Peter Kronfeld
Peter Kronfeld
Peter Kronfeld, born in 1962, has always taken great interest in the subject of technological change in the economy, society and business. This already started when he was a student of economics and communication and he has been keeping track of these topics as a journalist and as managing director of HighTech communications GmbH until today.

(image: (c) HighTech communications)

Did you think that a smart, highly automated SMT factory is a suitable concept for big, high volume productions only – but never ever for a single-line high mix/low volume SMT manufacturing company? Did you believe that a complete digitized and seamless workflow from CAD to SMT/THT to testing is a vision for a far-distant future? And has real time visualization of status data from every single station AND every single PCB in production been a dream to you?

If yes, you might understand my excitement after visiting Aros electronics AB in Mölndal (Sweden) early this week. Aros mainly develops and produces advanced electronic control units for drives in automotive or industrial applications – from the first concept to box-built delivery. At Aros a “high runner” is defined by a lot size of several hundred PCB, but most of the products are produced in lot sizes lower than hundred, often lower than ten panels. And it is not just a high mix of products but also on components – that’s why THT and coating equipment for all these big automotive and industrial connectors is added to their DEK/SIPLACE SMT line.

In the past Aros has been famous for its development skills and highly advanced product designs already. About four years ago they developed a new production strategy that should move them into the premium league of manufacturers for automotive components. Its key point: By establishing just one central planning point in their whole workflow they want to diminish all gaps in data flow, any manual product handling and any operator decisions on the shop floor. Then they teamed up with manufacturers like ASM to implement this strategy.

What did I see during my visit?

  • Aros has near to total transparency on the production status. A self-made software – feeded with data from ERP, machines and in-line barcode readers – is able to track every single board produced and visualizes its flow through each machine, transport or lift on a graphical model of the line on the screen. It is really amazing: They monitor single boards with UID barcodes “running” through the line.
  • All relevant process data (e.g. squeegee pressure, flux type, SPI/AOI resutls, component reel UIDs, reflow profiles, camera pictures from THT monitoring, temperature during coating etc.) is stored and linked to the specific panel.
    By clicking on single panels or machines you can do a drilldown on all these data and monitor the status in real time.
  • They doubled their throughput since starting their new strategy – just by optimizing and automating processes. Manufacturing Process Manager Per-Johan Edgren stated: “Of course we could have upgrade our SIPLACE SX1 with additional heads and portals, thus doubling our capacity. But this would just cover process weaknesses and increase manual assistance at the line. Instead we want to use advanced automation to bring up both quality and throughput at the same time.”
  • While other companies value automation as a strategy in a high volume / low mixed environment, Aros is using advanced automation to manage a highly flexible production.

So far for today. I will do some more detailed posts on the Aros visit throughout the next weeks. Next will most possibly be a post on how they use the dual lane transport in combination with a number of very smart setup concepts to ramp up line efficiency. So, stay tuned ….

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