What do you do when manufacturing operations poke you in the eye, or otherwise toss troubles into your lap, enough to give your start to a really good day, a sharp turn towards another massive headache? Face it, those of us who have worked on the shop floor of electronics PCB assembly operations love the pressure, the fast pace, the certainty that one day will never be exactly the same as the next. It is never a boring job. Something always goes wrong and challenges our problem solving skills. Manufacturing engineers love solving problem. What they cannot stand is chasing the same problems, over and over, that never get solved, that constantly rob the time needed to really be effective. I spent many long years of my life chasing problems with solder paste, stencils, feeders, parts data, CAD data, BOM data, component rotations, placement offsets, material shortages, MSD expirations, and change notices that seem to multiply like rabbits. It can be enough to make your head spin. Then I got the opportunity to work with a software company that really understood the need to equip PCB manufacturers with solutions that actually solve many of the problems that used to make my days to spin out of control.
Take component rotations for example. No matter how hard we tried, when we ran our first articles, some components would be rotated 180 deg in the wrong direction. Even if we had the rotation right in the program, the component would be reversed in the reel, and still the part would be placed 180 deg out on the PCB! So we wasted engineering time we did not have, and then we wasted more time on the line to stop and fix the problem. Of course these problems always seem to occur during the days when we had the most urgent schedule and there was no time to lose.
Years later at Valor, we developed a solution for rotation and placement offset issues within our manufacturing software. I knew immediately it would be a huge success. To date, I have never yet met a process engineer that did not really love this capability built into vPlan, and I have met hundreds of engineers. Process engineers really love to see all the rotations neutralized in exactly the same way, regardless of the designer or what EDA solution was used, and then to be able to see graphically, offline, in a virtual simulation, precisely how each part would be rotated and placed, given the actual part data in the machine library and the actual program created to run the product. Most of all, they love to use one common solution even when they have several machines from different vendors. What we used to do with sticky tape applied to the PCB, to actually see the physical parts placed on the board to check their rotations, now we do in a virtual world, before a single minute is spent on the SMT line. In fact we call this software module, “Virtual Sticky Tape” or VST for short. There is no doubt that many, many hours of engineering time and SMT line time have been saved based on this one solution. Our customers tell us this all the time.
I have decided to name my new Mentor blog “callMOM”. I will bring out a variety of process problems that are common to all us who have ever worked on the manufacturing shop floor, and discuss how the latest software technologies can solve them, for good. Back when I was stirring solder past and tweaking part data, we had no one to call when the problems outweighed our available solutions, so we got creative and plowed our way through. Today is a different world. There are many MOM (Manufacturing Operations Management) solutions in the overall manufacturing space, but very few that are tailor made for PCB assembly operations. Come visit the new PCB Manufacturing, Assembly and Test section of Mentor.com and browse through the many solutions that can help you stop chasing the same problems over and over again. Our MOM technology will help your factory become more productive. Now when you callMOM, you’ll get more than good advice, you’ll get real solutions to your manufacturing problems. And we won’t ask you if you are eating your vegetables or getting enough rest, promise.