Process Input, machine - Manufacturing Equipment qualification

Automation had been the main driver for cheaper, mass production goods in the consumer market since post world war II.  In electronics gadget supply chain, the higher tier supply chain such as electronics and piece part mechanical component are made from fully automated manufacturing line as this is marketed as mass production commodity part.  Most of the downstream supplier use manual assembly process.  However with the rising labor cost all over the world especially the global manufacturing hub China, most of the manufacturers are now looking into automation solution for their manufacturing process. 

An automated manufacturing equipment

Since manufacturing line automation and equipment is the part of process input, machine, governance process is vital to ensure that variation from automation and equipment is controlled and managed to minimize its contribution to the process variations.    

A fully automated manufacturing line for battery cell assembly process
The qualification of manufacturing process machine is much more complicated compare to jig and fixture qualification featured in the previous article (21 Oct 2017).  As manufacturing equipment is a major capital investment, therefore there should be proper planning before acquisition of the equipment to ensure optimum return on investment (ROI).  Acquisition and setting up equipment is a project by itself, therefore it must follow the proper protocol of project management process which consists of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring & controlling and closing before being hand over sustaining process.  Below are recommendations for activities in each phase:-

Consideration points/activities recommended
Define the purpose of the equipment, function needed and who are the stake holders at both supplier and equipment user. Consider the following factors before investing:-
  1. Production volume of the part,  prefer high volume manufacturing
  2. Utilization of the equipment
  3. Current equipment technology suitability for the manufacturing the part per customer requirement
  4. Equipment capability
  5. Ease of maintenance
  6. Spare parts availability
  7. Warranty, service, training provided by equipment manufacturer
  8. Reputable equipment vendor who can provide good service to minimize unplan equipment downtime situation.

Once the equipment is identified for purchasing,  planning should be made for acquisition of the equipment.  This include scope, scheduling, resources- human, space, etc., quality,   cost, and communication from internal to equipment supplier, risk, and procurement of the equipment.  There should be planning for process input and output for each element in planning. 

Performed all the work per planning phase until the equipment is fully commissioned on site.  It would be best to deploy design of experiment study to determine which machine parameter setting would impact output Y and optimization. DOE will be discussed in future article.

Monitoring & controlling
After equipment is fully installed,  there should be monitoring on the performance of the equipment during pilot run which include :-
  1. Production rate
  2. Yield rate
  3. Process capability study on critical to quality parameter
  4. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) a metric which multiply productivity, quality and availability. OEE is also an important metrics in lean. Please refer to my next article for detail on OEE.

All the above study must be based on schedule plan developed during planning phase with goal setting for pilot run. 

If any quality or productivity metrics does NOT meet the goal defined during planning phase, there should be feedback loop for improvement before mass production.

Closing & Sustaining
Once pilot run is completed,  then there should be a handover of the equipment to the sustaining equipment department

Design of Experiment approach to optimize equipment setting

The above is very compressed summary of project management approach to setup manufacturing equipment or even an automated manufacturing line.   Project planning should be done by subject matter expert and project management professional (PMP) especially for big automation project. Unfortunately most of the high technology electronic component suppliers who had invested millions of dollar to acquire highly sophisticated are not aware that investing in planning and qualification of the equipment is equally important.   Having the privilege to qualify a few high technology electronic component new manufacturing line during my career as supplier quality manager,  it is ironic that none of the suppliers are aware of the project management approach to set up new manufacturing equipment or line.  There are no proper DOE conducted to find which equipment parameter had an impact product performance follow by optimization. Trial and error study is mistaken to be DOE!

After the qualification of the automated manufacturing line or equipment, it is imperative to setup proper monitoring system and preventive maintenance.  This will be the main focus in my next blog.

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