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Assel CEO Jaroslaw Prolejko's vision is to “use IT to build a mid tier EMS company that can compete favorably with tier one companies on the basis of expertise, plus out perform tier one giants in customer service and reaction time to customer needs”. Valor’s software is playing a major role to push Assel forward on the growth curve as this vision is realized.

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It is a reality at Assel, now that we have Valor, our expertise has risen greatly and also our engineering productivity and production flexibility. So I can say that my vision to out perform the larger tier one competitors is being fulfilled. Already since putting Valor in place we have succeeded to take 4 contracts away from the giants.”

CEO, Jarosław Prolejko

Problem Statement

To achieve business development goals, Assel management concluded they must overcome the natural barriers and limitations of a mid tier size company. These typical limitations, including slow and redundant work flows for AOI and SMT programming and component library development, lead to sluggish customer response time and slow NPI cycles. These technology limitations build up barriers to successful competition with tier one suppliers for production volumes within Assel’s manufacturing capacity.

Solution Plan

Under the leadership of Assel CEO Jaroslaw Prolejko, Assel is using state of the art IT as a means to accomplish 3 critical business goals:

  • Dramatically cut the time required to process new product introductions or NPIs
  • Build an organization of engineers around the concept that correctly applied IT creates new gains in engineering productivity which cannot otherwise be achieved
  • Create competitive advantages through unusually high knowledge and skill sets developed through the application of software which pushes the company to levels of expertise which are not limited by their small size, as is typically the case for mid tier companies.

In short, Mr. Prolejko’s vision is to “use IT to build a mid tier EMS company that can compete favorably with tier one companies on the basis of expertise, plus out perform tier one giants in customer service and reaction time to customer needs”. In a shrinking global economy where the batch size of production runs are getting smaller and smaller, the high efficiency and flexibility created by Prolejko’s vision is paying off. Valor’s software is playing a major role to push Assel forward on the growth curve as this vision is realized.

CUT TIME TO PROCESS NPI

Assel is achieving measurable benefits from the engineering capabilities delivered in Valor MSS Process Preparation module. Assel’s Production Manager said “Valor MSS is the single most important engineering tool we use at Assel. With Valor MSS our present productivity gain is 20% after 6 months, and our expectation is to achieve 50% improvement in the next 6-10 months as we roll our assembly instruction documents in to Valor MSS”. Before Valor MSS the typical board with 500 components, single sided, would take an average of 7-8 hours engineering time. “Now we are completing the NPI in 5-6 hrs and we are well on target to drop this to 2 hours total time, from receipt of data to programs running on the line.”

Figure 1 ‐ Graphical view of Pin‐to‐Pad Issues

Product Engineering Division

Data Neutralization

All customer supplied data formats for CAD data, Gerber files, BOM files and Panelization /Fabrication drawings are neutralized into one manufacturing focused data structure. The data structure in Valor MSS is BOM centric so the manufacturing data synchronizes with ERP outputs. This creates an early advantage of streamlining the data preparation process.

Data Validation

Product engineers rely on the Valor Part Library (VPL) to help identity BOM errors and footprint, or land pattern, errors very quickly prior to first run (see Fig 1). The actual component geometries taken from BOM part numbers are compared to the CAD footprints to validate correct pin-to-pad placement.

This type of Pin-to-Pad error is probably due to a component selection error in the customer BOM. Even though this part can still be soldered, the long term reliability of the soldered connection with zero heel fillet is very poor. This customer was very pleased that Assel caught this error early in the NPI cycle. Even problems which are often impossible to catch without software support, such as variations in the lead pitch within the land pattern, can be quickly found with Valor tools.

Assel saved incalculable time by catching the following example BEFORE poor yields and high rework would ultimately have resulted on the shop floor.

Figure 2 ‐ Pitch variation within pads of the same component

Data Transfer and Data Centralization

There are 10 engineers at Assel between Product Engineering and SMT Divisions. Before Valor solutions were implemented a lot of time was lost due to use of multiple tools, multiple data formats and multiple locations for data storage and retrieval. Now all project data is stored within a single relational database so all information transfers are streamlined and seamless. All engineers have access to complete project data at all times.

SMT Engineering Division

Virtual Line Simulation

As the factory grows and adds more customers, the need for optimizing the factory layout for SMT line configurations is crucial. Assel is gaining additional benefit from Valor MSS by simulating various line configurations and mixing this with different product volumes. The result is an accurate “what if?” simulation that lets engineers try various machine types and line configurations to find the best mix and layout to meet their needs. This is possible because of the ease and accuracy of Valor's line configuration tools, line balancer and cycle time simulator. Assel can try a variety of machine platforms, even within the same line, before deciding on the best capital investment and layout.

AOI programming

Before Valor MSS, programming AOI equipment was time consuming and required redundant work flows. Now, since the complete product data model is prepared by the PE Division, including all fiducials, component rotations, pin centroids, body centroids, part numbers (including internal, customer and manufacturer PNs), pin one locations, and polarity status, the product data model is sufficiently neutralized so that each different platform of AOI equipment can be quickly programmed from a single standardized output file. This is all accomplished off line and has substantially reduced the steps required to generate new programs. An added bonus is that, due to the high quality and accuracy of the neutralized data set, the amount of program debug time has also been greatly reduced.

SMT machine programming

The same benefits as described for AOI also apply to SMT placement machines, but to an even greater extent. Since specific line configurations and individual machine models are included in the process models created within Valor MSS, creating machine ready programs for each machine platform is a highly streamlined process. Two major capabilities have provided the greatest impact on Assel’s NPI productivity. These are Auto- Generation (AG) of machine library parts data, which is patented by Valor, and the offline program placement location and rotation validation created with Virtual Sticky Tape (VST).

Auto-Generation of Machine Libraries

Assel is taking advantage of the accurate component shape geometries imported from the VPL as linked to BOM data containing the manufacturers part number, for each placement ref des location. Valor MSS automatically creates a generic high level vShape for all components on the board which are missing from the corresponding machines libraries in the selected line configuration, for the specific machines which are capable of placing the component. Using a fine tuned rule set for each machine, the software then auto-generates the complete machine library parts data (mShape) off-line, for all machines in the line which are capable to place the part. This allows for optimal line balancing. The AG process makes it possible to run new products very quickly since missing library data is created automatically. This capability also makes it possible for Assel to quickly move a product from one line to another, even if the new line has no library data for the board. The production flexibility this creates is both a competitive advantage and a means to reduce costs by improved asset utilization.

Assel engineering is also saving time by replacing multiple machine libraries with a single centralized library within the Valor MSS relational database. The Auto-Generation capability also saves line time that was previously required to debug incorrect or missing parts data, also improving shop floor efficiency and line utilization.

Virtual Sticky Tape

Before Valor software solutions were put into place, Assel engineers spent an average of 2-3 hours per NPI, on the line, to run a bare board with sticky tape applied so that they could verify placement positions and rotations in the machine programs. Not only did this slow down the NPI process, but it also stopped production by using valuable line time. Now with Valor, Assel has eliminated all sticky tape runs 100%, because the Virtual Sticky Tape function of Valor MSS is run offline in an accurate simulation environment. This enables the engineers to both FIND and CORRECT any position or rotation problem and instantly output the corrected program file(s). Now Assel reports that rotation errors on first runs have been COMPLETELY eliminated.

 

About Assel

Assel is a growing mid tier EMS company headquartered near Gdansk, Poland.

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