AI in Electronics Manufacturing: Empowering the Smart Factory Era

Joel Scutchfield, General Manager of SMT Business Operations & Director of Sales, Koh Young America Brent Fischthal, Head of Global Marketing, Koh Young Technology.

The paradigm of operational excellence has emerged as a key focus area in today’s rapidly evolving manufacturing landscape. Realizing this shift, manufacturers are increasingly exploring ways to optimize operations to meet the challenges of the “new normal.” The manufacturing sector’s challenges, particularly regarding personnel and talent, are not going away. Thus, the conversation has shifted towards addressing these challenges through automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and collaboration with suppliers.

The smart factory marks a paradigm shift in manufacturing, eliminating inefficient and error-prone practices. Powered by advanced technologies such as IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), AI, and Machine Learning, it relies on cooperation between advanced inspection systems and process control tools to ensure quality at every step of production. 

There are a lot of moving parts here, but the potential for gain is immense. The overall results can be quite impressive when you start looking at the organization from the top down and finding places where those improvements can be made. For example, manufacturers can become much more profitable with their existing headcount by implementing these emerging AI-powered technologies.

For example, previously, the focus was on how to get more out of a supplier by squeezing them as much as possible. However, the paradigm is shifting towards a more collaborative approach. Now, manufacturers are seeking ways to reduce their supplier base and solidify relationships with strong suppliers who share their vision. The conversation then naturally progresses from supplier to partner. 

Matric Group, a world-class EMS provider, clearly embraces this new normal, and their Vice-President of Operation, Patrick Stimpert, is driving this manufacturing revolution. “We don’t go into vendor relationships without it being a partnership. I will not do it. If you’re asking me to take a machine and go out on a limb for you, you’re going to be right there with me. We’re going to fail together, or we’re going to succeed together.” He adds, “It’s been nice to see Koh Young and Panasonic Connect work together. It’s good when I pull both parties into a room and say, ‘hey, this is our next step, and I need you guys onboard,’ and for them to say, ‘yes, we’re going to do it’.”

In the Smart Factory ecosystem, data fuels continuous improvement. Inspection-based process control tools generate valuable data, offering insights into trends, patterns, and potential improvements. Manufacturers can use this data to identify bottlenecks, fine-tune processes, and predict maintenance needs while maintaining the highest quality standards. From automated programming and smart review that help operators to autonomous process optimization for printers and mounters to assist engineers, Koh Young is applying AI to help inspection equipment mitigate talent shortages and improve operational efficiency.

As this evolution continues, it changes the approach to product design and solution offerings, and, more importantly, it strengthens the relationship with the manufacturer. One case study comes from Holger Groksch, Head of Manufacturing in the SMT department at SICK AG.  Groksch and his team are focused on performance. As Holger says, “it’s not just controlling quality, it is about making the quality better at the machine level.”

“Koh Young provided very high performance and support to help us install the Koh Young Process Optimizer (KPO Printer).” Stated Groksch. When SICK first installed the solder paste inspection (SPI) machine, they reduced its failed parts at the end of the line by half. This was a dramatic reduction and process improvement. Now, SICK has installed KPO Printer, and Holger believes this could once again halve the number of failing parts at the end of the line. These real yield improvements are both significant and achievable using the combination of AI-powered software and hardware solutions.

As we witness this era of evolution and digital transformation, we are enthusiastic about the potential for game-changing operational improvements by:

  • Making our equipment and software even more user-friendly, reducing the need for extensive training and the potential for errors, and expediting programming and NPI.
  • Enhancing the networking capabilities of our machines, enabling small teams of experts to manage multiple machines remotely if necessary.
  • Ensuring that the highly accurate and valuable data collected can be used to enhance processes, going beyond a simple go/no-go decision on a board.
  • Extending our focus beyond the machine, driving improvements throughout our entire product portfolio.
  • Aggregating all collected data to provide real intelligence with actionable insights that enhance line, factory, and business performance.
  • Continuously bringing technological innovations to market.
  • Most importantly, we listen to our customers and implementing the improvements they require.

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in electronics manufacturing emerges as a pivotal solution. By embracing AI, manufacturers can streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and maintain high-quality standards, all while reducing the dependency on a large workforce. AI has proven to be instrumental in mitigating talent shortages through autonomous decision-making.

The application of AI-powered technologies, such as automated programming, smart review, and autonomous process optimization, mitigates talent shortages and significantly improves operational efficiency. By leveraging AI, companies like Koh Young are transforming the industry, paving the way for smarter, more efficient, and more reliable manufacturing processes. As the industry continues to evolve, the integration of AI in electronics manufacturing will play an increasingly critical role, ushering in a new era of innovation and productivity.

Koh Young is excited for things to come as the industry further adopts AI. A transformation from an inspection machine supplier to a smart factory solution partner has been underway for years at Koh Young Technology. It was able to pave the way from equipment supplier to solution provider with measurement-based inspection data collected by its solder paste inspection (SPI) and automated optical inspection (AOI) machines. Many successful implementations have been made to leverage our AI engines and technologies developed at Koh Young Research labs to improve manufacturing processes.

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