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Why Dynamic Scheduling is Important in PCB Manufacturing

PCB manufacturing dynamic scheduling

Over 2021 and 2022, circuit board assemblies were one of the highest sourced commodities as consumer demand for electronics was at high levels. Companies that produce these products do so at high and low volumes, and it can be difficult for PCB manufacturers to deal with growing market demands for high-mix, low-volume products in a traditional EMS company production structure. To stay competitive on price, EMS companies have to add more value to customers through scheduling and production agility.

There is another way for PCB manufacturers to meet demand without major investments in the newest automated production equipment. One strategy for providing value and offering price-competitive production options is to use dynamic scheduling. While the approach requires some investment by the fabrication/assembly company, it could give certain EMS or prototyping businesses a competitive edge in short production runs and in higher volume production settings.

What is Dynamic Scheduling?

Dynamic scheduling is a production scheduling approach where orders are not created on a fixed production schedule or lead time. The manufacturer or the customer could select from a list of possible production and shipping schedules to suit their needs. This gives manufacturers the ability to offer multiple cost options to their customers, and the options can be adjusted dynamically depending on current lead times and production availability. Today, more prototype PCBA manufacturers are using dynamic scheduling in their ordering and production processes.

The standard approach to dynamic scheduling involves collection of data from a resource planning system, quoting system, and any other production assets that may be streaming data into the scheduling system. This information enables precise scheduling and production planning across the work order process. The data can then be used to find multiple options for adding a work order to the current production schedule.

Dynamic scheduling workflow

Production schedules are often disrupted, and delays need to be accounted for in the scheduling system to ensure future orders do not interfere with current orders. This feedback needs to be incorporated into the scheduling system so that PCB manufacturers can thoroughly plan and control the manufacturing schedule.

Benefits for Customers

There is another benefit that specifically applies to customers: flexibility in price vs. lead time. In general, a shorter lead time for a manufacturing order carries a higher price point, and this is how many quick-turn prototyping houses have made their businesses profitable. Dynamic scheduling provides the visibility required to present multiple lead time and cost options to customers without interrupting the existing production schedule.

This gives customers multiple options that can be much more price competitive compared to a quick-turn prototyping company. Options can be further delineated by price, material options, and value-added services like engineering reviews and testing. Production options could also be separated by fabrication capabilities as finer required features in a board can affect price.

Advantages of Dynamic Scheduling

Aside from the points mentioned above, dynamic scheduling offers many benefits, some of these benefits include:

  • Reduction in changeover and setup times
  • Maximized equipment utilization
  • Coordination among production areas
  • Visibility into schedules for existing and new work orders
  • Automated delivery of fabrication and assembly data to CAM and line workers
  • Automated delivery of component orders to procurement
  • Real-time awareness of progress and production
  • Efficient reaction to manufacturing disruptions and easy reschedules

An adequate scheduling system should be able to process essential parameters such as:

  • Automatically stored work orders with required quantity and deadlines
  • Machine and line capacity and availability of production resources
  • Availability of materials required for production
  • Interface with the resource planning system

Control of these parameters, such as changeovers and production time, helps manufacturers optimize their scheduling plan's performance, specifically through cost and/or lead time reduction. It can help expedite supporting tasks like setup and configuration of test equipment, fixtures, and test cases for assessing reliability.

Dynamic Scheduling Demands a Digital Approach

Successful implementation of dynamic scheduling requires a connection between all your production and management systems. You can technically do it with disconnected quoting, ordering, and purchasing/inventory systems, but you lose all the efficiencies as management becomes highly manual.

A good scheduling plan also provides knowledge of production on the line and distributes the workload more effectively. This is the next level of automation in manufacturing management, where production assets are fully interconnected and can communicate with each other. It’s a true IIoT approach that focuses less on the computing capabilities of production access, and instead focuses on the data that can be made available to management.

Any design team working on advanced electronic products and components can take control of their high-level designs with the complete set of data management tools from Cadence. Manufacturing, procurement, inventory management, and project management teams can greatly benefit from these Only Cadence offers a comprehensive set of circuit, IC, and PCB design tools for any application and any level of complexity.

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