Supporting new product development

Author : Graham Shaw, Chief Operations Officer at SMS

02 November 2017

Graham Shaw, Chief Operations Officer at SMS (right)
Graham Shaw, Chief Operations Officer at SMS (right)

SMS hosted a 2017 event celebrating the opening of their dedicated, in-house Product Development Centre. This interview with SMS explains why SMS decided to make such a substantial investment in technology to support the front-end of the product lifecycle – from concept to creation.

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“The UK electronics manufacturing environment is facing one of its toughest production challenges to date: how to compress the production lifecycle without compromise, accelerating time to results. We want SMS [Smart Made Simple] to be at the forefront of innovation and product development, so we ensure that existing Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and start-ups alike are aware of how to conceptualise for commercialisation. We offer them speed, in a market where maximising the time that their product is in front of their consumer is crucial, through our digital manufacturing services.

“SMS recognised that there was an opportunity in the EMS market for product development services, and the need to improve this vital front-end service. By investing in an autonomous department dedicated to supporting customers’ needs for prototyping, rapid build and low volume manufacture – with the flexibility to scale up to be able to tap into the resources of full-scale SMS manufacturing – we can demonstrate several improvements.

“Firstly, we can validate that we can not only assemble the printed circuit boards (PCBs), but also provide our customers with feedback on where performance improvements can be made. This collaborative process highlights, for our customer, how to effectively design the product for manufacturing (DFM), design for cost (DFC), and manufacture for test (MFT), enabling the board to be developed faster, with no inherent quality issues or risks, therefore, speeding up the entire process.

“Secondly, as we listened to our customers, particularly aerospace, defence, avionics and medical customers in the high-reliability sector, we recognised the need to have a secure and separate area. That is why we have created private and dedicated spaces for analysis, development, test and storage that are all key coded for restricted and authorised-only access.

“Thirdly, over the past few years, SMS has made significant investments to improve its capabilities in printing processes, vapour phase and AOI. Why AOI in a prototyping environment? Well, even if you take away all the capacitors and resistors, we can automate the process simply, then all the development team need to focus on are the unique parts. Our investment in leading-edge technology is another example of our continued commitment to making our operations smart.

“And lastly, we didn’t want to only have the capability to assemble PCBs. Our market intelligence indicated that there was a need for strong analytical capabilities – the traditional method being for the customer to highlight a quality issue, or for a third party to test on behalf of the customer and manufacturer. At SMS, we didn’t feel comfortable with these options, as we strive to simplify the entire product lifecycle for our customers.

This is why we invested resources into creating a dedicated Analysis Laboratory to complement our Development Centre, whereby products that are developed will automatically flow through our process stream into the analysis lab. This is where we can go into detailed examination, even as far as deconstructive testing, to reduce our customer’s risk and build their confidence in our overall manufacturing capabilities. This process also provides us with valuable data – educating, informing and advising us – keeping us within our continuous improvement roadmap.

“So, we feel confident that, through our investment in analysis, development and test, we can consult with our customers on the right strategy for their product introduction. Whether they are an existing blue-chip OEM or a start-up, we can share best practice from, not only a PCBA perspective, but also system assembly, analysis, DFM, DFT and test development. This is part of our solutions knowledge network, to ensure our customers get the highest level of service in the market today. SMS are passionate about investing in the right technology and talent to help our customers maintain their competitive advantage.”

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