When Information Technology Optimizes the Electronic Assembly Process

01 July 2021

This is only an excerpt. To read the article in its entirety (in French only):

Le cahiers de l’industrie et du numérique

Interview with Accelonix

Accelonix is one of Cogiscan’s longest and strongest distribution partners in France and the wider European market.

How to Choose an MES?

The manufacturer who wants to equip himself with an MES has to ask himself many questions. How to avoid the pitfall of buying an infant MES proposed by machine manufacturers? The proprietary solutions of these equipment manufacturers can trap their customers who find themselves limited to the sole equipment of a manufacturer.
Laurent Lafillé, head of Accelonix’s software division, readily admits: “It is the somewhat nebulous side of the software that allows these bad practices. The result is that when the customer asks whether a particular machine will be able to communicate with his software, the answer is automatically: Yes! However, it is not always so obvious, there are proprietary protocols, protocols for microelectronics machines, the CFX protocol … A whole series of tools that are communicating, perhaps, but that need to interface with other software systems.

“At Cogiscan, connectivity is a main focus and the very foundation of any Smart Factory. For more than 20 years, Cogiscan has been working on building and improving its machine connectivity solution, an essential element of any digitalization project. Cogiscan’s solution includes an ever-growing machine interface library that evolves with the creation of new production techniques and communication protocols.”

Choosing a Machine Compatible with a Digital Universe

Even though building your own connectivity solution is possible, manufacturers must imperatively take into account the numerous communication protocols that will prevail in their workshops.
“When our customers think about integrating new machines into a highly digital environment, they have in mind that the overall performance now comes from the characteristics of the machine but also from its ability to communicate. You’re not just buying a machine! You’re also buying its software environment and its ability to communicate is fundamental. This is what we have seen with pick & place machines in recent years: at the beginning there was software to manage the machine. Then, manufacturers started to enrich their machines by integrating communication interfaces with external systems. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers have the resources to know where to start since they are not necessarily experts in this field. Because of that, the scope of communication has expanded a lot in recent years.

In many factories, lines are built with many types of machines and with a variety of communication protocols. Cogiscan’s solution has been created for this type of environment.

Julien Katz, Quality Manager at Accelonix, testifies to this:
“We have operated large installations at Eolane in Estonia on 6 or 7 production lines. We installed adapters on all the machines. Connectivity is the very heart of Cogiscan’s business.”

What is the Return On Investment (ROI) of a MES?

“Traceability is no longer an option”
According to Laurent Lafillé, there are several reasons why a customer would want to implement complete traceability with an MES: “He may have a need for internal structuring, or he might want to trace its process in order to meet some requirements. Traceability is already well implanted in the automotive industry, but it is becoming more and more present in other industries. Traceability allows manufacturers to better understand how their production works – but in most cases, we are contacted after the manufacturer had a request from one of his customers. The second reason is the certifications that are required for manufacturers who operate in specific industries, for example in the medical field, in which traceability is not an option but an obligation. “

“Traceability is also kind of an insurance for a manufacturer. When a defect happens, it is necessary to go and check onsite what really happened. Yes, a PCB might be expensive. But the service around it is often much more. If you don’t have any traceability solution, you might be forced to change 500 pieces … and that can be very expensive, very quickly”.

“One could say that traceability is not a new thing! However, if you ask a manufacturer to give you the history of a PCB in just a few minutes, this will probably be a challenge because without the right system, all the information is often scattered in several places, in several softwares… Cogiscan collects and centralizes all the information in one place and they’re also able to replicate it on other systems if needed to. Consolidating traceability data can be extremely complicated without the right tool.“

Waste of Components and Excess Inventory

In addition to this ability to collect, store and analyze traceability data, Cogiscan also acts as a material manager, especially for components. Its ability to manage storage locations (whether it is intelligent or not) and to communicate with machines, allows it to update data in real-time in order to have a complete view of the inventory.

