Closing the automation gap in manual assembly manufacturing
Author : Reinhard Windemuth, General Manager for Special Products
Many people unfamiliar to the world of electronics manufacturing are often surprised by the number of manual assembly processes that are still involved. The challenge of placing larger or odd-shaped components on a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) still requires human assistance.
Many people unfamiliar to the world of electronics manufacturing are often surprised by the number of manual assembly processes that are still involved. The challenge of placing larger or odd-shaped components on a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) still requires human assistance. For every 4 automated Surface Mount Technology (SMT) production lines there might be 2 manual assembly areas for THT assembly behind it. Those may be limited to THT component insertion. But there may be some additional screwing, gluing, visual inspection steps and / or final product packing steps that are still handled manually. This requirement for manual labour is one of the last automation gaps remaining in the production process of Electronic Manufacturing and a challenge for any manufacturers.
The manual process means it is more exposed to human error and lacks the real-time data information feedback and traceability of automated production. That’s where the Panasonic Guided Manual Assembly (PGMA) solution comes in. PGMA is a reliable and effective manual Through Hole Technology mounting manufacturing solution. A computer-assisted manual workstation developed with our partner Computer Aided Works that uses software to provide specific work-instructions for manual assembly. With the support of PGMA, traceability as well as a reduction of error rates in manual manufacturing and effective, end-to-end material management all becomes possible.
So, how does PGMA work?
The PGMA system consists of a computer with interface to the MES and/or ERP software and database. There is a material assembly area including a conveyor if needed, the picking material boxes and a barcode reader, a Panasonic laser projector for visualisation onto the PCB and the working area. It also includes a high resolution camera with high intensity lighting for image recognition and 2 monitors for work instructions and local reporting.
When some of the assembly, inspection and packing steps are still manual, this computer-aided manual workstation comes into its own. Each worker registers onto the system, for example by scanning their employee pass. The instructions for placing components on the board are then shown visually in sequence. Lights show which component to pick, and placement instructions are projected onto the board. If components are placed incorrectly, an error is indicted by a red light and an acoustic signal (beep). Each process step can also be supported by images and photos and detailed work instructions and/or drawings on the display. This can be as detailed as required to enable less experienced workers to deliver failure-free working from the beginning.
30 % reduced process cycles
With this effective automated guidance system and the removal of a requirement for manual confirmations, production process cycle times can be reduced by as much as 30%. There is also anecdotal evidence that points to a boost in motivation and productivity for the workforce as they become more confident in the system and reduce the number of errors they make.
All the work processes can be easily programmed into the system by the customer. Because the PGMA is collecting real-time data, it can be integrated into ERP systems in the same way as automated production data, improving material management and traceability.
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