The Mannifest:Tips for Today's SMT Challenges

As the supply challenges continue, we see a trend in taking control of manufacturing. Many companies that have been contracting out their assemblies are battling both the supply and labor shortages by buying their own components and acquiring SMT lines to bring manufacturing in-house. Companies already doing assembly in-house are now updating their production lines to reduce labor hours needed and investing in tools to get the most out of their inventory.

Tightening Inventory Control
Preserving parts is critical to secure SMT production. If you don't account for and protect your company's investment in components, you can lose any advantage you hoped to gain.
manncorp_fig1.jpgPro Tip 1: Track your components throughout your production cycle.
Don't guess; use a component counter to provide an accurate accounting of your reeled parts. Inventory should be taken at incoming inspection and again in the stockroom for spot checks of ongoing inventory.

It’s recommended to use a component counter with pocket check verification to ensure there are no missing components in the middle of the reels. Pocket check verification also guarantees the counter will stop when it reaches the empty pockets at the end of the reels, giving a 100% accurate count.

Component counters are also available with bar code readers and label printers to make the job more efficient.

Pro Tip 2: Protect your moisture-sensitive components from moisture damage. When moisture-damaged components are exposed to reflow oven temperatures, the moisture trapped inside the component expands, causing internal damage that can lead to early product failure in the field.

manncorp_fig2.jpgTo prevent this outcome and save your company money in warranty repairs, you simply need a dry box or cabinet that meets J-STD-033 standards. With an IPC-Standard dry box, your components are safely stored below 5% relative humidity to make sure the components are not susceptible to moisture.

What if you're reading this after your moisture-sensitive devices have already been exposed? No need to eat those costs. You can restore those components using a baking dry box that conforms to the J-STD-033B standard for floor-life restoration and storage. These dry boxes bake at a safe 40°C to reset the shelf life of the component. For the required time, check Table 4.1 of the J-STD-033B standards.
Table 1: IPC J-STD-033B Standards Table 4-1, Reference Conditions for Drying Mounted or Unmounted SMD Packages (User Bake: Floor life begins counting at time = 0 after bake).
manncorp_fig3.jpgPro Tip 3: Rework, reclaim, reuse. Problems happen. Don't just toss bad boards in the trash. Investing in a rework station is the best way to rework boards in need of repair and to reclaim good components to be reused on new boards. This is especially beneficial for hard-to-find components or components that have a 12-month lead time, and it minimizes the need to source new parts.

Recently, we've had customers inquire about reclaiming old parts off boards to start a business selling used components, so there’s no reason why OEMs shouldn’t do this with their own products.

Meeting Increased Demand With Less Labor
In addition to the parts shortages, companies have been struggling with labor shortages and keeping up with demand. To combat the labor shortages and meet higher demand, companies are turning toward machines that increase production volume without an increase in operators.

For instance, selective solder machines for mixed technology boards with through-hole parts are becoming more popular in the SMT industry. A selective solder machine can essentially do the volume of five to six hand solder technicians, with more consistent quality, all while needing only one operator. You may not have considered how easy it is to justify the cost of a selective solder machine until you realize you are saving five to six additional salaries, or that you can reallocate technicians to another area and increase overall productivity.

OEMs have been pushing to bring SMT lines in-house to avoid many of the issues the markets are facing today. However, they often don’t realize it doesn’t need to be a difficult process, and connecting with the right people can make it even easier. It is wise to look for a manufacturer that sells full lines of SMT equipment to receive support on the entire process from one group of experts. Working with a one-stop-shop for an equipment provider avoids being tossed around, such as when a stencil printer company says the problem is related to the reflow oven company, while the reflow company puts the blame on your prints. Working with a manufacturer with expertise in full lines is the best way to get the support you need.

When choosing a manufacturer of SMT equipment to work with, make sure they are responsive and attentive to your needs. Don’t get stuck working with a company that waits weeks or months to send you a quote.
manncorp_fig4.jpgA company that offers extended support services will help you determine the volumes required, gather information about your products, and offer to review your BOMs to determine the equipment best suited for you now and in the future, based on projections. It is also vital that they ask about your area for the SMT line. The space you have available for a line has a big impact on which equipment makes the most sense. Once the equipment and configurations are decided on, your supplier should be willing to generate line drawings that show the equipment in line with dimensions, to give you the full visual of how much space it takes up. Some SMT lines cannot be laid out next to each other in a straight line due to space constraints, which is reflected in the line drawing.

A good supplier should be able to give you rough costs for budgeting purposes over the first quote request and get firm numbers to you within days of receiving the BOMs to analyze. They should always have service technicians available. It’s even better if they have a dedicated service number that is answered directly, so you don’t need to jump through hoops just to get support.

