Collaboration in Manufacturing

We’ve all heard  “jack of all trades, master of none”.  I first heard this expression as a child, as my father tackled most every maintenance job around our house.  In manufacturing, there are numerous providers offering a “one-stop shop”;  we can do it all mantra.  But are all manufacturing services provided to high industry standards?

Collaboration is the key to successfully offering an array of high-quality manufacturing services.   Discover and define your niche.  This is where the focus of investment on training, tools, and equipment are found.   Next, define the manufacturing services which have the least investment or focus.  Search  out and find the manufacturer offering the very best of those manufacturing services.  Narrow your choices down to the provider with the best reputation for customer focus, operating standards, and quality.  Offer a collaboration partnership with the manufacturing provider(s) which complement your forte.

Sharing manufacturing expertise will expand opportunities by providing the best all-encompassing end product between the collaborating entities.  The real winners are the customer and your business reputation, for truly offering only the best.

Which is best: Manual or programmed component quoting processes?

Quoting a Bill of Materials (BoM) for an upcoming PCB build can be a time-consuming project.  There are several distributors who offer upload tools which purport to streamline the process.

We have come to rely on automation for efficiency in manufacturing, but is this an assumption we can carry over to the quoting process?

Which is best: Manual or Automated component quoting processes?

Data

Any component discrepancy or callout error must to be caught during the quoting, procurement, and kitting processes. Care must be taken to root out issues to eliminate expensive errors and delays during the PCB build. Even some of the best enterprise databases can hold undetected entry errors. It often takes a human eye to detect and resolve these issues.  The manual quoting process will uncover:

  • a discrepancy between the component BoM description and the manufacturer’s part number call-out
  • an obsolete manufacturer’s part number (non-RoHS, revised, or no longer used p/n’s) and can provide the latest manufacturer’s part number with availability
  • the most appropriate and available media type per manufacturer’s part number (e.g. 250 vs. 3K reel or bulk vs. reel)
  • best available upgrade should the call-out be unavailable (e.g. flash gold vs. tin)

Manual BoM scrubbing and quoting are necessary to confirm discrepancies in the manufacturer’s part number call-out, attrition quantities, and available alternates.

Time

A manual BoM quote process will ensure that component availability meets the timeline.  If any component availability cannot meet the build date, an alternative component can be suggested.  If no alternates are found, the engineer is contacted for insight or options.

Manufacturability

The PCB assembly process requires some component attrition. The manual quoting process accounts for attrition in ways an automated system can not.  A quoting specialist understands the capabilities of the assembly facility and the build requirements. Proper attrition will eliminate shortages during assembly. This ensures the build will be complete without interruption or delay.

Summary

Though we have come to rely upon the automated processing it is not always the most efficient method to fill your BoM requirements. Keep in mind even the best BOM upload sites may not represent every manufacturer.  Uploads to several distributor sites may be needed to cover all components.

If a manual quote better suits your current requirements, consider California Integration Coordinators, Inc.   Call and discuss your project or send an email to Cherie@cic-inc.com.

www.cic-inc.com

How to Kit Components Prior to Assembly

Anyone can use the internet to locate and buy the components for a PCB assembly.

Why is “Kitting” important to the PCB Assembly? Kitting is the term used to describe the function of bringing all material requirements together. With all required items received, verified, placed in suitable packaging and given to the assembly facility; the assembly process may then begin.  Sounds simple.  So why do the Electronic Manufacturing Service (EMS) providers encourage professional kitting services?

Professional kitting services can be found within, or independent of, an assembly facility. With either choice, the function of bringing all material requirements together is essential for the assembly process to perform with the highest efficiency.  Professional Kitting services far exceed the simple act of finding and buying.

· The Bill of Material (BOM) descriptions and the material call-outs are reviewed for any discrepancies.

· Authorized sources for materials are to be found and the BEST source for availability and pricing requirements is evaluated and identified.

· If availability conflicts with the assembly timeline, options need to be found and presented to the BOM owner for approval.

· A Costed BOM should be given to the purchaser of the Kit or BOM owner for approval prior to any purchase.

· With approval, the purchasing is completed based on the Costed BOM.

· All purchased materials are tracked to ensure on-time delivery.

· Incoming materials are counted, inspected and verified with the manufacturers datasheet to ensure the item ordered is the item received.

