By Mark Laing, Valor Division of Mentor, A Siemens Business
SRXGlobal is the single largest electronic contract manufacturer in Australasia, which has been in operation for about 25 years. With more than 23,000 square meters of electronic manufacturing facilities in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, SRXGlobal provides a wide range of electronic manufacturing services (EMS) in diverse markets, serving medical, industrial, defense, communications, and automotive industries. In addition to electronics manufacturing, SRX offers a range of end-to-end related specialist services, including system integration, mechanical assembly, test and prototyping, remedial maintenance and repairs, and warehousing and distribution.
The company is comprised of highly trained engineers and other technical resource personnel, enabling clients to transform projects from basic concepts into complete product designs, volume production, post production service and warranty support. Offering the highest levels of intellectual property protection, strong process controls, world-class quality levels and overall ease of doing business, SRXGlobal provides its customers with a broad range of services. SRX addresses their customer’s needs regarding volume, local content, pricing and complexity, to create custom-made electronic products.
The Challenge: Automated Test Engineering
SRXGlobal had a requirement of improving SRX New Product Introduction (NPI) Engineering Services across the board. With their traditional NPI design for manufacturing (DFM) process using different computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD-CAM) tools (generally using manual review techniques), they were not getting the level of outcomes they needed. The company’s goal was to automate as much as possible for greater efficiency and accuracy. Automated test engineering was the prime area of concern since SRX wanted to improve efficiency over previous limited manual and test system vendor software solutions.
Because of the increasing demand from their high-mix, high-reliability clients in the defense, medical, and industrial markets for more testing services, the current situation was becoming untenable without some form of front-end testing software support. With this in mind, Nick Niculita, SRX Engineering Manager, decided to do an assessment of what tools were in the market to address this issue.
Generally, SRX wanted to systemize the engineering data flow and deliver a ”get-it-right” the first-time methodology that would provide benefits internally and externally to the service deliverable for their valued customers. They realized that to be competitive in the complete electronics manufacturing (CEM) services space, they needed a step up in capability.
“As high-mix production is demanding the same level of attention to detail in NPI-ECO changes as traditional mid-to high volume, working without software tool support to support production engineering is not a viable proposition in the long term,” stated Nick Niculita SRX Engineering Manager.
Identifying the Solution
With these needs identified, they decided to start the investigation into a possible software-solution provider. ONBoard Consulting Services (a Mentor Graphics Valor MSS representative), recommended to SRX that they look into the Valor MSS Process Preparation software tool to help with the initial issue of supporting design for test (DFT) engineering, and then expand out from this starting point. This initiated an industry review, and with subsequent meetings, led to the recommendation that the only solution that could best cover their requirements was Valor MSS Process Preparation powered by Valor Parts Library (VPL) Services. Mentor was able to provide SRX with a unique source of engineering data and the opportunity to tighten control of the CAD and bill of materials (BOM) used by multiple groups in fulfilling their tasks. SRX decided to expand out the initial DFT requirement up front to include VPL Parts Content Services, DFM Analysis, Surface Mount Technology (SMT) Programming, Stencil Optimization, and Documentation support tools in one initial investment.
Working with Onboard Consulting Services, the solution was initially implemented over a two week period, including offsite and onsite training. DFT engineering training was augmented with onsite help and guidance Mentor’s Mark Laing (Valor division product manager) with a visit to SRX not long after the initial visit. This was informative and again helped in the developing partnership of SRX with Mentor and ONBoard Consulting Services. Further training was provided over the following two to three months, covering the Valor DFX, SMT programming, Stencil Tool, and Documentation solutions.
The SRX team soon developed competency in the various aspects of the tools provided and quickly embraced the solution, realizing there was no going back to the “old ways” of doing things. According to Nic Niculita, “Local support was another key factor in our decision to invest in Valor MSS Process Preparation. With Mentor’s local support partner, ONBoard Consulting Services, backed up by Mentor’s Valor Support Engineering team, we have been very satisfied with what has been delivered. Software is always an evolving investment and, so far with the support we have seen and the new enhancements delivered in each new major release of Valor MSS Process Preparation, we feel extremely comfortable we made the right decision.”
Successful Deployment Results
Niculita identified the following outcomes after implementing the Valor MSS Process Preparation solution:
- Faster, more concise data-model verification of the customers’ intent at the start of the process. Issues were caught early in both the BOM and CAD data that previously, could manifest in errors on the factory floor or incorrect procurement of materials.
- Valor Parts Library Content Services was invaluable for BOM verification, DFT, design for assembly (DFA), and SMT processes.
- Faster DFT engineering supported flying-probe-test usage, with reductions in working programs from 3–5 days to 2–4 hours per job.
- SRX was able to produce higher level DFT engineering reports that enabled better communication to clients.
- The SRX team was able to produce higher level PCB assembly DFM engineering reports that were not possible in the past using manual review techniques. This solution identified red-flag issues faster and systematically, and it educated clients on yield-related issues, not just in assembly, but fabrication of PCBs and test. With Valor MSS DFA support, the tolerance relationships of fabrication assembly-test can now be identified to improve the clients’ manufactured products.
- The implementation reduced SMT programming efforts in both NPI areas and for production; data flows throughout a single tool provided better data integrity across SMT and other processes.
- SMT grouping of production jobs has reduced setup times, offering 5 to 15% overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) improvement on line when running out the grouped production programs.
- Improved documentation support that links data from the engineering data model, reusing the data from a single source.
- Improved stencil engineering to get a stencil right the first time. With higher density PCBs and smaller parts becoming the new normal, even in high-mix, low-volume markets, the Valor Stencil tool is a powerful addition to the NPI process.
Jeff Malone, SRXGlobal General Manager for Australia, summarized the importance and value of this automated NPI engineering implementation. “After running Valor MSS Process Preparation now for two years, the investment has been pivotal in helping us grow our business, well beyond our initial expectations. It has certainly delivered the benefits listed out-of-the-box regarding line programming, stencil design, flying probe programming, standardized work instructions, DFM and DFT analysis, and more. All of these systems are now integral parts of our business processes, and we would never go back. But beyond that, we are facilitating significant projects in cost reduction when combined with other systems, and overall quality and productivity levels are noticeably increased. As both current and potential clients come through the site, the systems we have in place provide a significantly higher level of confidence in us as a supplier, especially around the medical and defense sectors.”
Mark graduated with a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Loughborough University, in the UK. He has over 25 years of experience in PCB manufacturing with particular strengths in test and inspection methodologies with three test companies, namely Marconi Instruments in the UK, followed by GenRad and Teradyne in the US. He then moved more in to software solutions for Router Solutions Incorporated, who were acquired by Mentor Graphics Corporation in 2006. When Mentor acquired Valor Computerized Systems in 2010 he moved in that division where he has been working as both a Product Marketing Manager and Business Development Manager. Mark has been granted two patents, one in the UK and one in the US, and has recently filed a third one. Mark resides in Lafayette, Colorado, with his wife and two sons.