Why an Independent Assessment of your Facility or Process is Worth its Weight in Gold!

BY JASON BOYD KULICKE & SOFFA B.V.

K&S provides knowledge and support beyond their own equipment set on a daily basis nowadays, working in close partnership with other equipment and service providers beyond pick & place and bonding equipment. Delivering this professional advice objectively together with expert knowledge and experience to both clients and potential clients is a fundamental part of their working relationship by building trust, and is justifiably increasing in its demand. Clients fears of the unknown and making mistakes can be overcome and turned into confidence and sound engineering practices benefiting their organizational profitability and success.

Introduction

The modern electronics manufacturing environment is a highly complex, and challenging world to operate in. It is in a state of constant flux as technology trends change, new advancements develop and the demands on driving production line efficiency and yield increases. At the same time pressures on staff and limited resources restricted your capability to resolve issues quickly or even at all, but there is help out there, you just need to know where to find it.

The recent growth in the Automotive Technology is a prime example of this increasing pressure on the manufacturers to comply with ever tighter compliance and standards, whilst improving productivity to ensure on time delivery, traceability and end product reliability. The real truth is this is happening in every sector of the industry from industrial to commercial to safety critical sectors.

Those who need to manufacture a product through a surface mount production line, face challenges in sourcing material, finding, training and educating people, and driving an ever increasing variety of metrics designed to increase their return on invested capital, or labor and floor space productivity, all operating within a more changeable and demanding environment than ever before. Maintenance budgets are also restricted, so manufacturers increasingly turn in on themselves and their own experienced staff to drive improvements through lean or similar improvements. Even the most successful at this are limited by their own internal skills and knowledge, so having an external subject matter expert providing independent advice and guidance can often yield very positive results. A clue to this in-ward looking mentality which sneaks up on production support staff, is the amount of time they end up in non- productive meetings and discussions, vs the amount of time they are spending supporting directly the manufacturing environment, driving real improvements and pushing previously existing barriers. Being able to focus in on key items affecting your bottom-line profitability and success and simplifying the topics to be enable the customer to drive clear SMART actions is fundamental to an Assessors role.

An assessor’s role is to simplify and focus on key critical area’s to drive improvements. Critical areas as highlighted in Red or Amber is to support client’s ability to squeeze everything possible out of the existing process, see figure 1.

 

 

Even if your staff do not agree entirely on all the findings presented by the external assessor, very often the very process of analyzing in detail the wider process from Goods in through to Goods out, can drive new initiatives and pro- active change in productivity driven by a mindset change that otherwise would have gone un-noticed or unfulfilled.

If you have never actually calculated how much a 1% efficiency improvement or a 1% yield improvement means in real monetary terms for your organization, perhaps this is the perfect time to start, the truth maybe the wake- up call you needed. Therefore any opportunity to improve this, learning from best practices, educating and challenging your staff from operator level to CEO can be extremely valuable to your organization. Squeezing every possible efficiency and yield from your process is critical.

As an example, Maintenance budgets are often restricted, and focused only on compliance and original manufacturers proposed maintenance schedule. Even with recent drive towards Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) this is often resulting in just splitting the existing maintenance schedule into smaller more manageable pieces, where the emphasis is in demonstrating the maintenance that has been carried out on time, rather than what was actually required by the machinery in your current environment. An external viewpoint could for example point out a new approach that utilizes your modular systems, taking into account historical failures and breakdowns, producing a more dynamic approach to increase uptime and efficiency at the same time reducing unexpected stops and downtime.

Additionally, Contract Manufacturers may not often have the chance to influence design and end up trying to manufacture a badly designed product for efficient or high yield production, in a complex production environment with so many variables. Under such challenging environment they tend to focus resources on individual elements, such as printing, or placement, reflow or inspection discretely, and staff therefore lack the time, experience or confidence to look at the bigger picture, where often the largest improvements can be made. Being able to manufacture effectively from a given non- optimized design is one of the main challenges faced in today’s manufacturing environment. The 10x rule still applies, correcting a defect at the earlier stage of the process, will greatly reduce the impact by a factor of 10, the converse is also true of course.

So how should the Assessor undertake this work?

