Lean Digital Thread: Accelerating Global New Product Introduction

I have previously written about topics related mostly to the shop floor, but my last column swam upstream and covered design for manufacturing:

  1. Design for manufacturing is much easier now
  2. Data collection and the basic questions you can answer
  3. Material management and its impact
  4. Data-driven decisions and micro-solutions in manufacturing

To make this list whole, I need to cover the phase between design to manufacturing: process engineering or simply new product introduction (NPI). In this column, I will describe why this an important phase and how process engineers can make a big difference. In my view, both terms are too simple to describe this phase. I would also like to focus on the dollar sign—the bill of materials (BOM). Approximately 75% of the product cost is just the parts on the BOM.

As usual, I’d like to share a relevant quote: James Dyson once said, “Manufacturing is more than just putting parts together. It’s coming up with ideas, testing principles, and perfecting the engineering, as well as the final assembly.”

Design Anywhere, Build Everywhere
The flexibility to move products between different locations is a key requirement for multi-site PCB manufacturers nowadays. This can be done by any manufacturer, but because line configurations are rarely identical, moving the product efficiently is challenging. Therefore, most PCB manufacturers start the NPI process from the beginning, increasing time-to-market and setup costs.

Manufacturing engineering tools seamlessly capture the knowledge of manufacturing processes to maximize your current and future efficiency. These tools use an auto-generation mechanism to capture part and package data to maintain knowledge (and component information) or to shorten future processes, such as switching manufacturing setups.

Some tools allow you to create neutral machine shapes. Managing a single, vendor-specific machine library forces the manufacturer to use that vendor’s equipment. Managing your part data in a neutral manner allows you to move between vendors as needed according to different target formats. This provides greater flexibility to select the most appropriate equipment for each location and need.

Using the advanced capabilities of such tools, information and methods developed by specialists at a single occasion can later be used by any worker.

A portable product file allows you to share the complete, neutral product model data, including PCB data and all related part and package data, for a fast transition of products from one location to another. Once a product has been transferred to another location, that data can immediately be imported by the target-site process NPI team to generate new programs and documentation for the new manufacturing environment. Each factory maintains its process data, stencil guidelines, assembly machines, inspection machines, test equipment, and work instructions. You can switch from a single machine vendor across a company or between different vendors as needed.

Native machine programs can also be imported and quickly converted into alternate machine formats, which can be optimized to quickly migrate production across vendors (Figure 1).


Steve Jobs once said, “Customers don’t measure you on how hard you tried. They measure you on what you deliver.” Quality has always been a bottleneck. As the products are getting more and more complex, testing becomes crucial. If you have a library of components, you can quickly utilize the information you have on components, boards, and materials to create an output that can be used for electrical testing.

Imagine that you can simply store design for test (DFT) guidelines with test plans. Every engineer would be able to reuse them. DFT analysis can identify high-risk areas and provides feedback on inaccessible points, preventing issues later in the process.

Is it not easier to make adjustments quickly and easily, instead of having to locate specific ASCII files that control comparable capability?

BOM or Bomb
Electronic manufacturing companies are required to provide quotations for many projects, the majority of which do not make it into production. Design companies send out several requests for quote (RFQ) and review them to select the best manufacturer for each project.

Due to sheer volume, it is imperative that quotations be created accurately and in a timely manner without relying on input from the manufacturing process engineers.

You can now improve the process and optimize your inventory. The approach is to close the loop between the ERP, CAD, and BOM. You can maximize the usage of existing inventory, sync your system with online information (portals, vendors) and eventually decrease the quoting time while maximizing profit (Figure 2).


In my next column, I will talk about micro-solutions. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a note on LinkedIn.

Sagi Reuven is a business development manager for the electronics industry, Siemens Digital Industries. Download your free copy of the book The Printed Circuit Assembler's Guide to… Advanced Manufacturing in the Digital Age from Mentor, a Siemens Business, and visit I-007eBooks.com for other free, educational titles. You can also view Siemens’ free, 12-part, on-demand webinar series “Implementing Digital Twin Best Practices From Design Through Manufacturing.



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