Investment brings rewards for EMS

Author : SMS Electronics

03 November 2016

Electronics can be integrated into any device you can think of.

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Graham Shaw from SMS Electronics, an EMS headquartered in Nottingham, discusses how he and the SMS team have made it a priority to invest in expertise and equipment to attempt to combine the technology capability, competence and certification of a Tier I, with the customer service and agility of a regional manufacturing partner.

Q: How long have you personally been doing this kind of work?
I have been in the EMS industry for over 40 years and I have worked in many engineering, quality and management roles within the UK, Czech Republic, Spain, Hungary and Romania, for leading EMS brand names such as Celestica. 

During this time, I have been exposed to many different manufacturing processes, equipment, layouts, Lean and other quality concepts and people management techniques. This knowledge and experience has allowed me to recognise which specific concepts are the most appropriate for SMS.

At SMS I have had the opportunity to implement the most appropriate facility and manufacturing process to improve efficiency and to achieve economies of scale.  Looking to the future, SMS operates in close collaboration with the IPC and our local colleges and universities. This ensures we not only meet the standards set by the IPC, but we also train, develop and invest in our local talent. We run an internal and external mentorship programme to upskill our in-house personnel and to ensure we always have a source of trained and qualified staff as we scale to meet our customer’s forecasts. 

Q: The UK has seen some tough times in regards to manufacturing over the past decade. How did SMS cope?

The market has been dealt a tough hand in the UK, but in regards to SMS, we have remained solid and committed to being in the market. Through the downturn, we saw the opportunity to invest, to earn critical industry site certifications that bring full viability and credibility to the aerospace & defence, medical and industrial markets. We also tried to spread the business risk to offer manufacturing solutions across multiple market segments. 

To do this at SMS we have made several process, technology and procedure changes, to gain a competitive advantage in line with market trends, including installing an Analysis Laboratory, upgrading our prototyping facility, implementing IPC standards, such as IPC610 / j-Std and 7711 Rework, introducing Lean manufacturing along with an automated quality system and improving production capability and capacity. 

Q: What trends and innovations that have emerged in the past few years?

We are in an environment where customers need skills that they do not have internally to compete in a global economy. The change we are seeing is more complex than just a technology move, it is customisation and flexibility as a competitive advantage.  

It is no longer about providing a quote for build to spec; it’s about bringing innovation that enhances an overall solution. Customers are looking for their manufacturing partner to manage the entire process for them. Even leading brand names want a total solution and a partner that enhances their deep product technology skills with innovation and complimentary value-add services. 

We are seeing a dramatic shift in the production lifecycle and we are helping our customers to address rapid change, global competition and faster and faster product development and deployment cycles. 

During my working career I have seen many changes within this industry, with the most notable events being: 

• The effect of computing power improvements, where a large, dedicated room containing computing power is now the equivalent of a PC or mobile phone. This has seen the requirement to accommodate continual miniaturisation of components, which has driven the requirement for continual capital investment to enable the contractor to maintain the capability to assemble printed circuit boards to the required efficiency and quality metrics whilst remaining competitive.  

• The advent of the Surface Mount Technology (SMT) was slated to drive the elimination of the through-hole Axial, Radial and Dip processes. The first production machine was 5 metres in length with a capability of 3000 cph, today a high speed machine recently implemented <2 metres in length with a capability of 80,000cph. However, there is still a requirement for through-hole technology equipment, which we still maintain as part of our SMS manufacturing solutions.

The EMS Industry, whilst embracing new products and technologies, still strives to implement best practices to achieve their customer requirements. It will need to continue to do so in the future, as well as continuing to evolve to meet changing customer demands. 

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