Why do EMS providers need CAD
For a company offering sub-contracted electronics manufacturing
services, investment in software aimed at product design is not an obvious
choice. However, where the Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider
works closely with their customers from ‘design for manufacture’ advice through
to product fulfilment, there are several areas where such software can be
and amending customer documentation.
Initial drawings, particularly for components of
electro-mechanical systems such as back plates, cabinets and wiring, can be
incomplete or incorrect. This might be because some detail is difficult to
determine before the first prototype has been built, or conversely because the
product has been developed as a physical prototype then not fully documented.
When the EMS provider finds that changes are required,
these could be advised to the customer through email or hand-drawn modifications.
It is then up to the customer to up-issue their drawings. This can take days, if
it happens at all, possibly leading to delays in production. Having a Computer Aided
Design (CAD) system simply allows the drawings to be updated and sent back to
the customer for review and approval.
Whilst it is possible to create these in ‘standard’
packages such as Word, with supporting photos and sketches, it can take a very
long time for complex systems. This is a particular problem if the build instructions
need to be detailed, for example if multiple staff are involved, if they speak
different languages, or if semi-skilled labour is to be used to create a cost
advantage. Naturally, skilled assemblers may be able to work from the original
drawings, but having good assembly instructions still helps ensure consistency
and quality. As we’ve already said, the original drawings might not be right
either! CAD can also provide benefits such as the ability to automatically create
wiring schedules from schematics. This in itself can save a lot of time in production
and inspection. CAD might also be used as part of a ‘paperless’ build process,
for example using 3D models to show how an assembly is to be put together.
drawings for jigs, fixtures, test boxes, assembly aids etc.
In order to manufacture efficiently it is often necessary
to create assembly aids such as fixtures or test equipment. The availability of
CAD makes the design process faster and more effective; ideas can be tried out,
and interfaces between product and fixture can be ‘virtually’ tested before
manufacture. Of course if the fixtures are made elsewhere, providing accurate
information to the supplier is likely to lead to a more cost effective price.
testing and communicating ideas for design or build improvements.
A good EMS provider will always provide ‘design for
manufacture’ advice to its customers, allowing efficient product build and
competitive pricing. Further to this, ‘cost down’ opportunities may be
developed once the product is established. A CAD system allows easy modelling,
testing and communicating of recommended changes to component parts or assembly
processes, which is of mutual benefit to the EMS provider and their customer.
Of course any investment needs to show a return, so in
summary consider these 10 key points:
engineering time saved in creating build packs, allowing more work to be
completed with the same resources;
ability to update customer drawings and share information with them reduces the
risk of delays or expensive mistakes;
build processes helps ensure better consistency across personnel and sites,
again reducing the chances of mistakes and rework;
turnaround on new products by quickly ensuring usable documentation, reducing
engineering and production time, work in progress (WIP) and increasing ‘on time
in full’ deliveries;
for faster transition to more cost effective manufacture using semi-skilled
‘non-recurring engineering’ (NRE) costs, assisting with competitive pricing and
the need to recruit skilled assemblers, with drawings made to de-skill the
processes e.g. wiring schedules generated automatically from schematics for
wiring and inspection;
and a standardised document format create a professional image; Word drawings
and hand-drawn amendments to paper copies do not always inspire confidence!
drawings provide the possibility for creating build instructions for a
‘paperless’ shop floor;
for manufacture’ and cost reduction opportunities are easier to present to
customers; e.g. draw up and model a solution, prototype and trial if necessary,
and present customers with drawings and test results – then they just have to
So when all is taken into account, CAD – particularly when
used with electromechanical assemblies – can be seen as an essential tool to
assist any EMS providers in supporting their customers.
With Special Thanks to our customer Russell Poppe, Director of Technology
at JJS Manufacturing for composing this blog post for SolidSolutions.
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