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Three Things you Shouldn’t Overlook in SMT Production Post Pandemic.

Everyone is hoping for an increase in prosperity post pandemic, and in some geographical locations such as Australasia, this turnaround is already starting to show promise.

According to Reuters, Australia’s economy, which entered 2021 in better shape than most of its peers with a poll of 34 economists forecast Australia’s A$2 trillion ($1.55 trillion) of gross domestic product would expand 3.5% this year (Vivek Mishra. 2021).

Consider other factors that have affected specifically the SMT market such as the supply chain challenges of components such as surface mount device (SMD), multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) and SMD resistors.

The further restrictions on the supply chain with more than 70 companies shut down in Shanghai and Suzhou last year because of the Coronavirus pandemic (Ron Keith. 2020), saw an even greater slow of what was already a struggling supply chain for some.

Coupled with the political tensions leading to goods exported to China with heavy import duties, it is starting to change attitudes and encouraging Australian businesses to take a more autonomous approach, and in some instances, consider reshoring their PCBs and sub-assemblies in-house.

ONE: DON’T OVERLOOK LEAD TIMES ON SMT EQUIPMENT

It sometimes sounds quite repetitive to hear the words “…order today because lead times are long and you could be waiting a while”, or words to that effect. However, given we find ourselves in quite a unique situation (taking-into-account everything above), it is true. Capital SMT equipment is taking months to find its way to the organisations looking to grow their in-house capability. Ensuring you incorporate this into your implementation plan is critical to ensure you don’t find yourselves over promising.

With quite a few organisations looking to upscale post-pandemic, some of the leading brands in SMT equipment are falling behind fulfilment, where they can’t keep up with demand. Keeping your communication lines open with your suppliers and insist on realistic time frames for delivery. Equally, if they tell you it is only going to take six weeks, when realistically it is six months, that is not going to help you either. This is where it is important you have a good relationship with your supplier, having trust that they won’t only tell you what you want to hear.

TWO: PLAN FOR FUTURE CAPABILITES

For the last couple of years there has been quite a bit of content floating around based on Industry 4.0, Big Data, automation with multiple systems and supply chains, with the intelligence of software solutions and platforms such as ERPs and MESs driving full integration. Everyone is doing some of this to one extent or another, and as inhouse capabilities progress and requirements for faster turnaround times with tighter tolerances become the ‘norm’, businesses that are leveraging this technology are increasing tenfold.

The point we are making here, is even if you don’t see your business utilising this technology, but you still need to purchase systems to grow at your own pace, just ensure you make decisions that will see protect yourselves if you do decide to move forward with more automation.

 

 

Some of the points that you may want to consider are…

A) How does my new system communicate with the rest of the line and / ERP system?

B) Are there features that can use to replace some of the tedious jobs – that could also pay for themselves in a matter of months?

C) What data does the system provide that can allow us to make decisions to ensure continual improvement?

D) How can I increase efficiency with automation with minimum setup and configuration?

THREE: ASK ALL THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Quite often some of the important questions are overlooked. They either don’t get asked at all or don’t get asked until it is too late. Too late (in this instance) means that because the questions were not asked at the right time, weeks of downtime potentially ensue.
Questions such as:

A) How easy is it to get replacement parts?

B) Do you have any engineers that specialise in this system / brand?

C) How long will it take for you to send an engineer out?

More often than not, these questions only get asked when something goes wrong. Needless to say, making sure you ask these questions before you purchase the system is important to give you the reassurance that you will be up and running again in days and not weeks, should something happen. Equally, knowing that your system is going to get fixed properly, rather than a solution that is just papering-over-the-cracks should ensure it doesn’t happen again anytime soon.

Post pandemic in Australasia is seeing spare parts taking even longer to arrive from OEMs. Ensuring your supplier has a good stock of all critical spare parts is essential. It is worth considering what spare parts you might need and order these at the same time as you order the system. For example, if you invest in a screen printer, it is worth ordering spare squeegee blades and stencil cleaning paper rolls; or if you invest in a new mounter, think about ordering spare filters, gaskets, a spare nozzle and some spare springs for the nozzles, as well as some grease and a grease gun.

FINDING THE RIGHT SUPPLIER

Finding the right supplier that you have a good relationship with is important. You need to know that you can trust them when you are ordering a system, so that you know it’ll arrive when they say it will, and it’ll perform as expected with everything as specifications dictate, and most importantly, if something goes wrong with it, you’ll be up and running again in days.

Vivek Mishra. 2021. Australian economy forecast to rebound in 2021 as pandemic subsides: Reuters poll | Reuters. [ONLINEhttps://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-economy-poll-idUSKBN29Q07B. [Accessed 26 February 2021

Ron Keith. 2020. globalsmt.net. Coronavirus Impact on Electronics Supply Chain. [ONLINEhttps://globalsmt.net/coronavirus-impact-on-electronics-supply-chain/. [Accessed 26 February 2021]

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