The key for the outside assessor is to be independent, to disrupt the production floor as little as possible, at the same time identify areas for improvement, providing clear advice, knowledge and guidance to ensure the implementation is effective and prevent further defects from occurring. Being able to focus on a few big ticket items can yield the biggest reward, and when a success is realized, can also drive confidence and behavioral changes which can positively reflect in an organization and ultimately make you more profitable. A typical factory assessment may come up with a top 10 improvement suggestion list, as well as benchmarking your facility to the best in class in the wider manufacturing industry in which you operate in. The client may select or agree on 5 suggestions from the Top 10 listing to target or develop further. Out of those 5 agreed improvements, perhaps 2 are actually realized on the shop floor. Those 2 improvements although positive should be seen merely as the start of the process. The other 8 are also likely to be valid. And ultimately many more. You are also operating a continuously evolving environment; therefore, it is critical to think of an external assessor within the continuous improvement cycle whereby actions are driven, completed, verified and new opportunities realized on an ongoing basis.

A real life case study proves this simple point clearly, where a client asked K&S to improve line performance through a basic machine Performance Optimisation Service (POS), and sent only requested data from a single machine, see figure 2.
K&S provided simple instructions on Top 5 issues around maintenance and ways of working, 2 of the issues were implemented and demonstrated over a 3 month period following the implementation that real efficiency improved by 30%, and 77% less waste was produced. This type of simple improvement opens the doors and minds of the clients to then further engage a specialist to identify further areas to improve.

Process Benchmarking is also an important part of an Assessors role.

Example here shows relative metric comparison on Efficiency, Availability and Yield (Similar to OEE style metric), see figure 3.
In this case, the available hours for production are low as compared to best in class (shows in yellow horizontal bar), and key information for clients production are easily summarized, allowing the assessor to focus their time on improvement actions.

There is, in this ever connected world, and increased use in search engine engineering (search engineering) where staff turn to the wider environment to ask “ what is everyone else doing” or seek the “silver bullet” one stop answer to everything. Akin to seeking a miracle diet cure pill, this can lead very quickly to disappointment and frustration as a generic solution used elsewhere probably would not work in your exact situation. Very often being able to look at the problem and product, with objectivity and wider knowledge can resolve the issue quicker, simpler and more robustly. Being risk averse is a positive thing, however being closed minded and simply wanting to copy what everyone else is doing will hardly drive your business and provide a more competitive edge. Including your staff in the wider assessment together with the Subject Matter expert, is critical and can provide the confidence and knowledge they require, not just to resolve the issue at hand but to go on to resolve future issues more effectively than otherwise could be found alone via the search engine route. Even with the best intentions in the world, if you have a one stop shop approach agreement with your equipment supplier, the outlook and advice you get will likely be limited in viewpoint and approach, to how their equipment or processes work, instead consider thinking outside the box, and look at your product or process from a fresh perspective and independent viewpoint and understand your products needs as a priority.

Every % your profitability increases, and reliability risk decreases is a huge driver for your company’s success and competitiveness.

Very often people may not reveal or admit they are struggling or need help or guidance. Therefore, a top down approach to external assessment process can work very well, making clear the process is about knowledge transfer, benchmarking, and a fresh viewpoint, than criticizing existing staff. If this is communicated properly and everyone is involved and agreed to the suggested process, the outcome will be more successful.
An external assessment can be carried out with focus on one particular machine or process, which can then be replicated to other lines or machines in your process. Similarly, it can also be assessing a complete production line, multiple lines, complete factory process from dock to stock, and even globally from factory to factory. The improvement opportunities found increase exponentially as the scope of the assessment grows, but this can be hard to deal with if jumping first time into a complete factory audit, so some good advice is always to start small, and as confidence increases, look to an increasingly larger process. The key is to create partnership, think positive, drive forward and upward and not be afraid of pushing the current limits or boundaries.

Finally, this independent assessor does not need to be expensive, and with agreement most can also operate as a daily or weekly rate, or even as a no gain no pay basis where a share in the profits can be agreed. Even the most modest of improvements can pay for such a service within a very short period of time, with your products or processes benefiting from the advice for weeks, months and even years forward. The return on this investment is truly worth its weight in gold!

Jason Boyd is a Staff Global Field Application Engineer at Kulicke & Soffa has more than 30+ years of experience in electronics Industry, and assists global clients on process issues, providing assessments, benchmarking and supplying mentoring and training in all aspects of advanced SMT manufacture.

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