The Lean NPI Flow: All in One, and Good for All


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Electronics are part of almost everything that we do today. Supporting this huge industry are many different types of electronics manufacturing companies: Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), original design manufacturers (ODMs), and electronic manufacturing services (EMS) providers. The scale of manufacturing spans products in quantities of tens of millions where each may cost only a few cents, up to a single satellite controller that may cost millions of dollars. Electronics industry sectors are also diverse: consumer, industrial, telecoms, automotive, aerospace, and military.

Geographically, the manufacturing operation also exhibits significant variation, from tightly controlled operations in the West to more seat-of-your-pants operations in the East. The move to large contract manufacturers has further muddied the water as each of these companies may operate across several sectors and tiers, as well as design and build their own products in the case of ODM companies. In essence, the electronics manufacturing industry is a mess of different operations. No wonder that those in each electronics manufacturing operation think that they are unique, that they are special, that no-one else does things the way they do. Although this is to some extent the reality of what is generally going on inside electronics manufacturing, this situation is simply the consequence of evolution.

Despite the variation in electronics manufacturing companies, they still have significant areas of commonality, against which definitions of best practice can be made. One of the most important is the area of new product introduction (NPI). Even though companies have different products, markets, brands, and locations, there is a lot of common ground when it comes to taking an electronics-based product from conception, through design, manufacturing, and to the market to become profitable, no matter who, where or what it is.

The Lean NPI flow is a modern best-practice efficient approach that spans PCB design all the way to manufacturing, reducing the time to market, and eliminating data reconstruction at manufacturing, as well as reducing design re-spins and revisions. New design software manages the setting of rules that model manufacturing process capabilities and configurations in a way that creates simple rules for the layout process. This allows a designer to avoid manufacturing issues early on, even without any manufacturing process knowledge.Read the full article here.Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of The PCB Design Magazine.

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