The Pace of Change
For many years, the EMS industry seemed to exist a period of technological stagnation. The introduction of new processes and materials was incremental in nature. Not since the introduction of SMT technology in sixties and early seventies, followed by the mandatory implementation of RoHS, lead-free soldering in 2006 has there been much change.
Today, we live in different times. Technology is expanding on many different fronts. Let’s take a look at some of the main gamechangers:
M2M SOFTWARE – the ability for machines to communicate with each other and self-learn to implement closed-loop process corrections, using AI that will improve reliability and yield.
MATERIALS MANAGEMENT – within the factory, from Goods Inward to intelligent storage towers, to robotic delivery of component reels to the kitting area or direct to the machine. This limits machine downtime, allowing manufacturers to manufacture more with less.
ROBOTIC AUTOMATION – turning over repetitive tasks to robots and cobots that are more consistent and reliable, and take no vacations or sick leave. Allowing the operators to be reassigned to more interesting and productive work within the factory. Automating assembly makes a lot of sense in high volume factories, but roboticizing the hand soldering process can be undertaken in a any environment and will provide data for QA and traceability.
The learning curve for manufacturers is steep and the race to gain a competitive edge on competitors will be brisk, resulting in winners and inevitably some losers.
LINE OPTIMIZATION SOFTWARE – these systems not only enable you to balance the different skews across the factory production lines, but the latest versions can automatically adjust the rails and supports etc. ready to accept the next job, improving changeover speeds.
BLOCKCHAIN – technology that originated in the cryptocurrency world and is now being used to secure the digital gateway to factories and will soon protect consumer products with a new abbreviation joining our lexicon, BIoT (Blockchain Internet of Things).
3D PRINTING – now being used to manufacture printed circuit boards. It also has extensive applications in manufacturing prototypes and tooling, reducing time and cost.
None of these technologies were around three years ago. The learning curve for manufacturers is steep and the race to gain a competitive edge on competitors will be brisk, resulting in winners and inevitably some losers.
Make sure your factory stays ahead of the curve. For a high technology business, EMS manufacturers are extremely slow and reluctant to change. Many of these technologies will be discussed in detail at the forthcoming eSmartFactory 2018 conference at the Plug ‘n Play innovation center in Sunnyvale, CA on May 24th.
Join your colleagues to network, debate and learn about the latest technologies that will make a big difference to the bottom line in your business.
– Trevor Galbraith Editor-in-Chief