· Industry standards for ESD prevention are utilized to ensure the condition of all components.

· Materials are identified, organized and packaged to present to the assembly for efficient production.

Professional kitting services are appreciated for the many functions performed, especially the pre-screening and verification of the electronic components.  No assembly line should EVER be down due to incorrect or missing components!  Using a professional kitting service ensures the efficient assembly process and timely delivery of PCB projects.

When evaluating professional kitting service providers, please include CIC, Inc. on the list.  California Integration Coordinators, Inc. has focused exclusively on  kitting services since 1988 and is continually setting the bar for all kitting service providers.  For more information call for any of the Project Coordinators (530) 626-6168 or email cic@cic-inc.com.

Acknowledging the Electronic Manufacturing Craftsman

Purchasing and engineering can sometimes mistakenly classify the production of the electronic assembly as a commodity.

There is true craftsmanship in those performing electronics manufacturing services.  Artisans perform the design for manufacturability review, quote the BOM components, source creatively to keep the build on time, kit and prepare the components for assembly, engineer the assembly process and artisans place the components.

The dictionary definition of Craftsmanship:  a member of a skilled trade; someone who practices a craft; artisan.

Synonyms for craftsmanship (noun skill, creativity)

aptitude, artistry, expertise, inventiveness, knowledge, mastery, method, profession

An online search of Electronics Manufacturing turns up pages of options; one begins to imagine why it could be mistakenly identified as a commodity.  Look below the surface and the differences begin to emerge.   The variety of equipment, specialized skills and focus, all help to differentiate one from another.  When searching for the perfect partner for an electronic assembly, understand the skills needed for the assembly.

Matching the PCB assembly needs with the skilled artisans can be difficult, but a bad match can cause a project to miss the timeline or the performance projections.  Do your due diligence to find the right match.  Understand the assembly requirements; search for local talent, get referrals, and interview the artisans.

Electronic manufacturing services are not a commodity.   We are fortunate to have such skilled artisans available.   Collaboration and partnerships with talented individuals will positively impact any PCB assembly projects.

Successful Partnerships for PCB Assembly Services

Numerous aspects are involved in the PCB Assembly; board fabrication, component procurement, programming and set-up for assembly, component placement, quality inspection and testing (if applicable). 
For prototype PCB Assemblies special consideration should be given to the processes used before, during and after the manufacturing.  Experienced partnerships add substantial value to both manufacturability and production quality. 
·         Partner directly with a board fabrication provider.  The board fabrication engineering group will review the functionality but also will perform a DFM (design for manufacturability) review.  This value added process often costs little to nothing but can save the project.
·         Partner directly with a component procurement specialist.  The Costed BOM will be provided and should include all information regarding pricing as well as availability.  If the prototype project has a timeline, alternate components should be presented by the procurement specialist to keep the project on time.  The value of the vitality check and part number verification can be a cost-effective source of information.  The procurement specialist also provides the assembly line-ready Kit for assembly saving valuable assembly prep time.
·         Partner directly with an assembly facility which is capable of accepting components in various media types for placement.  The assembly facility able to place components from cut tape, tube and trays will allow the components to be sourced in the most economical methods possible.  Prototypes often will have minor changes and draining the budget for a full reel of components, which may be removed from the BOM later, can be costly.
·         Partner directly with an assembly facility which can provide DFM prior to the PCB build and thorough inspections after the build.  The outcome of the DFM and inspection reports should be shared with the design team to review for potential improvements prior to production quantity builds.
·         Partner directly with a test facility if needed.  The quality of the information and the engineering insight can save precious budget money and time for the design engineers.
We look forward to questions, comments and your insight.  Email Cherie@cic-inc.com
California Integration Coordinators, Inc.  “Helping people build electronic products”