When inventories are loosely tracked, manufacturers tend to buy excess components to prevent downtime due to a lack of material. This particular kind of excess usually costs them 1 point of margin per year. This is gigantic when we know that the average margin of a subcontractor is around 3 to 4%! Cogiscan’s traceability software is a great way of adding value to your inventory.

More Skills = Commercial Advantage

In summary, Industry 4.0 is becoming a fundamental element of electronics manufacturing.

The demand for traceability is more and more present and traceability-related certifications now exist. It’s also becoming necessary to understand how the whole factory works in order to be able to take actions to improve productivity. These are the skills that will enable a manufacturer to differentiate itself in a highly competitive market.

This will also be helpful to lay the foundations of Industry 4.0 in one’s factory.

FEEDBACK: Cogiscan – The OSE Magician

By adopting Cogiscan’s technology on its production lines, OSE is winning a competitive edge over its competitors.
“We have always been able to invest intelligently”. For Caroline Guérin, in charge of project development, this sentence sums up OSE’s philosophy perfectly. Created in 1985, the electronic boards and components subcontracting company now employs around 100 people in Corps, in the Isère region. In its factory, 3 SMT lines assemble medium and large orders dedicated mainly to the scientific, medical, transport, IT, telecommunication, and home automation industries.

Why Install MES in the Company?

It was a logical step for OSE, which launched its “Ose résilience et avenir” project back in 2019. The initiative consists of renewing old equipment while also boosting its robotized manufacturing capabilities. This project was also able to benefit from the “Industrie du Futur” funding available in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
“We manifested our ambition to digitalize our installations, which will someday be essential for all factories. This is how we got in touch with Accelonix, who distributes Cogiscan’s solution. All our MES project was built with them.”
“In any case, we had to meet our customers’ requirements, especially in terms of traceability,” says Caroline Guérin. “Some of them, in the railway industry for example, have more and more regulatory constraints. They require advanced traceability in terms of precision, tracking, manufacturing, and repair. Many of them have the SNCF (France’s national state-owned railway company) as end customers, which has very specific standards,” she explains.

This is also true in the medical field, where the traceability of medical devices is a prerequisite. In January, OSE obtained its ISO 13485 certification for its quality management system, which requires the company to demonstrate its ability to regularly supply these devices. “Our MES enabled us, among other things, to obtain this certification,” says Caroline Guérin.

OSE’s managers understood very well the biggest stake: true traceability begins with the supply chain and ends with delivery to the customer. “This was an opportunity for our company to stand out from its competitors and to go even further, right to the heart of the map. Investment is in OSE DNA. Not investing means market losses, either in the present or in the future”, says Caroline Guérin.

Choosing a Versatile Software Solutio

The choice of an MES was entrusted to Jérôme Gobert, who is responsible for information systems. He proceeded methodically in the abundance of offers on the market. “Intellectually, we were ready. We were aware that the electronics market was moving in this direction. With everything that has been done for our ISO 13485 certification from 2019, we understood the need to move towards a new production management tool. For example, if we had not had this traceability tool, the ISO audit would have been much more complex. However, the auditor noted that we had quality, repeatability and follow-up processes, which tipped the scales in our favor.
“I analyzed the offers of some major players in the market, starting with OC2I, our ERP provider. They proposed an add-on that would allow them to collect traceability data on two of their customers’ most popular brands of placement machines.This was not suitable for us: in our factory, we only had one of these brands and were negotiating to buy new high-speed machines that wouldn’t have the ability to use this add-on. It was also something that would have restricted us in the future. So, we really had to find a software that was truly vendor neutral and Cogiscan’s software clearly stood out from the crowd. The versatility of their solution, its neutrality in regard to the OEM and its tracking, tracing and control (TTC) capabilities were all strong elements in our final decision.”

