The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has brought disruption and presented new challenges across every industry. For the electronics manufacturing sector, there are dozens of challenges that accompany the “new normal”—from remote work and stay-at-home orders, to travel restrictions and supply chain complexities. Although businesses have had to rapidly pivot and completely transform their operational standards to remain competitive, the pressure to reduce risks and drive efficiency has remained critical, particularly in essential and highly complex businesses such as medical technology, semiconducting, and others where there is a high cost of getting it wrong.
For contract manufacturers (CMs) to remain competitive, it is critical to filter out as much risk in the printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) manufacturing process as possible. By partnering with a CM that delivers quickly and without error, businesses can focus on doing what they do best to support their customers. In this article, we navigate the qualities that allow CMs to deliver with minimum risk and how to select the right CM for mission-critical jobs.
The need for low-risk, high-delivery manufacturing
For electronics manufacturers, innovating at high speeds while mitigating risk to maintain the highest levels of quality has always been a priority; however, in a coronavirus-impacted world, it is now more important than ever to reduce risks for mission critical manufacturing. If risks are present in the iteration and development processes for essential sectors like medical technology, there can be major consequences for patient safety and manufacturer reputations. For example, electronics engineers designing medical devices, such as parts for ventilators and prototypes for new treatment machinery, need guaranteed, industry-compliant, first-time-right success in their circuit board builds and hardware to continue operating to the high standards demanded by today’s circumstances.
Manufacturing for non-essential business is also picking back up quickly, putting pressure on the semiconductor market to perform seamlessly and deliver on the components needed for production. Engineering teams often spend a lot of money on the prototyping process but adjusting to today’s adjusted business operations requires that they focus on reducing high costs, thus further increasing the need to reduce risks in manufacturing and get hardware iterations done right the first time.
How software mitigates risk
By leveraging software in the PCBA manufacturing process, contract manufacturers can deliver on the most important pieces of the customer experience—transparency, precision, speed, and customization—while creating quality prototypes and products. Unlike traditional electronics manufacturing processes, in which iteration cycles can take weeks or even months due to manual, slow-moving processes, software-based manufacturing uses end-to-end software automation to expedite the build process, saving engineers time, money, and resources.
The use of software in the manufacturing process supports bringing products to market faster by ensuring that boards are built correctly the first time. During the prototyping stage of product development, the ability to continually view and modify the design until the highest quality board is achieved is key to reducing errors and delivering product with less risk.
Finding the right CM to reduce risk
For companies navigating the electronics manufacturing process, especially amidst the continuously evolving implications of Covid-19, it is essential to identify CMs that offer creative, efficient ways to develop high quality boards delivered at high speeds -- while simultaneously mitigating high costs and risks. CMs who can leverage a software-driven iteration, transparent DMF tools, and open communication via a digital thread are the right fit to support bringing innovations to market with minimal roadblocks.
In today’s tight turnaround environment, open communication between the CM and the engineering team has become essential; a CM without reliable, continuous access to the design for improvement leaves room for error and extends project timelines instead of streamlining them. By choosing a CM that leverages a digital thread to offer open visibility into the status of the project, the timeline and expected delivery date, and the different configurations needed to produce boards, engineers can be sure that their project is staying on track. This transparency is particularly important in today’s climate, where travel restrictions may limit engineers from visiting the CM’s factory to check the status on their boards themselves and where project turnarounds are tighter than ever.
CMs that have adopted a software-driven digital thread have a unique advantage over traditional manufacturers: they can easily combine rich data and visuals, and report directly into the engineer for approval, filling the gap between engineer and CM that typically hinders and elongates the manufacturing process.
For example, Tempo Automation’s digital thread is driven by both agile hardware and software development processes for printed circuit board assembly, to streamline the development process and yield significant improvements in capacity and throughput. As a result, engineers can achieve the high quality, reliability, and speed that they need to succeed in this new reality of mission critical manufacturing. Compared to the normative black-box approach, this open communication allows engineers to fully track the details of their board build, so they can have confidence in achieving first-time-right success.
By leveraging a digital thread, a CM can eliminate the risks that typically come with electronics prototyping and help bring important innovations to market faster.