Catching Up to Yesterday


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Recently, KPMG, an international consultancy that operates as a network of member firms offering audit, tax and advisory services, came out with their 6th annual survey of manufacturing executives focusing on global manufacturing trends. A total of 385 senior executives were polled in a variety of industries including medical device, aerospace, automotive, defense and industrial. Respondents’ geographic locations were equally distributed throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

The summary and conclusions of the report can be viewed here. The following are some high level conclusions of the report:

  • A constantly changing environment with shifting demands and competition is causing manufacturers to rethink their business models and long term growth plans.
  • Manufacturers are focusing investments on fewer competencies and will rely on new partners to drive new ideas and efficiencies.
  • Manufacturers will need to continue to focus on agility and integrating their supply chain strategies that are more demand driven and transparent.
  • The pace of innovation will continue to accelerate, driving new product development, automation and manufacturing processes.

Some of the underlying implications are that manufacturers will strive for more flexibility by focusing on fewer core competencies and rely on tech savvy suppliers for more innovation, support and technology.  This implies a much higher level collaboration and visibility between manufacturer and supplier.  Supplier and manufacturer must work together to “drive out” supply chain wastes, redundancies and delays.

How has this changing environment affected the world of printed circuits?

  • Vertically integrated circuit board companies provide value from the initial phases of design. This involvement introduces insight into fabrication, yield, and reliability considerations. Further integration extending to component assembly minimizes handoffs and the resulting communication gaps. This allows the customer to deal with a single point of contact and helps insure robust design, manufacturing and assembly.
  • Many companies compete by offering reduced cycle times but have a parochial perspective about their segment of the supply chain. Optimization for number of parts in a panel can often compromise assembly efficiency, and panel layout for assembly may poorly utilize material. Companies tasked to provide both these offerings can skillfully make the necessary tradeoffs between fab and assembly.
  • New part number start-up generally begins with a request for quotation (or design assistance) and culminates with delivery of an initial quantity of prototype parts. Producing initial circuits with production tooling and serial production processes can help eliminate multiple builds and compresses cycle time.
  • Implementation of Lean manufacturing techniques has successfully been adopted for both printed circuit fabrication and assembly. Managing bottlenecks through kanban signals and theory of constraint principles helps reduce work–in-process inventory and increases velocity through the factory.
  • Capital investments are made to offer internal capabilities for assembly, inspection, and test equipment, eliminating the need for separate services in the supply chain.

Time-based competition in the world of electronics mandates responsiveness by the world of printed circuit fabricators. Market share is established (or lost) in a very short period of time. Success will be found by those that are quick, so catch up to yesterday!

Dave Becker is vice president of sales and marketing at All Flex Flexible Circuits LLC.

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