Lessons Learned in Electronics Transforms Other Discrete Manufacturing Operations

Jason Spera, picture left, recently shared his vantage of the changes for factory floor automation in 2021. Jason is CEO and Co-Founder, Aegis Software. Spera is a leader in MES/MOM software platforms for discrete manufacturers with particular expertise in electronics manufacturing. Founded in 1997, today more than 2,200 factory sites worldwide use some form of Aegis software to improve productivity and quality while meeting regulatory, compliance and traceability challenges. Spera's background as a manufacturing engineer in an electronics manufacturing company and the needs he saw in that role led to the creation of the original software products and continue to inform the vision that drives Aegis solutions, like FactoryLogix. He regularly speaks on topics surrounding factory digitization, IIoT, and Industry 4.0. Contact Jason on LinkedIn.


TR Cutler: Aegis is well-known in the electronics industry. What lessons have been learned in electronics that are now being applied to other sectors?
Jason Spera: It is a matter of higher functional expectations demanded in a climate of greater cost consciousness that pervades electronics assembly. Consider traceability and quality depth differences when dealing with circuit cards that often have well over 1000 individual parts per card, each with hundreds of connections.

PCB manufacturers have long been pressed for delivering high-mix production at the efficiencies of static-high-volume production, while at the same time delivering greater depth of traceability and quality, despite having tighter profit margins than most upper-level product assemblers. This ‘worst case convergence’ of demand for constant product changeover and yet high volume, high quality, great data depth at low cost informed the development of everything about FactoryLogix. A system born to support even highly sophisticated mechanical assembly cannot traverse successfully into electronics, but one born from electronics finds the transition quite easy, as it is a matter of going from a more granular data model to a less granular—where the inverse is not possible.

Off-the-shelf manufacturing execution system (MES) and manufacturing operations management (MOM) are transforming the factory floor. Factory floor automation used to require heavily customized software overlaying the automation layer.  It was the only way to achieve any efficiency. Now, this can be done with off-the-shelf MES/MOM.

TR Cutler: What automation failures or limitations can now be easily overcome in 2021?
Jason Spera: Most importantly there is now production flexibility in high volume, steady-state production management via a software platform. Most discrete manufacturers live in a state of constant change compounded by the hourly or daily crisis. These crises are often originating externally, not through any fault or business deficiency of the manufacturer.  Customers or engineering cause a sudden change and a part swap-out is required mid-production. Changes include a different configuration mid-run, from quantity to delivery date. Program managers call the factory demanding entire lines be reallocated for a ‘displeased’ customer. All of these realities are common, but most MES/MOM systems simply cannot adapt to such changes many times daily with any fluidity. 

TR Cutler: How does the “automate to order” mentality change the role of manufacturing?
Jason Spera: Automate to Order (ATO) involves another layer of complexity in real-time production flexibility to achieve single-piece product flow at high-volume efficiency. The new expectation of Automate to Order, where the parts are chosen by the consumer, must be physically modified to fulfill their requirement…it is not merely part swapping. It may involve cutting, bending, finishing, drilling, and other physical modifications to make the final assembly adding to manufacturing complexity.  Achieving ATO in high efficiency production is a tremendous challenge.

TR Cutler: Are you suggesting that discrete manufacturers suffer from low expectations regarding MES?
Jason Spera: Yes. By offering a level of adaptability for high mix and personalized manufacturing (while delivering depth of control and data acquisition) we actually increase throughput. This is simply not something discrete manufacturers typically believe is possible, because they are accustomed to legacy approaches to MES.  Those outside of electronics, often report  ‘We’d be happy simply with WIP visibility in production. This is a LOT more than we expected.’
About The Author
Thomas R. Cutler is the President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based,
TR Cutler, Inc., celebrating its 22nd year. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 8000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 1000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Nearly 5000 industry leaders follow Cutler on Twitter daily at @ThomasRCutler. Contact Cutler at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com.

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Feilo Sylvania is a leading, full-spectrum provider of professional and architectural lighting solutions. Built on over a century of expertise in lamps and luminaires, Feilo Sylvania supplies internationally state-of-the art products and systems to the public, commercial and private sectors. All over the world, people rely on group business divisions: Concord, Lumiance and Sylvania, for top quality, energy-efficient solutions.

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Aegis Software develops, deploys and services manufacturing optimization, management, and analysis software. Its systems utilize the CAD design of a product to be manufactured to assist the preparation of the information required by the factory floor to actually execute the assembly process. The solution then controls the execution of the process on the factory floor, acquires data from production machines and operators, manages the quality processes, and produces traceability and analysis regarding process, product and materials information. The company's software products serve the discrete manufacturing markets with a particular emphasis on electronics assembly manufacturers, both OEM and EMS providers.

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