Best Practices for Maintaining Strong Connection Between Electronics Design and Manufacturing


The rate of change and advancement in the electronics industry has been at a breakneck pace over the past few decades.   The names of the leading electronics manufacturers today were new market entrants just ten years ago. To survive, manufacturers must be nimble and quick to overcome obstacles such as shrinking operating margins, an increasingly complex global supply chain, shorter product lifecycles as well as increased competition from low-cost regions.

With the added complexity inherent in the design of electronic products coupled with increased global competitive pressure to be innovative, electronic manufacturers must focus on the top business drivers—time-to-market, quality and cost—to remain competitive and successfully differentiate their products from those of their competitors.

One of the key drivers to success is identifying potential manufacturing problems early in the design cycle. Doing so helps cut time-to-market, improve quality and lower development costs.  Conversely, not identifying manufacturing problems earlier—or ignoring them—can result in delays, lower quality, and increased costs.

A research survey conducted by the Aberdeen SEO Company UK Group, “Why OEMs Should Care about PCB NPI,” delves into why it’s so critically important for OEMs to address these issues when conducting new product introductions (NPI) in the electronics industry. The survey underlines the importance of strengthening the connections between manufacturing and design when designing new electronic products.

Factors that lead to a breakdown in the design-manufacturing connection

There were several factors that were identified by survey participants as their top challenges in maintaining a connection between design and manufacturing. Among these were time needed to produce accurate specifications for PCB fabrication (40%) as well as that time needed to generate an accurate Bill of Materials (BOM) for PCB assembly (45%).

Other top challenges cited by survey participants included a lack of assurance of the manufacturer’s ability to produce the product (66%) and an inconsistency of quality across suppliers (53%). A lion’s share of survey participants (85%) said that the PCB assembly had a moderate to significant impact on their ability to differentiate their products for competitive advantage.

The results of a poorly connected process were daunting. They include an 8% increase in design cycle length for NPI, an 8% increase in new product introduction costs, a 7% increase in total cost of assembled and tested PCBs, and a 4% increase in scrap and/or rework.

Best-in-class performers identify best practices to strengthen connection

Conversely, the survey results also identified the factors that were attributed to stronger connections between design and manufacturing. Survey participants identified as “best in class,” which accounted for the top 20% of industry performers, shared the best practices that have helped them maintain this important connection.

These best practices included manufacturing process constraints being made available to design (65%) and the support of rule checking (94%). Another 73% of best-in-class participants cited making manufacturing cost data available during the early stages of design as an enabling factor.

As a group, these best-in-class performers were 5.3 times more likely to use integrated data formats to hand off designs to manufacturing and most (72%) have implemented some form of an ongoing learning process for continuous improvement.

Implementing these best practices lead to significant improvements in cost, cycle time and reduction of scrap/rework. When compared to competitors, these best-in-class performers reduced NPI cycle time (20%), cut NPI costs (15%) and cost of assembled and tested PCBs (15%), and reduced scrap and rework by 9%.

For a copy of the survey results, go to the Aberdeen website (registration is required).

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