CO-EL of Italy sees big returns on investment in three new Yamaha SMT lines

  • IMG_0439CO-EL’s new Yamaha full-line surface-mount solution sets new factory speed record
  • Ultra-low dpm rates cut quality-control workload by 70%
  • Overall 35% boost in productivity

Today’s Contract Electronic Manufacturers (CEMs) serve customers in a variety of markets, and must satisfy the highest standards applicable in each. But investing at the right time to improve and extend capabilities can demand brave decisions, especially when economic conditions are uncertain. In 2014, CO-EL S.rl, a CEM based in Mozzate north of Milan, decided the time was right to upgrade its state-of-the-art 3500 sq.m facility with three new, advanced surface-mount lines from Yamaha. It was a big decision at a time when important markets were recovering only tentatively after the recent recession.

This style of bold action has served CO-EL founder and co-owner Lorenzo Colombo well over the company’s 44-year history. From modest beginnings focused on serving a small number of telecom equipment businesses, he has secured the loyalty of leading telecom OEMs and operators, and also established the company in the industrial automation, medical technology and automotive electronics sectors. “Difficult periods are the best times to invest, to be ready to move forward when conditions start to become better,” he explains. “We seized the opportunity to work with Yamaha, and this has allowed us to achieve dramatic gains in capabilities, productivity and quality.”

The decision to move forward with Yamaha involved replacing all existing surface-mount automation with three complete new Yamaha lines populated by the latest YS24, YS24X and YS12 mounters and YSi-V inspection stations. The three lines are fed by two new Yamaha YSP printers, which are capable of performing 100% paste-on-pad inspection in real-time and so help verify perfect process control. The equipment was delivered and installed quickly with minimum disruption, and Yamaha provided intensive training and technical support to help get the new lines up and running as quickly as possible.

IMG_1253“The printer is critical to the performance of the line,” comments Lorenzo. “It not only launches the entire process and delivers two-in-one flexibility, but also performs 100% paste-on-pad inspection in real-time. This allows us to be certain we have the best possible foundation for the other production processes downstream.”

For Lorenzo Colombo and CO-EL, maintaining the highest quality is of paramount importance bearing in mind the markets served. The company is certified to extremely high quality standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO/TS 16949, and benefits from having specially skilled technicians trained in electro-medical assembly. When serving such demanding markets, quality control can become an obsession that consumes a high proportion of workers’ time. The new Yamaha line has significantly relieved this burden without compromising the quality experienced by customers. Lorenzo believes the time operators spend dealing with quality-control issues is about 70% lower since the new assembly lines went live.

“Automatic Optical Inspection (AOI) used to be vital for spotting defects and preventing sub-standard boards escaping the factory,” he adds. “Now, our new Yamaha lines produce work to such a consistently high standard that AOI has become mostly about confirming each board is correctly assembled. We have recently produced a double-sided board with about 450 components per assembly, and achieved a defect rate of four or five per 1000 boards, or about 10ppm.”

CO-EL is also taking advantage of the Yamaha optional Traceability software package, to support the component-level traceability required by customers in automotive and other industry sectors. The traceability software records all necessary production data to batch component level, and has extensive reporting features. In a recent audit by a European automotive customer, one of the biggest car brands in the world, unerring traceability was one factor that helped CO-EL achieve the extremely high score of 93 out of 100.

IMG_1246Quality is not the only key performance indicator boosted by the switch to Yamaha’s full-line solution. Throughput has increased and productivity is also up. The YS24 and YS12 mounters operate up to 72,000 cph and 36,000 cph (IPC9850) respectively, delivering extremely high placement rates. In fact, the Yamaha lines recently set a new factory speed record when CO-EL succeeded in placing 1.97 million components in a single 15-hour working day.

The unified Yamaha software platform that links the machines in each line, together with the optional Yamaha productivity-boosting software tools, help make the most of the high placement speeds. Programming is more efficient, for example, because data import is streamlined and simplified. In addition, the optional programming package, P-Tool, assists product preparation and program checking with utilities like virtual sticky tape to minimise time-consuming trial runs. P-Tool also includes easy-to-use optimising and balancing features capable of simulating mounter programs in three dimensions and helping to manage feeders, lines, and multi-PCB production.

“Setup and programming are now much easier and faster, which allows the operators to use their time much more efficiently,” Lorenzo confirms. Streamlining setup and programming are extremely important at CO-EL because only about 10% of the workload involves production volumes of 30,000 units and upwards. The vast majority of jobs are for 500, 200, or less than 100 boards.

In production, communication between machines uses Yamaha’s proprietary data-exchange protocol that can capture important process-performance data to allow real-time analysis and troubleshooting. CO-EL has also chosen the optional Yamaha Line Monitoring package, which provides a web interface that presents all the live data needed by operators to manage the line and maximise productivity. At-a-glance indicators mirror the beacon status for each machine, and also provide more in-depth information including the number of components remaining per reel, pickup rates and time to completion. “The components-remaining counter alerts our operators in plenty of time that a reel will soon need to be changed,” explains Lorenzo. “Because the new machines require significantly less human intervention than our previous equipment, our production operators have fewer interruptions and are able to focus on preparing new feeders or entire trolleys and have these ready in time to replace the depleted unit without stopping the machine.”

The improvements brought by the Yamaha full-line solution, such as higher speed, streamlined setup, improved placement accuracy and reduced quality-control workload, have helped boost CO-EL’s productivity by as much as 35%, Lorenzo estimates. His next step is to upgrade the company’s second factory in Romania, which was opened in 2007 and has one surface-mount line. “Installing a full Yamaha line in this factory will bring the automation up to the same high standard as our main site, which will create a homogenised manufacturing environment giving ultimate flexibility and efficiency, everywhere working to the same high quality and productivity standards.”

It’s an exciting view ahead for CO-EL, which began in 2014 with Lorenzo Colombo’s decision to invest in new Yamaha lines. “We made a bold move, and it was the right decision: a significant investment that has delivered far greater returns than we expected,” Lorenzo concludes. “The Yamaha full-line solution has accelerated our drive to continuously improve the capabilities, productivity and quality we deliver to our customers.”

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