Quality by Design


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"Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort." –John Ruskin

Though he wasn’t writing about printed circuit board design at the time, Ruskin’s wisdom suits us very well. Quality is, well, qualitative. Output quality can be affected by processes, people, product specifications, and raw materials. In our industry, ongoing hot topics include the skills gap, filling jobs, emerging technology, Industry 4.0, and so forth. Ultimately, these topics can make or break your company’s quality.

According to a press release published by SCORE on May 23, 2019, "98.6% of American manufacturing companies are small businesses, and 75.3% of those businesses have fewer than 20 employees." SCORE is an organization that mentors to America’s small businesses. The report continues, "Last year, manufacturing businesses generated 11.6% of the U.S. economic output and employed 8.5% of the U.S. workforce, but 89% of manufacturers report that they cannot fill all job openings."

This report looks at all manufacturing, but it’s clear that the electronics industry trends are consistent with manufacturing in general. There are also a large number of small businesses in our sector.

Our topic this month, however, is "Everything Starts With Design," so what does that have to do with quality, staffing shortages, or small business? Pretty much everything.

As OEMs drive electronics manufacturers to improve processes to simultaneously build a product at two orders of magnitude more reliability, where does a fabricator even begin to concentrate its efforts to get the best improvement in output? Some will tell you that getting the best possible quality on the input is where you should start.

The design team’s files and the accompanying documentation is the real-world implementation plan to turn the OEM’s concepts and marketing research into a viable, physical, competitive product. Unless manufacturing defies the build instructions from the designers, the product will only be as manufacturable as the design files themselves. The higher the quality of the design, the more robust the contingencies specified in the bill of materials, and the more materials tolerances have been thought through and expressed in the build notes, the better the end result will be coming through fabrication.

To read the full article, which appeared in the June 2019 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.

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