Tradeshows have once again become the much anticipated events in the manufacturer’s calendar. Today however, the talk is about digitization in manufacturing, a whole new focus of technology, driven by new business cases which, for example, bring opportunities for manufacturing coming back on-shore and competing in areas which would have been thought impossible just a year ago. SMTAI Rosemont is a “must” on the calendar for manufacturers of any size or sector who want to see how to get with this trend, using it to take their operations to the next level, rather than be left behind.
Where once trade shows were driven by new machine and process technology, this seems to have, other than in a few exceptional cases, started to peak in recent years. In actual fact, technology advances and innovation continues, but more of it is hidden away behind the scenes. In terms of hardware, specifications and statistics, reliability and quality just keep getting better, as processes themselves are tuned, tweaked and refined to almost unbelievable levels of performance.
The belief in actual, real performance of course is very important. Investment in the latest high-performance equipment is not easy, with justification required not only for a theoretical return on investment (ROI) calculation, but also an understanding of the real-world results when the equipment is included into a new line, as part of a total production flow. Questions about existing equipment capabilities, supply-chain support, the need for resources such as feeders, stencils, maintenance and production operators etc. all have to be factored in. Then, there are the requirements of products to be made, the mix of those products and variants, with change-over times and flows to be considered. It quickly becomes a very complex study, especially where there is quite a choice of equipment from different suppliers, that is difficult for anyone to really imagine and explain accurately.
This is where digitization comes in. The use of “digitization” in this context is not simply to move data into the digital world, like creating a PDF from a paper document, but is more like the Europeans would call “computerization”, or even but not quite, “artificial intelligence”, where digital information is acted upon in an automated way. For example, there are highly trained and experienced people working in manufacturing today, who we can find in every company doing business. These “masters” of manufacturing however are becoming overwhelmed with the increasing complexity of equipment, especially hybrid processes, multi-module, multi-lane, etc. In most manufacturing operations in the USA, these high-speed dedicated processes need also to work effectively as the need for flexibility increases. Help is needed for management and engineering, to bring information accurately and quickly so that their decision-making processes are both quick and effective. In order to do this, digital representation of factory flows, capacity capabilities, resource management etc. is essential, together with tools that use the information in order to show enhanced contextual visibility, and even prediction of future events and effects of adjustments. Imagine trying to drive an F1 racing-car around a track these days without the laptops connected to super-computers that continually analyze and optimize the cars’ performance and race conditions. Bringing information in real-time to the key people with the skills to be then able to make the key decisions with surgical precision makes the difference between winning the race, or just finishing.
This kind of technology is very real, and exists for use today across any assembly industry, including electronics. It is not simply “ERP”, “MES”, or “PLM” any more. These terms are old-school ways of explaining established pre-defined “clock-work” functions, some of course still necessary, belonging to each of the key areas of manufacturing. What they fail to address however is this new generation of modern technology, where qualified live information about all aspects of the production processes can be collected, processed, then used for continuous optimization. We are talking a major shift in the time-paradigm. Actions and reactions to optimizing the performance of both new and old machines as well as manual stations across the whole manufacturing execution and support infrastructure in minutes and hours, rather than days and weeks. The exact same decisions to do so continue to be taken by our managers and engineers, but now faster, more accurately, and smarter.
Aegis software is the leading example of this technology across the whole of the manufacturing operation, including specializations such as SMT. The latest release of the FactoryLogix platform is not to be missed, with new and unique features of digitization providing value for industrial engineering, electronic documentation, supply-chain logistics, production management, tracking, planning and resource management (take a breath), configure to order, smart incoming inspection for anti-counterfeit etc., with of course full traceability.
The SMTAI show is all about technology, hardware and software, focused on the latest and future generations of manufacturing technology. Aegis is particularly active in creating true open standards for the benefit of the industry as a whole, for example working together with a multitude of key equipment and software vendors, as a key part of the IPC Connected Factory Initiative task group. SMTAI Rosemont hosts a key CFX task-group meeting to show how far along the group is already with the CFX communication data exchange format for electronics and related assembly, a revolution in its own right. Anyone interested in the future of IoT communication in manufacturing should attend this IPC task group meeting, and be a part of the computerized manufacturing solution, applicable for even the most modest of operations.
Please come to SMTAI Rosemont, visit us at our booth #211, see the FactoryLogix latest release, and come talk to me about any questions you may have.
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