as well as simple to complex PC board assembly. With an ongoing commitment to investment in people, quality systems, and the latest manufacturing equipment and processes, Libra Industries is committed to managing their clients’ products from initial design and prototype to full production; assisting their clients in their efforts to improve time to market, reduce total systems cost, and increase quality.