Companies that want to speed up PCB manufacturing and delivery of end products typically look to process improvements to reduce lead time and costs. These measures are appropriate only up to a certain point, and eventually improvements have to come from managing production schedules, inventories, and operations. Software-driven digitally-enabled manufacturers are abandoning a linear scheduling process in favor of a dynamic scheduling approach to manufacturing.
What is dynamic scheduling within PCB manufacturing? This approach to manufacturing management provides a just-in-time approach to PCB manufacturing that does not depend on a linear scheduling process. Companies that incorporate dynamic scheduling can have a competitive edge by offering customers greater flexibility in cost, lead time, capabilities, and even sourcing location. The approach is all about being agile, while also enabling your customers to be agile.
Why Dynamic Scheduling Works for PCB Manufacturing
The increasing market demand for PCB manufacturers can motivate the purchase of new production equipment to expand capacity of an existing line, or to spin up a completely new line. However, the decision to buy new equipment is risky, complex, and costly, requiring process engineering considerations and projections of demand to determine the relevant financial risk. An alternative approach is to look at manufacturing operations to see where more value can be extracted while also improving outcomes for customers.
Advanced dynamic scheduling can be helpful to improve operations while using existing resources for manufacturing. There are certain challenges that are faced during manufacturing planning, especially for prototype services, due to unexpected delays and introduction of new work orders. Dynamic scheduling is a methodology that attempts to maximize production capacity while accommodating factors that create quality and financial risks for PCB manufacturers, as well as their customers.
A Dynamic Scheduling Process for PCBs
Dynamic scheduling requires visibility into existing orders, materials stocks, inventories, the supply chain for electronic components, and capabilities from any external fab vendors. In fact, this is one of the tools that is critical to competitiveness in low-volume, high-mix production environments. A typical flowchart showing the process is actually quite simple and is shown in the image below.
Dynamic scheduling integrates the effect of real-time events, specifically the current schedule of existing production orders, and optimally modifies the available production envelope automatically. The available production capacity is presented to the customer along with pricing and delivery estimates, and the customer can select between available pricing options. Customers can lean towards lowest price, fastest delivery, or find a compromise.
For moderate to high volume, the linear process still dominates as larger producers can typically access the capacity needed to place a product into fabrication and assembly. For smaller companies pursuing prototypes or short production runs, dynamic scheduling is a superior option for balancing costs and lead times.
Benefits for Customers
Dynamic scheduling also provides benefits for customers, as it offers more flexibility in price and lead time. By giving customers multiple options for cost and lead time without disrupting existing production schedules, manufacturers can be more price competitive compared to quick-turn prototyping companies. These options can include different materials, value-added services such as engineering reviews and testing, and different fabrication capabilities based on the required features in a board. This increased flexibility and transparency in pricing and lead time can help manufacturers better serve their customers and stand out in a competitive market.
The complexities of modern PCB manufacturing require dynamic scheduling to attain real-time optimization and ensure that each work order is completed on time with the lowest possible cost. Dynamic scheduling can resolve the challenging problems highlighted above by connecting ordering systems to the shop floor, where schedules can be changed in real time and by facilitating a range of production schedules that can better align with customer demands. Design firms that manage manufacturing services for their clients can create the most value and ensure on-time delivery by working with production partners who use dynamic scheduling.
What’s the best way for a design firm to work with production partners who use dynamic scheduling for PCB manufacturing? There are three potential bottlenecks that can slow down order progress:
- Completing the ordering process in a timely manner before available production windows change
- Ordering and on-time delivery of components prior to assembly
- Delivery of bare PCBs from the fabrication vendor, who may be overseas
Design firms that offer management services for PCB production projects can take two approaches to deal with two of these challenges: consign procurement to the assembler, and get to know the fabrication capabilities that must be specified when quoting. This helps a designer expedite order placement and reduces delays within a dynamic scheduling environment.
Whether you're designing an ultra-rugged aerospace system or feature-rich embedded computing products, following these PCB design guidelines for power electronics helps ensure your product will be reliable and manufacturable at scale. NWES helps aerospace OEMs, defense primes, and private companies in multiple industries design modern PCBs and create cutting-edge embedded technology, including power systems for high reliability applications and precision control systems. We've also partnered directly with EDA companies and advanced ITAR-compliant PCB manufacturers, and we'll make sure your next high speed digital system is fully manufacturable at scale. Contact NWES for a consultation.