Is Automation the Answer to Cycle Time Reduction?


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At the recent NEPCON South China event in Shenzhen, mainland China, George Liu, sales manager of Finland-based Cencorp Automation, sat for an interview to discuss the benefits of automating the backend process to the overall manufacturing line, and why manufacturers need automated solutions now more than ever.

Stephen Las Marias: George, tell us more about Cencorp Automation.

George Liu: Cencorp is an automation solutions company from Finland with more 30 years’ in the industry. Our product focus is the backend of the electrical PCBA industry—routing, depaneling, odd-form and through-hole component placement, and test handling.

Las Marias: What can you say about automation in the PCBA production line? Why does automation matter now more than ever?

Liu: Number one, labor costs are rising, which everybody knows. Second, people are looking at quality control. Eventually, things made by machines will be better than those made by human hands. If you take a look at the past decade, SMT machines, AOI, SPI, printing, every process in the front-end is using automation.

Now, the trend is moving toward the backend: the router, odd-form placement, and also the test handler, because for consumer or automotive electronics, auto components need to be tested—there’s also a huge demand for automation. Basically, right now, a lot of people are using non-standard solutions. But we are providing a standard solution for test handling.

Las Marias: Does automated equipment help reduce cycle times in the assembly process?

Liu: That will take time, because there’s no 100% solution. You’ll have to think about the capability or flexibility that you have to compromise to get something else. For instance, you can combine the speed and flexibility together, but the price will be very high. So we are looking at the middle point.

Las Marias: Can you tell us about the future of your industry?

Liu: It’s more automated. Eventually, there will only be a few people in the production line because SMT, printing and AOI, SPI and router, insertion, testing, laser, and dispensing will all be automated. You don’t need people anymore. But the key point to finalizing that is software. We have a strong software team to combine all the processes together. Software is very important, such as the manufacturing execution system (MES) as well as traceability throughout the whole process.

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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of The PCB Magazine.

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