Active EMS tells us to Seize the Data

In October 2020 we mark ‘World Statistics Day’, and here at Active EMS, we will be celebrating, because statistical measurements and data analysis are a big part of our success.

This event is unusual in that it is only held every five years, so please celebrate with us and learn a little bit about how we use Data and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to enhance just about everything we do.

This year, the theme for World Statistics Day is “Connecting the world with data we can trust”. This theme reflects on the importance of trust, authoritative data, innovation and the public good in analytical systems.

At Active EMS, we are committed to delivering high-quality standards usually only seen at global Tier I – Tier III contract manufacturing environments. Part of the way we achieve that is using statistics to measure and analyse all sorts of steps and activities in our manufacturing process.

KPI’s are a way of collecting, analysing, interpreting, presenting, and organising data. While our mantra is ‘Never Stop Making,’ we also adhere to the idea that we should ‘never stop measuring’. KPI’s help us mark both our successes and setbacks, giving us a clear, unbiased view of what we need to do to manage next steps. We use analytical models for quality control and quality assurance in the products we manufacture. KPI’s can also be used to quantify the extent of variation in a customer’s needs and wants.

Another place these measures are helpful is in the area of manufacturing process improvement. There’s quite a range of measurement methods which can be used in this area, and the analytics don’t have to be complex. In fact, one of the benefits of implementing analysis is not the statistical methods themselves, but more the fact that engineering and management focus is placed on a process which by itself results in an improved process understanding, driving a greater attention to detail and improved level of control and resulting in reduced process variability and improved output quality. Quite simply, it’s another way to examine and refine ways to improve our manufacturing processes.

We start by gathering data, the raw information from which indicators are created. Having clean, concise data points collected in a consistent manner enables a company to develop precise plans. Markers provide an interpretation and summary of data, giving us insight into the data that can be used to refine our approach. The cleaner the data, the more accurate the indicators, and the more efficient next steps can be.

Being able to map and interpret data gives us insight into the most efficient way to use it and apply best practices. This type of analysis can happen just about anywhere in the manufacturing process, and even beyond.

Besides accuracy, another key facet of good data is transparency – offering direct and open access to data, so that information is shared, and sources can be trusted. This applies beyond design for concept and design for assembly to design for manufacture, where supply chain transparency is paramount.

Here are a few of the areas where Active EMS use statistics to optimise our service and products:

Bill of Materials

We treat the quotation process as a “big data” activity by gathering as much information from suppliers as possible. This allows us to understand which suppliers stock which franchises, in which pack sizes, at what price, and the current volume of stock. The Volume of Stock for example, indicates to us whether a component is a regular runner, which indicates availability, but also the likelihood that we may be able to negotiate further on price.

Materials Management

We store all of our Bill of Materials data in a cloud-based Materials Management solution, which helps us to track what stock of components we either already have, or are buying on a regular basis, which can allow us to share purchasing economies of scale across clients and projects. The Materials Management solution is connected to the real time stock data for most of the large Electronic Component Suppliers, so we can immediately identify the general availability of components in the marketplace.

Design for Manufacture

We use this “Statistical Analysis Capability” from our Materials Management Solution to allow us to feed into product design for our clients to advise on the Security of the Supply of a Component or commercial cost compared to alternatives. Our ability to easily analyse the broad electronic component market can tell us whether an individual component is widely used or stocked by a number of distributors.

We can easily suggest an alternative component or even pad size that could help reduce cost or improve the supply reliability of a component and hence the finished product.

Obsolescence

At Active EMS, we are constantly gathering product updates direct from manufacturers on the materials we are using, which means we are quickly able to identify any components that are soon to go obsolete. This enables us to act swiftly to help the client identify an alternate component, or even secure a volume of existing stock available to ensure the client has sufficient time to redesign the obsolete component out of the product and ensure continuity of supply.

Quality

Active EMS tracks Conformity and Quality Statistics through the factory, from the on-time delivery of materials, through the SMT and second-stage placement of components, to finished product. At every station, Active EMS documents who touched the product and what was the conformity and quality outcome of each process. At Active EMS, we are strong advocates of continuous improvement, through our Good, Better, Best culture. We use a QMS – Quality Management Solution to track the conformity of every stage of the production process.

Productivity / Efficiency

We also track data to understand the productivity and efficiency of every stage of our assembly process, from purchasing time taken, machine set-up time, SMT placements per hour, AOI run time, second stage assembly time, Programming and Testing time per product. We even track the time taken for all those small tasks, such as opening boxes, unpacking plastics, assembling finished product, adding labels, packing into transport packaging, that can add up to a huge potential of time wasted, or time saved. Having a culture of measuring and continuous improvement, helps us to maintain highly cost-effective assembly solutions and our mindset of being Integrated Electronic Manufacturing Solution providers.

Process Design and Tracking

We are constantly measuring how and when we undertake tasks, to measure what is the most efficient order, handling method, or approach to completing each task in assembling each product. With our team culture to continuously share and learn, we can undertake statistical analysis and use lean methodology to ensure we are as productive as possible. This ensures we are repeatedly cost effective, and complete product on time.

Financial Analysis

Active EMS is also highly active in examining and reporting detailed financial performance to our Management Team, Board and finance partners, providing the resources to invest in people, equipment, systems and processes to ensure continuous improvement, capacity for client requirements, high quality and efficient electronic production. The financial analysis includes project profitability analysis to ensure resources are not being directed from a highly efficient project to subsidise an inefficient and costly project.

Based on our work with the statistical indices referenced above, our future looks exciting, and change will likely be fast paced, largely based on the increase in data capture, which will be significantly dependent on electronic hardware in many forms. With the further growth and development of the Internet of Things (IoT), the importance of data and statistics within electronic products will grow significantly over the coming years.

The UK energy supply will become more dependent on a larger volume of small, local renewable forms of energy generation, which will require more sensors and data capture to load match the local energy demand to the supply from generated and stored energy. As cities become more densely populated, people movement and transport capacity on pavements, road, rail, underground and overhead will need to be measured and managed in real time.

Our health will also become more precisely tracked through the use of wearables, providing the data to allow medical experts to improve our wellbeing. All of these various activities in our daily lives are things reliant upon the capture of quality data and the ability to understand and apply the results to further advance our world.

Thus, it is important we celebrate World Statistics day, especially as it only occurs every 5 years, and make sure we take the opportunities that data and statistics can offer to improve our businesses and our lives. At Active EMS, data and its related activities form yet another method we use to offer our customers a heightened level of service.