Monday, May 4, 2009

How EMS Providers Use Manufacturing Quality Management Systems

At APEX this year, we met up with Bruce Isbell, senior strategic marketing manager; Michael Dreyer, sales manager in the manufacturing team; and Tal Shachar, senior software engineer, at Valor Computerized Systems’ booth.

Shachar, who works out of Yavne, Israel, introduced us to Ronit Shalev, marketing and sales manager and Uzi Rozenberg, the entrepreneur owner and chairman of U.S.R. Electronic Systems (1987) Ltd., an Israel-based EMS provider offering outsource and turnkey services internationally to high-tech communications, video, security, medical, industrial and cosmetics sectors. U.S.R. implemented Valor’s vCheck quality management software to trace defects along with work-in-process (WIP), reduce costs, and attract new customers based on its quality monitoring and improvement capabilities.

“We’re a privately owned EMS company with approximately 700 employees specializing in turnkey solutions. For example, we are producing medical equipment, cardiologic monitoring equipment, portable ultrasound devices, and respiratory equipment for GE HealthCare,” said Shalev.

Because U.S.R. manufactures boards for medical and military OEMs, quality verification and tracing capabilities are important. “When we were asked to be a beta site for Valor’s vCheck quality management software, we decided to accept the challenge,” continued Shalev.

U.S.R. implemented Valor’s vCheck software to minimize the probability of errors and drive the manufacturing process to optimal performance by balancing quality, throughput, and cost. vCheck’s multi-dimensional quality system is designed to increase profitability by making all aspects of quality testing and inspection visible to any decision maker. It functions as a stand-alone application or as part of a larger manufacturing execution system (MES) suite, monitoring quality for manual and automated inspection and test. vCheck handles WIP tracking at the PCB and box-build levels, and offers repair-loop management and tracking, knowledge-based guidance of failure diagnosis, quality reporting and analysis, enforced process routing, and automated alarms.

“Before implementing vCheck, we did manual data entry with handwritten notes that were incomplete and error-prone, not to mention time-consuming,” said Shalev. “Handling quality data had become a burden,” she added. “After we began using vCheck, reports and analysis were easy to collect and analyze.”

One problem that U.S.R. had with a customer’s design was completely invisible to management for some time because the defect was continuously repaired by operators as if it was part of a standard process. vCheck created visibility and transparency to all the defects at each specific reference designator and at the exact place in the process. The root of the problem was a connector located too close to the board edge. U.S.R. engineers isolated the design issue by using Valor DfM tools and suggested that the customer change the design. That accomplished, confidence in U.S.R.’s manufacturing skills and in vCheck’s ability to track down the root cause of the problem increased.

“We added new customers because of vCheck and have made several technological stretches,” said Shalev. “There are many reasons that we use a quality management software tool,” she added. “It can help create new business, cut engineering time, reduce rework, and provide quick response to a customer’s questions.”

U.S.R. has weekly quality review meetings with customers to discuss real-time reports on quality data from all PCB manufacturing perspectives including DPM analysis for looking at defects per product, day, month, or year. Defect analysis presents defects by category, defect, type of technology, and which side of the board shows the defect (top or bottom).
“Once you collect the data and have the quality report, what you do with it is the important thing, and that’s what we discuss in our weekly meetings,” Shalev said. “Within minutes, U.S.R. is able to generate work order traceability status in a professional chart or graph and interactively drill into details. Before vCheck, collecting this data and building reports was a real nightmare and could take hours or even days.”

Using vCheck starts with board-level registration as barcodes and laser-marked unique part identifiers are compared to the work order and placed in the database. For boards without identification, the engineer can attach one on-site. Next, test and inspection data are assembled for all areas: ICT, AOI, WIP tracking, routing control, X-ray, flying probe, manual data collection, functional test and manual inspection. Customized reports show yield, DPMO, first pass and second pass yield, and DPM analysis in a multi-language available report. Repair loop management and tracking with guidance from knowledge-based failure corrections makes certain that defects are corrected before allowing the board to pass through the manufacturing process.

“When we look at where we should spend our time to make improvements with the greatest impact, the reports are key,” said Shalev.

The quality management system fully integrates into U.S.R.’s manufacturing process, collecting data from test and repair stations. Using the consolidated data, problems are easier to pinpoint and automatic suggestions of solutions from the software’s database can provide shorter paths to problem corrections. Through weekly contact with customers regarding quality improvement, relationships and communication are improved as well. Shalev concluded, “Eddie Guez, the CEO of U.S.R. who has been with the company for 19 years and was himself in the quality/engineering field before that, decided to invest in vCheck. We are now seeing ROI as we offer more potential to aid our customers’ success by adding more value to our service, and create a better position and differentiation for ourselves in a very competitive industry.”

Gail Flower, editor-at-large

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