Automotive vehicles can be the source of great joy! Cruising through the backcountry in the summer with the top down can be quite therapeutic. Equally pleasing to the soul can be a road trip with family or friends. On the other hand, driving can also be extremely stressful. Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic watching the amount of time that you are late for work steadily increase can be borderline traumatic. And having to slam on the breaks to avoid colliding with another vehicle that has abruptly cut you off can, in fact, be traumatic. Fortunately, automotive manufacturers are continually seeking to improve the driving experience.
A better driving experience means better systems which start with the PCB and electronics that drive the automotive systems. A major thrust that is exhibiting significant growth in the automotive PCB market is the design and development of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to improve safety. The need for improved automotive systems and competition among automotive manufacturers requires that PCB and electronics developers employ strategies that can meet regulatory requirements, improve efficiency and adapt to new demands. One solution may be the implementation of an agile manufacturing strategy. Let’s take a look at manufacturing strategies to determine if agile manufacturing is, in fact, the ideal solution for the automotive industry.
PCB development is somewhat unique within the broader scope of product development in that it is uncommon for the developer to actually design and manufacture the boards in-house. As is the case for cloud management of enterprise resources, outsourcing has distinct advantages in terms of expertise, quality of services and cost minimization. Product development in electronics is highly competitive and the choice of PCB manufacturing service can significantly affect the market penetration of your product, not to mention its quality. Therefore, it is best to have a manufacturing plan or strategy in place to guide the process of PCB manufacturing.
The smartest manufacturing strategies have common attributes. First, they have a sound foundation or procedural basis that can be relied upon to produce a quality product. They are also designed to “learn” or improve over time by monitoring and incorporating actions that improve results while discarding those that tend to degrade results. The most advanced of these strategies include the following:
- Six Sigma
Six Sigma is a well-defined approach with specific metrics that have been applied to all types of business processes. For manufacturing, the goal is to achieve no more than 3.4 deviations or defects for one million processes. At its heart, Six Sigma is based upon the standard deviation (a concept that may be familiar from Statistics or Probability) of the normal distribution curve, which is the amount (or level) of separation from the mean of a population. At six levels of separation, we are essentially at the tip or extreme of the positive or negative tail of the bell-shaped curve. The strength of this strategy is its use of quantifiable metrics to improve process reliability, standardized concepts, formal training and certification process.
- Lean Manufacturing
Lean manufacturing is about reducing waste. Any activity or part of the manufacturing process that negatively impacts profitability is waste and should be made more efficient or eliminated. This is often combined with Six Sigma to form Lean Six Sigma, which was first named as such by Motorola in 1986.
- Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 refers to the current trend to fully automate factories and digitize communication between equipment. It encompasses a number of technologies, including cloud computing, cognitive learning, and others to create a “smart factory.” This approach is still in its early stages but promises to revolutionize product manufacturing.
- Agile Manufacturing
Agile manufacturing refers to the ability to quickly adjust to changes to a product in development or meet the needs of a product to be developed. Here, the emphasis is placed primarily on efficiency and quality. The level of agility is on the range of adaptability of the process without the need for any significant additions or costs, such as equipment acquisition.
All of these manufacturing strategies are intended to provide the highest quality to the customer and are not mutually exclusive. In fact, aspects of each may be combined in various ways to achieve the simultaneous goals of customer satisfaction and process efficiency.
Agile Manufacturing for the Automotive Industry
All of the manufacturing strategies discussed above can be applied to the development of PCBs and electronics for automotive systems. However, for the relatively new electric vehicle (EV) and emerging autonomous vehicle (AV) market segments, where standards, vehicle systems, and capabilities are less established as compared to the general automotive industry, agility may be one of the greatest attributes for your PCB manufacturing strategy.
Agile Manufacturing for EVs
EVs are not new as they have been around for decades now. For the most part, they are viewed similarly to traditional combustion vehicles in terms of regulatory requirements, apart from charging standards. However, designing PCBs and electronics for EV systems that require higher power and operate at higher voltage levels than combustion vehicles cannot be considered standard development requirements yet. And entering this field of product development may require some modifications to your manufacturing process. The ability to do so will enable you to quickly become competitive with more seasoned developers, be prepared for future technology developments and new regulations, and respond quickly to other changes.
Agile Manufacturing for AVs
In contrast to EVs, AVs are very much still in the research and development stage even though many of the systems needed to achieve a fully autonomous or driverless car are already in use. The infancy of the AV segment of the automotive market actually presents opportunities for PCB and electronics developers to establish themselves in the supply chain for the systems that will ultimately define AV standard capabilities. This will require an agile manufacturing strategy to meet the challenges of designing the new systems that are being developed.
|Tempo‘s Custom Vehicle Electrification PCB Manufacturing Service|
The day is rapidly approaching when it will be possible to experience the joys of a drive without the stress and hazards that accompany manually operating the vehicle yourself. Designing and developing the PCBs and electronics needed to achieve this goal requires an agile manufacturing strategy that is able to quickly respond to changes in technology and standards or from clients.
Tempo Automation is the industry’s leader for fast, high-quality PCB prototyping and low-volume production. Our process is inherently adaptable to meet your needs for agile development. And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.