“Cogiscan already had built-in connectors for all the equipment we currently own, and for those we might acquire in the future. This, added to the fact that they have more than 20 years of experience in this field, was why we’ve decided to go with them.We have also added options on some of our machines in order for them to share their data with Cogiscan’s platform.“

A Scalable Solution Based on Modules

Cogiscan’s modular approach is particularly appreciated: “The first step was to install a very solid traceability system on the SMT lines, and then extend the solution to our control process and to our repair process. In our factory, we are at the last stage of implementation. Then, we will be able to add new modules at our discretion and according to our timing to arrive at a complete solution.

Support Expertise and Responsiveness

Jérôme Gobert worked directly with the Canadian company to obtain several adapters to make certain very specific machines compatible.

“I was impressed by their software development capabilities. They are real developers, and if you want a specific development, they are there for the challenge. A big ERP provider, for example, will never give you this kind of service unless you wait a very long time and pay a lot of money. With Cogiscan, we are in contact with an agile and very reactive team who deeply care about customer satisfaction. This counts a lot for us.”

What Has Changed in OSE’s Operation Following the Implementation of Cogiscan’s MES?

The answer is clear: “It changes everything. The most time-consuming part of the rollout has been to rethink the way we work. In our old processes, we received components from manufacturers in batches – so we sometimes had 10 coils from the same batch. Now, we have a unique ID for each coil. This means that we can stick more labels! As soon as we receive a package, we stick a label on it. Then we photograph it on a material initialization table, then it begins its life in our stocks and on our production lines. In the event of a problem, we are still able to refer to the photo or to the information captured by reading bar codes on the labels from suppliers or manufacturers. Previously, we only knew the manufacturer’s batch. We could identify it, but that did not allow us to go very far in the traceability investigations.

“The PCB all have unique ID engraved on them. We’re now able to identify exactly which component was placed on which card. I have an example in mind: a customer calls me and says, “I have the X-engraved card with a defective capacitor on this marker.” Thanks to the Cogiscan software, we were able to identify the unique ID and instantly had the information: on which board this capacitor was mounted, and possibly which other customers were affected in order to advise them.

Rational Management of Components = Deadlines Met

In all subcontracting factories, the management of components is an issue that manufacturers are often forced to deal with mixed results, due to a lack of time and the absence of really adapted tools.

In the project designed by OSE, at the end of each order, each component is counted using an X-ray system. “The advantage of recounting – and of having complete visibility on our inventory – is that we avoid downtime due to, for example, an operator who has prepared his machine and who, at the last moment, realizes that he is missing 10 components to finish his production,” adds Jérôme Gobert. “We calculate our needs every week; for the customers, it assures that we’ll meet the deadline.”

Management: Reorganizing Production Flows

Catherine Dubelloy is the Quality, Safety and Environment Manager at OSE. Her role is to reorganize the factory around the new procedures inherent in the digitalization process. “Industry 4.0 is a powerful improvement factor. And in order not to give extra work to the people in production, we had to reorganize our production flow. “

“On this type of project, the difficulty is not only to install software or to install bridges between them. There is also a lot of human work. When you tell factory employees that we are no longer managing by the reel, but that we are going to re-label everything, it’s not the same! There is an effort to start on the right foot. The most difficult thing is finding ways to make everything simple! However, simple things are always complex to design and to set up. With the installation of the Cogiscan software, we had to rewrite our operational process.”

“From a security standpoint, the software helps us to be much more rigorous. But what we really wanted at OSE was to strike a balance between traceability and rigor, so that we could continue to produce with the flexibility that is the hallmark of our industry since we need to manufacture many different products with different requirements.”

With the Rising of Industry 4.0, We Will Continue to Move Upmarket.

Today, the company is in the midst of a technological transformation. But for Pascal Guérin, director of OSE, as well as for his daughter Caroline, OSE does not intend to stop there.

“Our wish at OSE is to continue to invest step by step, to master the equipment and the software part, to go upmarket and to acquire new skills to excel in our manufacturing processes. We are ready to win new markets with new products, new boards with many components. It is on the complexity of the board that the added value lies, and this is how we’re going to be able to have higher margins.”

Author (original article): Dominique LEMIERE