As we continue to battle the supply issues and labor shortages, taking control of manufacturing and bringing SMT assembly in-house is becoming a more popular solution. Maximizing efficiency and keeping costs down by preserving existing parts, reworking placed parts, and beating the labor shortage issues are critical to maintaining increased productivity. Working with a responsive, qualified, equipment supplier reinforces these concepts and provides you with the support you need, every step of the way.

This column originally appeared in the September 2022 issue of SMT007 Magazine.



The Mannifest:Tips for Today's SMT Challenges


As the supply challenges continue, we see a trend in taking control of manufacturing. Many companies that have been contracting out their assemblies are battling both the supply and labor shortages by buying their own components and acquiring SMT lines to bring manufacturing in-house. Companies already doing assembly in-house are now updating their production lines to reduce labor hours needed and investing in tools to get the most out of their inventory.

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The Mannifest: Resourceful Solutions During Nationwide Shortages


As supply chain issues and chip shortages continue plaguing the world, companies are still struggling to get SMT components. A variety of solutions have risen up to combat these struggles. The main methods being used are preservation of existing parts, reworking of PCBs, reclaiming of placed parts, and—if surface-mount technology isn’t enough—turning to through-hole technology as a way to fill the gaps.

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The Mannifest: Optimize Throughput for High Mix, Low Volume Manufacturing


For manufacturers who have high mix, low volume production, there are certain pieces of equipment that can help you optimize your throughput potential. For an application with high mix boards, the most important thing is to choose a pick and place machine that can support many feeders. If you are unsure of the number of feeder slots your production level requires, it is best to speak with an expert who will review your bill of materials (at no extra charge) to determine exact equipment requirements.

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As new technology and methods have emerged, companies in the electronics manufacturing field now have new options to consider for improving their best practices. These practices have helped influence the design of new equipment with ground-breaking capabilities. One recent industry advancement is the design of feeders with built-in OLED screens. This innovation helps create a pre-inspection stage that allows for operators to review components before they enter the machine. By having pre-inspection capability at the feeder stage, companies running in-house equipment can avoid manufacturing hiccups before they occur—providing better turnover and less downtime.

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The Mannifest: Financing Simplifies Process Improvement Through Capital Expenditures


The saying, “You have to spend money to make money,” rings true when it comes to handling in-house production. Having up-to-date equipment is a key aspect of ensuring your SMT assembly process is the best it can be, and that requires a level of capital expenditure.

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The Mannifest: A How-to Guide—Avoiding Pitfalls When Purchasing SMT Equipment


When weighing your equipment options, you first must decide what you want more: a lower up-front cost or ensured reliability. Choosing used equipment will save your company money, but unexpected problems with the purchased machine may occur. With new equipment, the initial investment will be more, but you can set high expectations for the longevity and quality of the machine.

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The Mannifest: Solutions for Customer Support During Social Distancing


In this difficult time caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses are being forced to adapt. Business is not as usual, but we have come to appreciate the benefits of remote services. Chris Ellis explains how this recent crisis has also led to their team brainstorming some innovative new ideas.

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The Mannifest: Faster, Cheaper, Simpler


Looking at the SMT industry right now, I see some very interesting things going on with shifts in production locations, ease of manufacturing, and intellectual property (IP) protection. OEMs are bringing production back to the U.S. in greater numbers—some even back to Mexico. A significant driver of this over the past year has been the tariffs. For the majority of OEMs I speak with, it’s becoming clear how manufacturing in China is affecting their bottom line.

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The Mannifest: Custom Reflow Ovens and Curing


It seems that a lot of companies in today’s market are buying specialized ovens for curing. Did you know that most SMT reflow ovens can be modified by the manufacturer (and quite easily too) for curing applications? In most cases, these ovens will also still work for SMT reflow, eliminating the need to waste precious floor space on a second oven.

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The Mannifest: Common Machine Errors and How to Avoid Them


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One of the best ways to eliminate possible production issues when you handle your SMT work in-house is to ensure that you have a manufacturable design. Thus, there are several factors to keep in mind when reviewing your designs before bringing your production in-house or starting your first run of in-house prototypes.

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Managing Your Double-sided Assemblies


Using a double-sided board in your finished application allows you to produce more complex circuits while saving space, offering an array of benefits for high-tech applications and electronics. But challenges to double-sided board implementation are plenty, including placement questions, solder processing challenges, and heat dissipation. Read on why planning out a double-sided assembly is not substantially different from handling a single-sided board assembly.

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The Mannifest: When Is It the Right Time to Automate?


How can you increase your production to keep up with rising demand while keeping your operating costs reasonable? While it can be tempting to go all-in and convert your entire production process to a fully automated assembly line, it may be more advantageous to start with low-volume assembly and convert more gradually.

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