Reduce the timeline for PCB Assemblies

Speed is often everything in taking products from development to release.  The faster the delivery of the “brains” (assembled printed circuit boards), the quicker to testing, making adjustments and launch can occur.  The biggest obstacle to overcome is often the board level component lead-times.
Sometimes your product’s unique performance is linked directly to a unique component.  Unique components often are not STOCK but special order items.  Lead-times are a PCB manufacturing reality.  Identifying your boards unique components early in the design process and planning your development timeline will allow the components to be pre-ordered and arrive prior to the day your printed circuit boards will be assembled.
Fluctuations in basic material availability, component demand and “mother nature” can create lead time challenges in commonly available components.  You can prepare by identifying alternates at the design phase and choosing drop-in replacements from different manufacturers. 
If possible, avoid choosing components at the far end of the spectrum on a manufacturer’s datasheet.  For instance, if a capacitor is available in a specific package from 4 volts to 150 volts from one manufacturer and all other manufacturers offering range is between 6.3 volts and 100 volts, consider utilizing the more common range. 
Have an electronic components life-cycle check done for all board level components.  Make sure the components (especially the unique components) aren’t identified for obsolescence during your planned active product life cycle.  Software is available to aid in quick checks for alternates, life-cycle verifications, etc. 
Any additional thoughts for minimizing the time from concept to market?  Please share as we are always trying to find new ways to help our customers build to meet their time-frame.

Why our electronic component kits are so appreciated

There is numerous staff involved in the successful delivery of an electronic component kit for PCB assemblies.  The staff least visible have the most impact.  I’d like to introduce our kitting staff.
Daily, the kitting staff doubles as the receiving-inspectors and conducts the product verification.  They count the incoming items, compare the count against the purchase order, verify the part markings against the datasheet, and compare the description of the part with the bill of materials. 
The kitters work with amazing accuracy under the pressure of shipping deadlines; can pick out a one digit difference on a 15 digit part number, can find the datasheet information to confirm the package and the part marking, and are able to quickly produce the paper document package the assembly house will require (kit list, labels, excess instructions, bar coding, etc.).  The kitting staff put together the final presentation of the complete kit and the documentation for the customer; making each one beautiful in its organization of material all wrapped up in pink bubble wrap.
So often, it is the least visible contributors to a project that have the most significant impact.  So many recipient assembly line staff claim our kits are the best and trust the component accuracy for efficient line set-up.  The project coordinators on the front line graciously accept the compliments, but want you to know who is behind the kits; our kitting staff. 
Our appreciation to the kitting staff at California Integration Coordinators, Inc.  We truly appreciate the quality for which our organization has come to be known.
Want to know more about electronic component kitting?  Contact me and I’d be glad to share the details.  Cherie@cic-inc.com

More about the organization at www.cic-inc.com

Electronic Component Inventory Management

Staff Contributor – Darrin Richards


The subject of managing inventory has been demonstrated and illustrated many times over.  So much so, employees, supervisors, and managers are bored with the topic.

However, the focus is redirected and the interest increases when the topic is on how to manage your customer’s inventory of electronic components after an assembly job of PC boards.  There is a sense of pride when the emphasis is on customer owned inventory and that “feel-good” feeling is realized once the cost savings is reported and the appreciation is received.  

The importance of managing excess inventory is equal to the component procurement process and acquiring those hard-to-find long lead items.  The underlining goal is to reduce PC assembly costs wherever possible.  And it begins with proper management of excess inventory. 

With a well-maintained inventory management process in place, the costs incurred by buying components only as requiredover the life of a PC board are captured.  Also, the following are potentially alleviated:
·                     Multiple purchase orders (internal personnel costs / overhead costs)
·                     Multiple shipping costs
·                     Multiple handling, inspection, and documentation of components
·                     Shortages due to component manufacturing fluctuations
·                     Unanticipated component obsolescence

In addition to saving internal labor and processing costs, there is also the value of purchasing at a higher volume and having longer reaction time to shortages or component obsolescence.

Inventory management of electronic components, specifically excess materials, still carry a cost.  The handling and counting of materials contain a cost associated with the process, but those costs return major savings in comparison to over-procuring components on an “as needed basis” for reoccurring PC assembly jobs.

Lastly, understanding the potential savings to justify the investment of materials upfront must be identified.  An evaluation of such savings needs to include:
·                     How many printed circuit boards are required each year?
·                     Are there multiple boards with common components?
·                     What is the current and projected PC build schedule?


