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Electronic product manufacturers are providing their customers with greater varieties of more complex products, all of which have to be delivered with perfect quality, on time, and at a low price to be competitive. In this high-pressure environment, process preparation systems need to be able to cope with every aspect and production, all machines and processes, without mistakes and without confusion, to scale the flexibility and responsiveness of the production operation in line with customer and market expectations.
Process preparation is mandatory and critical for high-quality production of printed circuit board (PCB) assemblies, profitably. The tools and methods used in process preparation ultimately determine if the goal for introducing a new product to the production line will be successful. Process preparation is the critical link between the completion of the design and the start of physical product realization. The gap between these two processes can be quite wide, geographically and organizationally, especially where external contract manufacturing is used.
One of the biggest challenges in process preparation is to understand the actual product that will be built, to know the processes that will be needed, to assess and understand the cost of making the product. This requires communication, project skills, process and resource information, and a lot of product information.
Information created by process preparation defines and governs every action needed to make sure that the product is built according to the desired specification. Work-orders are created for execution. Engineering information in the form of machine programs, work instructions, and test parameters can be attached to each work-order at each process to describe the specific work to be done for the specific version and instance of the product. Having this information enables the enforcement of each operation against what is required. This is the origin of compliance and conformance.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of SMT Magazine.