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Bridging the Gap
Addressing the Trained Labor Shortage in the PCBA Industry

November 23rd, 2023 - By Cogiscan's Experts
bridging the gap labor shortage in pcba automation


The PCBA industry has experienced exponential growth in the last 5+ years, driven mainly by the insatiable demand for smarter and more connected devices. This growth has driven the demand for a highly skilled workforce capable of handling intricate circuitry, sophisticated machinery, and ever-evolving technology. But the gap between this demand and the availability of well-trained individuals is widening, creating a crisis that has profound implications for the future of electronics manufacturing. In this article, we’ll delve into the potential solutions to better bridge this gap and ensure the sustainability of this vital industry.

Solution #1: Automation

First and foremost, the foundation of any successful automation endeavor in the electronics manufacturing industry begins with seamless machine connectivity. While it might be a straightforward task for manufacturers with production lines composed solely of ASM or Juki machines, the reality for most manufacturers is far more complex. Most factories are equipped with a wide installation base of machine brands and varying vintages and require a brand-agnostic solution for effective connectivity.
co-nect connectivity connumdrum
This is where a vendor-neutral solution like Co-NECT comes in handy. Renowned for the most extensive library of machine adapters (partial list available here), Co-NECT has even been selected by corporate giants like Jabil as the preferred connectivity solution deployed across a staggering 2,000+ machines. As a standalone, neutral connectivity interface, Co-NECT is compatible with a broad spectrum of SMT machines, including Placement Machines, AOI, SPI, Stencil Printers, Reflow Ovens, Functional and In-Circuit Testers, as well as Storage Towers.

Example: Co-NECT for Machine-to-Machine Communication

One compelling feature of Co-NECT's prowess lies in its capacity to facilitate process automation through machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. A prime example of this is the integration of Storage Towers with Pick and Place machines, resulting in a harmonious exchange of production consumption and material data. By leveraging this type of solution, manufacturers can achieve remarkable productivity gains, with potential increases of up to 10%. Moreover, the versatility of Co-NECT ensures that it can seamlessly support connectivity between more than 20 different brands, making it a cornerstone of efficiency and innovation in the PCBA industry.

Solution #2: Simplifying Processes for Operators

Another way to address the impending shortage of trained operators is to streamline, or simplify, processes in order to reduce mistakes, but also to increase overall throughput. We could go on and on with examples, but here are some easy-to-implement pragmatic options for PCBA manufacturers.

Example: Streamlining Material Registration with the Incoming Material Station

With manufacturers handling thousands of components, material registration can be a very time-consuming and error-prone step, especially when we consider that errors during this step can have a massive impact downstream. In order to reduce this risk, many factories have already implemented a type of Incoming Material Station.
This widely adopted solution automates and ensures the accuracy of material registration with a simple click. Upon activation, the system efficiently generates a unique identifier (UID) for each reel or package, captures and stores an image, reads and imports the supplier's label, registers the information in the connected database, updates purchase orders as necessary, prints an internal label, and seamlessly transmits all relevant data to the ERP system.
incoming material station ims cogiscan inventory
This comprehensive automation not only enhances efficiency but also reduces the need for manual intervention, making the entire process swift, precise, and hassle-free for any new or junior operator. Given that a single station has the potential to slash reel-scanning time by an impressive 55 seconds per reel, an operator could effortlessly handle a more demanding workload, effectively diminishing the requirement for additional operators.

Example: Automating & Error-Proofing Material Kitting

It doesn’t matter how big your operation is; material kitting can be a strenuous and error-prone process, especially for new employees. For that reason, electronics manufacturers around the globe are always looking for better ways to automate this process. Cogiscan’s Material Kitting solution conducts verifications at every stage of production – proactively identifying material shortages prior to production, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted workflow.

Additionally, the system automates the reservation of materials to their designated kits, mitigating the risk of any inadvertent errors in this crucial allocation step. Preventing the accidental utilization of unauthorized materials during production, our system promotes both precision and accuracy in the assembly process.
kitting control cogiscan storage and cart
To keep production lines up and running, our system also ensures the required quantity of components is readily available for material fulfillment and seamless job completion. To optimize logistics, automatic pull requests are also generated and directed to the Storage Tower, streamlining material retrieval during production, and enhancing overall operational efficiency.

Example: Standardizing Processes Between Brands & Models

Standardization is often considered the obvious solution for many other manufacturing sectors. However, with as many machine brands and models we deal with in PCBA manufacturing, standardizing can be an enormous pain – especially if you have to manage every single vendor’s proprietary application. This becomes an additional burden when training a new operator (ex. 4 brands = 4 different applications to both know and use).

While it's feasible to navigate a diverse range of vendor applications, Cogiscan's Setup & Process Control application enhances this experience by establishing connections with each machine and consolidating all setup validations into a unified user interface. This holds true for machines of varying brands or models. The application provides configurable, step-by-step operator instructions, effectively error-proofing and simplifying the setup and changeover procedures. Whether offline or online, our module accommodates both modes of machine setup, offering the flexibility required for swift production changeovers.


In conclusion, the growing demand in the PCBA industry has underscored the urgent need for a skilled workforce, and the widening gap between demand and trained individuals poses a significant challenge. Whether you're in search of automation tools, streamlining processes, or exploring entirely new solutions, seeking advice from experts prior to implementation is always a wise approach. As Software Experts in electronics manufacturing, we stand ready to assist.

Reach out to our team at to explore firsthand the benefits and insights we can provide for your specific factory needs.
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