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From Tracking to Action
Harnessing Traceability Data for Dynamic Production Control and Insightful Analytics

November 14th, 2023 - Originally published in i4.0 Today
ai for factory digitalization cover image
In the past, traceability in electronics manufacturing was relegated to high-quality industries only – think automotive, medical, aerospace – but more and more, OEMs outside of these traditional industries are adding traceability to their manufacturing requirements. With an ever-increasing global competitive marketplace, OEMs can’t afford poor quality – they absolutely need to get assembly right the first time. And in many cases, simply putting a product together correctly isn’t enough, modern manufacturers need to holistically look at ways to continuously improve their overall operation – to increase asset utilization, to reduce maintenance downtime, to improve ROI, and more.

Coupled with factory digitalization initiatives, future-oriented OEMs are focused on investing in software solutions that will capitalize on all collected factory-wide data to drive their business forward. In fact, most recently at Cogiscan, we’ve worked with clients to install both traceability and analytics solutions in facilities that assemble their products, which includes both in-house manufacturing as well as contract manufacturing partners. These leaders are striving to distinguish themselves amidst the clamor and believe this strategic combination of active traceability and robust analytics is essential to setting them apart. By integrating effective solutions for traceability and analytics, manufacturers can achieve not only increased client acquisition but also heightened profitability. This powerful combination offers a comprehensive approach that drives PCBA factories towards optimal efficiency by tackling both aspects concurrently.

PART #1: Activating Traceability & Controlling Production

Traditionally, traceability is more of a reporting function – a historical representation of everything that transpired during the production process. Providing verification to the end-customer that their product was built precisely to specification, and the right materials, machines, processes, people, and tools were used. Standard traceability provides verification after the fact; and unfortunately, is unable to prevent an error from happening. That’s where active traceability comes in, it adds control functionality to the traditional traceability scope.

With active traceability manufacturers not only provide evidence to show end-customers why their product deliverable aligns precisely with specifications, but also physically guarantee mistakes aren’t made during the production process. Regardless of how tightly controlled a production plan is, in this fast-paced and unpredictable manufacturing environment, variables can get missed – components can accidentally get loaded in the wrong feeder or the wrong recipe can get selected for the oven process – with margins quickly eaten away by rework, repair and scrap charges.

With the ability to promptly identify, address and control errors found in the manufacturing process, active traceability plays the most crucial role in risk mitigation. Pinpointing the source and scope of an issue ensures it’s rectified before happening. For example, instead of tracing back to see which PCBAs were populated with the wrong capacitor after the units are built, manufacturers with active traceability can stop the wrong capacitor from getting loaded on the machine in the first place. With the setup control module in Cogiscan’s Material Control application, the system will not allow production to start if the wrong part is loaded.
MYPro Connect powered by cogiscan - Mycronic partnership
Active traceability is a potent force from a business perspective too – not only does it help to land new clients, but also cements lasting relationships. By meticulously tracking, controlling, and recording each step of the production journey, active traceability instills confidence over time. Coupled with control functionality to interlock the line when a deviation occurs (such as if setup is performed incorrectly or the wrong solder paste is used at the stencil printer), expectations are exceeded by continuously delivering products within spec. The trust-building mechanism of active traceability not only aids in winning over clients initially but also turns them into lifetime customers.

“We have been struggling to decide on a traceability system to meet customer requirements for all SIIX factories over the years, and we recently decided to unify across all factories as well as to standardize operations and continuous improvements globally,” commented Hiroaki Takagi, Director and Executive Officer Global Engineering, SIIX EMS. “Cogiscan is the ideal choice for this multi-year endeavor not only because their technology proved to be both superior and reliable, but because we share similar business values as both companies prioritize trust and reliability for a strong partnership. Standardized traceability is a critical element toward our long-term digitalization journey and Cogiscan’s solution offers an open and solid foundation for our future needs.”

PART #2: The Power of Actionable Data

Traceability is powered by factory data – it taps into available data (via machines, materials, sensors, ERP or MES systems) and then makes that data intelligence available via a reporting mechanism. Analytics too are powered by factory data – data underpins the success of both traceability and analytics. In fact, the right analytics tool will leverage the connectivity infrastructure already in place from a traceability system.

Electronics manufacturers today are eager to incorporate analytics into their operation because these tools are intentionally designed to drive continuous improvements and thus leverage a better ROI. Offering a panoramic view of assembly and manufacturing data, analytics transcend individual instances, allowing insights to be gleaned from a holistic perspective to drive both decisions and action. This collective wisdom can be translated across a spectrum of product-types, fostering overall enhancement rather than addressing instances in isolation. In this way, analytics is a catalyst for manufacturers looking to continuously improve.

For manufacturers using Cogiscan’s Factory Intelligence platform, the beauty of this tool is that all analyses can be viewed from both macro and micro perspectives. As a fully integrated and out-of-the-box solution, the Drill Down module allows manufacturers to quickly analyze data on placement performance across the entire factory. From the macro level, a manufacturer can see the most dropped component, and by drilling down further into the micro data, they may discover that specific component is never dropped on a specific line. These analyses from multiple angles help manufacturers better understand the true root cause of any problem – providing intelligent clues to drive manufacturers to make the right adjustments and quality improvements.
MYPro Connect powered by cogiscan - Mycronic partnership
Both real-time and historical analytics empower manufacturers to pinpoint areas with room for improvement. By delving into the intricacies of various operations, advanced analytics will provide vital insights to unlock the full potential of all manufacturing resources ­– from the minutiae of analyzing the performance of individual spindles on every placement machine to the bigger picture of measuring the overall cycle time at each SMT line.

PART #3: The Synchronicity of Traceability and Analytics

The leading electronics manufacturers today realize that coupling active traceability and actionable analytics is a no brainer. Both systems leverage the same infrastructure to collect, store, and access factory data and simply differentiate when sharing and displaying data for traceability or analytics applications. Installing both simultaneously is the most cost efficient.

Manufacturers with both systems will continue to stay markedly ahead of the competition – not only do they have the advantage of correctly and accurately assembling every product with minimal scrap and waste, but they’re also using factory-wide intelligence to drive a more efficient operation holistically. These manufacturers have manufacturing insights and nuanced intelligence about their specific operation that others don’t even know exist, truly maximizing ROI across the board. Think of traceability and analytics like peanut butter and jam – sure, they’re quite good standalone, but they’re way better together.
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