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Lights-out manufacturing mandates a standard communication protocol.

Electronics assemblers often assume an MES solution is all they need to gain complete control of all processes and traceability for SMT, manual assembly, box build, test, and rework processes. But even if an MES solution provides interfaces to a wide range of equipment, the plant needs to purchase interface options for the equipment. Often, the investment is so large, they choose not to do it. A vendor’s proprietary interface to control and collect data from their machine in real-time can cost up to $5,000/machine. For a plant with 50 machines that need such interfaces, that is a significant investment that often exceeds the cost of the entire MES solution.

For companies that develop and sell MES, developing proprietary machine interfaces is a major resource, cost and time expense. Doing so involves constant updates and attempts to work with companies that often perceive MES vendors as competitors and are not willing to share interface information and data. Electronics manufacturers evaluate machines more and more on the type of communication interface they provide and their additional cost, and often buy machines from vendors that do not charge extra for communication interfaces. A standard interface always has been needed. Attempts to create one failed because of shortsighted interests of equipment vendors and a misunderstanding of the benefits to be gained from a standard interface.

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A new layout marries staff resources to immediate demand.

In the fourth quarter 2019, the team at Milwaukee Electronics’ headquarters began looking at ways to improve throughput by eliminating customer-focused cells and enhancing worker responsibilities. The goal was to make it easier to shift cross-trained employees among work cells to support variances in demand.

The electronics manufacturing services (EMS) facility was divided into five areas, each headed by a supervisor with direct responsibility for the team in that area. This put resource allocation in the hands of the people who work with those resources. Instead of dedicating space and team members to specific customers, each supervisor now has the flexibility to move their team around based on that day’s demand. They can also request additional training for any team member if they feel additional skills are necessary. Additionally, one supervisor was assigned as an assistant to the production manager. A production manager has finite bandwidth. The assignment of a roving supervisor to address day-to-day challenges helps ensure tactical issues don’t sidetrack the production manager from focusing on more strategic issues.

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What the electronics industry must do to change that.

Ed.: This is the seventh of an occasional series by the authors of the 2019 iNEMI Roadmap. This information is excerpted from the roadmap, available from iNEMI (inemi.org/2019-roadmap-overview).

To realize the benefits and potential of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or move toward Industry 4.0, the industry must overcome several challenges ranging from securing the factory equipment used to produce secure IoT-ready products to defining the cobotic dialogue so collaboration between humans and machines can be used to drive innovation, while providing efficiencies with minimal workforce displacement in this industry and those of its customers.

Aside from technical issues, ethical, geopolitical, economic and regulatory issues may affect the current and future state of the industry.

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