Aligning Systems between Operational Business Models Print E-mail
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Written by Chris Munroe   
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 00:12

How to overcome miscommunication and redundancy in EMS partnerships.

Recently, EPIC Technologies announced an exclusive marketing and manufacturing agreement with Rocket EMS, a quickturn prototype firm. Unlike many such alliances where the entities simply refer business back and forth, the companies are focusing on aligning internal systems, equipment and processes to minimize redundant activities and the possibility of miscommunications on shared projects.

From a Lean perspective, this poses interesting challenges. Part of the reason standalone product development and quickturn prototyping firms exist is because they can be more nimble than a full service electronics manufacturing services firm, since the focus is on quickly turning small lots vs. running sustaining production. They also have operating models that easily address multiple design spins during the early phases of product design, whereas a full-service EMS provider tends to be more expert in optimizing product for transition to volume production. Quickturn environments typically have streamlined procedures compared to those found at a full-service EMS provider. Consequently, the first challenge in aligning the two companies became understanding what systems and processes actually made sense to realign.

The process started with a team evaluating strengths, gaps and redundancies between the companies. From a systems perspective, Rocket’s product development team uses Mentor Valor vPlan tools. This system provides a strong platform for documentation management and transfer to machine programming and ERP systems, as well as support development of lean processes. Epic’s engineering team had not been using vPlan and will be incorporating it into its processes. Epic’s process for design for manufacturability/testability (DfM/DfT) analysis, which includes a ranking system to better quantify the benefits of each recommended change, is being added to improve Rocket’s process. Rocket’s design team will provide a centralized solution in this area. EPIC uses Agile’s platform to support product lifecycle management and as a repository for all product documentation work instructions. The team is evaluating ways to better integrate that system into the two companies’ project transfer process to ensure documentation portability. Documentation formats are also being standardized.

Epic’s supply chain management systems and processes were best optimized for volume production. Members of Epic’s sourcing team have evaluated Rocket’s sourcing process and are making recommendations that will both lean out Rocket’s sourcing activities, plus align supply chains to more seamlessly support production transfers.

From a production standpoint, four focus areas have been identified and standards agreed on:

  • Reflow profiles.
  • Array design.
  • Tooling transferred between facilities.
  • Test philosophy.

Currently, Rocket uses convection reflow systems, while EPIC has both convection and vapor phase.  The companies are looking at options to equip Rocket with vapor phase. They are also working to standardize chemistry suppliers, to ensure transfer compatibility. At an engineering level, selective wave capability is being aligned within the DfX process to ensure compatibility between Rocket’s Juki selective wave system and Epic’s EPM production wave solder systems. Longer term, a vapor phase system may be transferred to Rocket to standardize reflow capabilities and profiling.

Drawings and panelization standards are being optimized for both facilities to ensure easy transfer.

Tooling standards are also being developed to ensure that any tooling transferred integrates with Epic’s Lean production philosophy.

From a test standpoint, both companies use Agilent 3070 platforms for in-circuit test (ICT). X-ray and AOI are standardized on Agilent and Vitrox. There is also focus on standardizing programming and fixturing. Functional test commonality is not being standardized, as that typically isn’t introduced until after the pilot or pre-production stage.

In terms of prototyping, processes are optimized for speed, low tooling investment and quality. In sustaining production, processes are optimized for automation, assembly costs and quality.

The overall goal of this systems alignment effort is to create project handoffs that are transparent to the customer and incorporate Lean philosophies that minimize transactions and eliminate process variation.

Chris Munroe is director of engineering at EPIC Technologies (; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 October 2011 11:50


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