If you are interested in having an evaluation performed, please let us know. Call (530) 626-6168 or send a note to either darrin@cic-inc.comor cherie@cic-inc.com

Finding alternate electronic components

During the course of purchasing electronic components to fulfill a Bill of Material (BOM), it is possible to come across a requirement that cannot be sourced.  Either the component has been listed as obsolete by a manufacturer or has a significant lead-time which jeopardizes a PCBA project timeline.  Now what?  Numerous options exist to try to keep the PCBA timeline.  An evaluation of the situation can be accomplished by following some of these suggestions.

1.  For passive components, can a tighter tolerance or a higher voltage be a simple option?

2.  Can the component be crossed to another component the original manufacturer may have designed to be a supersession; such as an upgraded component with additional features, etc.?  Open and compare the datasheets to ensure the Form, Fit, and Function are similar enough to pursue consideration.  Often, the manufacturer will note the supersession and will outline the additional features on the newest datasheet.

3.  Can the component be crossed to a “like” component from a different manufacturer? 
·    The easiest source is the “like” component manufacturer themselves.  Search the manufacturer website for a Cross Reference page.  By entering in the original component, the Cross Reference may indicate a comparable component. 
·    Use an authorized distributor’s website to see if a suggested alternate is listed by doing a search for the original component part number.
·    Subscribe to an electronic component search authority.  Several online organizations exist which sell subscriptions to their services and have engineering approved alternates available.
·    Use an authorized distributor’s parameter search to locate potential alternates.  This is the most difficult of the search options, as the datasheet comparison must be thorough and approved by the original design engineer.  (Keep in mind that some component packages identified on datasheets may be manufacturer specific.  Always compare the footprints.)

4.  Can the component be found with an independent distributor?  If pursuing this option, proceed with caution but keep in mind that some OEM’s have discontinued or reduced the use of a component and have too much stock.  They need an outlet to move the excess inventory. 

When challenged with fulfilling BOM requirements issues will often occur.  Hopefully, you will find the ideas provided to address these issues helpful. 

Overcoming issues is a challenge the Project Coordinators at California Integration Coordinators, Inc. face and overcome daily.  We are professionals focused solely on electronic component procurement and kitting for the assembly process.

We are always seeking additional ideas for dealing with the challenges of sourcing electronic component for an upcoming PCB assembly projects.  Please share your ideas with us with an email to Cherie@cic-inc.com or calling (530) 626-6168. 

Definition of Kitting in a Printed Circuit Board Assembly application

What Items Can Be Kitted?

Kitting is commonly used for electronic and board hardware components prior to the assembly process for printed circuit boards.  All components are verified, documented for traceability, and labeled for the specific circuit board scheduled for pick and place.  The prepared customized kit is then shipped to the EMS (chosen assembly facility) as one unit.
Why choose a Kitting Service?

Ordering, handling, packaging, and storing components can be very time consuming and expensive.   Kitting services can reduce the handling costs at the point of use, minimizing storage space, while providing a cost-effective solution that ensures all needed parts are provided when they are needed.
Easier Procurement – With kitting, one purchase order takes the place of several purchase orders and there are far less SKUs to manage.  Ordering kits with a single part number instead of many individual items makes your purchasing and accounts payable departments more efficient.
Greater Control of Inventory – Kits reduce the amount of stock numbers to manage and improve the productivity of the Stockroom and Pre-assembly Auditing staff.
Improved Organization & Space Reduction – Kits make it much easier and more efficient to organize components.  Instead of pulling individual parts from multiple locations,  all necessary components are within one shipment along with a Kit List outlining the quantity provided, the media type all in Line Item order.  Kits also remove the possible mistakes by pulling from a stockroom.
Saving Time –  Shipping and receiving time is reduced because parts come in one kit versus multiple items that would otherwise have to be stocked individually.
Less Labor and Increased Savings – Pre-sorted kits save time and labor by ensuring all necessary components are available at the point of assembly.  If parts are not in Kit form,  there are many more steps involved to search through inventory, pull parts and log usage.  Plus, individually-managed parts can be difficult to locate, which triggers extra man-hours and delays in production.
Greater Efficiencies – Having all necessary parts readily available when needed makes your operation more efficient; it allows the customer to focus on what it does best (manufacturing) and allows the industrial distributor to do what they do best (supply chain management).

Interested in learning more about Kitting Services?  Please call Cherie at (530) 626-6168 or send a note to Cherie@cic-inc.com.  Additional information can be found at www.cic-inc.com.