Jason Spera, Aegis Software Corp., explains how MOS systems can improve customer relations and increase manufacturing volume and accuracies. In the pursuit of greater efficiency and customer satisfaction, electronics manufacturing factories must have useful access to manufacturing information, eliminate processing bottlenecks, get new products to the floor more quickly, and respond to engineering changes rapidly. Increasingly, the manner in which a company handles its process control information sets one assembler apart from its competition.
To remain competitive in a difficult economy, electronics assemblers are continuously seeking new ways to maintain quality while reducing costs. To differentiate themselves from competitors, electronics manufacturers have turned to manufacturing operations software (MOS) to make their manufacturing processes more efficient while increasing quality and lowering overhead.
The applicability of MOS within electronics assembly is broad. It impacts virtually every function of the factory and beyond. Software is responsible for accurately and quickly converting design and bill of materials (BOM) information into process, assembly, machine, and quality information, sending the resultant information to the factory floor, while making the results of process execution immediately visible.
Companies adopt MOS systems for many reasons. Some focus on converting CAD and BOM data into machine programs more efficiently. Others mainly seek improvements in their assembly and inspection documentation. Other assemblers value its quality data collection and analysis, real-time dashboards, or paperless plant-floor documentation capabilities. In the most advanced installations, assemblers are seeking all of these functions as well as multi-factory integration, electronic approval management, and customer and supplier integration into their MOS network.
Unfortunately, many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) believe MOS is a viable option only for larger assemblers, but this could not be further from the truth. Scalable and cost-efficient solutions are available for virtually any assembler to consider. Beginning with a small CAD/BOM conversion solution, modular MOS systems are available to grow with a factory or business’s needs. As one piece of the system increases efficiency, a factory can upgrade ultimately into one scalable system capable of supporting more factory functions.
Many sections of the overall MOS system are individually deployable. As discussed above, an assembler can begin with CAD, process and BOM handling, and eventually move into management automation and manufacturing execution tools.
The main MOS system components and how they assist electronic assembly:
• CAD conversion. Import both electronic design data such as Gerber or native CAD files, as well as mechanical CAD drawings. It is the front-end to the process to either compare new data against existing product data, or to establish a new product for introduction to the factory.
• BOM and AVL/AML management. The automated import, cleaning, and organization of product data. This portion of the system also archives product history, organizes the hierarchy of indented BOM’s, and, in larger systems, bridges to suppliers beyond the factory.
• Process development/machine programming/routing. The application of merged BOM/CAD data to a pre-established process routing, the automated development of process documentation for each point in the routing, and the automated generation of machine programs.
• Revision control. Once BOM and product data are fully cleaned and organized, this critical aspect of MOS establishes electronic revision control over each BOM, as well as the process attached to the assembly.
• Management automation. In larger systems, electronic sign-off systems activate to convey processed BOM and process information to those parties in the organization responsible for approvals. Approvals occur electronically, and are traceable. Deviations (required changes to a product’s manufacture and/or content that in lieu of a new revision) may also be managed electronically, and broadcast to affected locations that are impacted by the change.
• Manufacturing execution. This final, and rather vast, portion of the system conveys the prepared data from prior sections to portals on the factory floor. Functions include document viewing, product work-in-progress (WIP) tracking, route enforcement automation, on-line quality manuals, quality data collection, paperless repair points, shop-floor materials control, set up verification, machine and test data acquisition, analytics, reporting, and operator feedback to engineers. Dashboards complete the solution, giving the factory and management a real-time view of WIP, quality, machine performance, OEE, and countless other key process indicators (KPIs).
Early adoption of MOS Software in the growth of an organization brings two benefits: the factory immediately gains the throughput and quality advantages of basic CAD/BOM conversion into outputs, such as machine programs and assembly documentation, even with a relatively small investment; second, as the enterprise expands, the MOS system will scale and utilize existing data generated from the initial modules. This strategy provides a gradual financial, operational, and cultural transition from basic MOS into complete multi-factory integration and beyond. Otherwise, if deployed only when the company is larger, historical assembly information is not always available, and the transition from manual data processing to complete MOS deployment within a large organization can be more difficult than when smaller, initial deployments are already well integrated.
Throughput and Profitability Impacts
MOS can be thought of as a way to digitally leverage maximum value from a factory’s existing human and capital assets. MOS is unique in that it does not actually add direct value to the product being produced, such as those that would be obtained from assembly or process machines; however, it radically impacts the volume and quality of all production in the factory.
Freeing time for machines and personnel that would otherwise be wasted in a traditional factory, the software directly improves profitability. The increased speed of new product introductions (NPI), process engineering, and engineering change implementation frees manufacturing and process engineering time, which can then be used to process more assemblies without increasing personnel. In an analogous situation, off-line programming of machines and MOS-based job scheduling builds more assemblies through the same number of machines. Finally, higher quality documentation, quality data collection systems, and more accurate CAD/BOM handling all increase quality and reduce rework and scrap.
The best way to understand the impact of MOS in the factory is to follow the flow of design data through a MOS-integrated facility. As mentioned earlier, MOS systems are typically modular. It is not necessary to deploy all of the functions explored here; conversely, this overview only shows a portion of the power a complete deployment would offer its users. Also, many functions can be performed simultaneously, making the overall throughput even greater than one might initially realize.
Generally, the first process undertaken in the MOS system is initial importing of CAD and BOM files. Once these data sources are merged to produce an intelligent graphical product depiction, tools develop the process routing through the factory, complete with logical and nested decision points for quality checkpoints. This routing is the backbone of all subsequent functions, such as paperless system viewers, machine programs, materials set ups at each station, final assembly points, etc. Virtually every point in the factory is digitally modeled so the MOS system is fully aware of the ways the user manufactures product. The MOS system automatically allocates components to the various points of the process, allowing for user override, if necessary, balancing lines and scheduling job ordering and changeover sequencing.
Documentation and automatically generated machine programs are then anchored to any or all points of the factory flow. This assembly and inspection documentation can be developed through templates assigned to each routing point, fully automating the process.
When the process executes, the MOS system monitors and enforces each product movement, reroutes when necessary, drives visual quality collection, collects real-time data from machines, and guides and verifies all materials and feeder set ups factory-wide.
The results of this vast array of data flowing into the system manifest through real-time and historical output engines. For real-time data, dashboards are created to visualize KPIs for quality, WIP tracking, performance, etc. For historical data, the most advanced systems provide a means to generate virtually any report the company requires without any knowledge of structured query language (SQL) or the system’s database, eliminating the traditional requirement for IT personnel to assist in all report generation.
MOS software indirectly impacts profitability by increasing product quality, which in turn leads to more business. Larger systems capable of presenting process data to customers over the Internet improve customer retention and satisfaction. These sophisticated systems also simplify and expedite ISO audits by making the entire quality documentation set, revision control history, and on-line quality manual and approval records available to auditors through a single browser.
MOS has reached an exciting stage in its evolution and development for the electronics industry. The development and convergence of lower-cost PCs, Internet technology, general computer proficiency, and market demands have brought the genesis of truly comprehensive and factory-wide manufacturing operations software. These systems leverage the resources of entire manufacturing enterprises to improve agility, quality, and profitability. Large MOS systems are certainly impressive, but electronics assemblers of any size can benefit immediately from portions of these modular solutions. Deploying a scalable solution today will reap benefits continuously as MOS technology, as well as your company, advance into the future.
Jason Spera, CEO, Aegis Software, may be contacted at (215) 773-3571; [email protected]; www.aiscorp.com. Read his recent article, Avoiding Mistakes in SMT Manufacturing Via MOS