SMTA International Conference Proceedings

Reducing Labor Content As A Strategy To Improve Competitiveness - An Analysis That Addresses The Value Of Designing For Automation And An Empirical Analysis That Exploits The Automation Using Meta Process Control

Authors: Tom Borkes and Lawrence Groves
Company: The Jefferson Project and Trans-Tec Yamaha
Date Published: 9/27/2015   Conference: SMTA International

Abstract: Reducing the labor CONTENT of an electronic product assembly has been shown to be an effective strategy to reduce labor cost. In many cases it permits production operations in high labor rate markets to successfully compete with operations that have available sources of local low cost labor. There have been a number of papers written to support and justify this strategy. [1,2,3] Automating assembly processes that are traditionally manual is the basis of a tactical plan that potentially allows the strategic objective of reducing labor content to be met. The word potentially is used with purpose. Investing in hundreds of thousands of dollars of leading-edge automation equipment does not an automated factory necessarily make. If the automated processes require constant human monitoring and intervention, or electrical test yields are low and rework labor high, the objective of the automation (and the capital investment) is defeated - we say instead of automating, we faux automate.

The objectives of this paper are to:
1. Provide examples of real world automation opportunities for future conversion from high to low labor content and,
2. Address the key elements that are needed to exploit this automation – not simply faux automate. Specifically:
a. Designing a product for automated assembly.
b. A factory infrastructure that has proactive process control built in and, ideally, automated proactive process control that self-corrects process issues, i.e., Meta Process Control.
c. A skilled workforce that can develop and maintain the automated processes organized in a way to minimize cost.

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