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Different Pick & Place Requirements for Different Manufacturers

Pick and place equipment needs will vary by both the type and level of manufacturing you're doing. Here are a some common considerations and requirements for start-up manufacturers, OEMs, and contract assemblers:
 

Start-Up Manufacturers


Whether you're running production out of your garage or you've gotten the backing to set up your first real production line, the tips here can help keep you from making costly mistakes when it comes to selecting your first pick and place machine.

Here is a list of things to consider beyond the requirements of the specific job(s) you'll be running on your new machine:

Budget

Pick and place machines can run from as little as a few thousand dollars for a manual system to hundreds of thousands of dollars for high speed/high mix models.

Facilities

Equipment runs the gamut from a manual pick and place you can set on a table to something seven or eight feed wide, nearly as deep and weighing several tons. In addition to floor space (and its ability to hold the weight), you'll need to consider utilities. The machines will need both electrical power and compressed air.

Service and support

The last thing you want if this is going to be your first line ever is to be completely on your own with your machine. There's more online discussion between pick and place users today than there ever was, but there's still not very much at all, especially if you're having a specific problem (tape feeder not advancing, missed pick-ups, missed placements, etc.) with a specific machine.

Telephone support should be the absolute minimum level of support you should accept when you purchase your new machine, and that support should be provided by trained technicians familiar with the model you purchased.

The ideal situation would be to have your machine is installed at your facility by an experienced technician who would be able to inspect the equipment to make sure that no damage occurred during shipping and verify that all of the spare parts, feeders and accessories arrived as well. He would calibrate the machine and do the initial power up. Then he would provide valuable training on programming, operating and maintaining the equipment, during which time he'd be able to answer questions specific to your production requirements.

An additional benefit of installation and training is that if you do run into problems with your equipment down the road, your technician is familiar not only with the equipment but also with your operators' level of expertise and the kinds of jobs you run.
 

OEMs bringing production in house


It's no secret that many OEMs who've tried outsourcing have come away disillusioned and dissatisfied with the outcome. If you've tried outsourcing board build to assembly houses, either domestically or overseas, or you're deciding for the first time which would be the best way to manufacture your product, here are some reasons to consider bringing all or part of your production in-house:

1. Shorter lead times

You don't need to allot time for the finished product to make its way back for you, production and delivery are less likely to be disrupted by weather events, disasters and political issues outside of your region, and your jobs always have priority in the queue.

2. Quality control

You can inspect every board as it goes into, through, and out of the line, and you are in full control of components, paste, stencils, cleaning chemistries and other materials. All of this allows you to catch errors and problems early, rather than discovering after pallets of the finished product are delivered to your facility.

3. Inventory control

If you produce multiple products, owning your own production gives you more flexibility with regard to your inventory levels—not to mention the ability to develop and manufacture new or upgraded products.

4. Reduced product costs

Capital equipment is an investment that continues to earn for you long after you've paid for it whereas outsourced assembly is an expense that you incur every time you need product built. Lost orders due to delivery delays and returns due to quality issues only compound the expense.

5. Complete control of your product or brand

You've heard the horror stories of outsourcing in countries that offer no protection or respect to the sanctity of a brand or its products. Bringing your board assembly in-house eliminates those concerns. "Knock-offs" and counterfeits will not be a problem once production is under your roof and under your complete control.
 

Contract manufacturers/assemblers


Contractors, unlike startups and OEMs, have more than a passing acquaintance with stencil printers, pick and place machines, reflow ovens, etc., since they may be using these machines a daily basis. Under what circumstances would a contractor require additional capital equipment? Here are four instances where this situation could arise:

#1: Equipment Replacement

In the electronics industry, "nothing is forever" is a monumental understatement. New generations of smaller and more complex components arrive on a frequent basis. And with it comes the need for new or modified machines to place and solder them.

 Contractors must respond to this ongoing challenge with upgraded equipment or face the loss of business to competitors with state-of-the-art capabilities.

#2: Shortened Product Cycles

New or "greatly improved" versions of established and successful products occur often. When they do there is the likelihood that their circuit boards have been redesigned. For the contractor, this may mean the need for revised equipment strategies for board prep and placement.

 Failure to keep pace with changing needs could mean customers will look elsewhere for a contractor that can.

#3: Low-Volume Customer Development

How do contractors acquire new customers? In some instances it's by courting the type of business they never went after before, such as small or startup OEMs whose products may require prototyping and low-volume assembly. Instead of refusing or putting this business at the end of the line, why not acquire the lower-cost equipment that can do these jobs?

 You will be well rewarded with ongoing customer loyalty resulting in increased profits as their products gain market share.

#4: Keeping Up with the Growth of Existing Customers

Every vendor wants his customers to succeed because it builds his success as well. But that won't happen if the contractor fails to respond to growing customers' demands for faster and more frequent turnarounds and deliveries.

 If this problem can be solved with additional equipment lines, there is no point in hesitating. You must retain this customer by meeting his need.

 

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