Omnigo has over the last couple of months upgraded its lead-free SMT process in order to meet growing demand from its clients wanting to adhere to the environmental benefits of lead-free electronic products.
This move has also been driven by the fact that more and more components are available only in lead-free versions. Although this might not seem such a drastic development to the uninitiated, Omnigo has had to take cognisance of several factors that affect the implementation of lead-free manufacturing.
One major challenge has been in adapting the soldering process in situations with a mixture of lead and lead-free components, since no real statistics are available on the effect of the higher soldering temperatures on the long-term failure rate of the components. Storage of components is also an issue in terms of shelf life, which has dictated the implementation of a climate controlled component storage system to extend the shelf life of lead-free components. Since this adds to the cost of production, the company has endeavoured to strike a balance between the cost of the components per unit and the cost of storage verses the cost of replacement of the items.
Omnigo’s specialised coil and transformer winding facility has also been upgraded with the acquisition of state-of-the-art stripping and material handling systems. The automated coil winding machines have also been upgraded. This newly upgraded facility now allows Omnigo to produce complex transformers and coils used in products for the professional industry. A major portion of the coils are RF related, whereas the transformers are more diverse with signal, specialised impedance matching and high-reliability switch mode transformers. The company also has the benefit of being able to draw on the strengths of these facilities in its turnkey manufacturing process.
Omnigo has also established a new harness facility with automated crimping, wire cutting and stripping equipment. Testing of crimping joints has been implemented with requisite pull strength test methods. Testing of harnesses is presently done on a semi-automated process which includes correctness of the interconnections as well as the resistance per node. The implementation of a completely automated test system is planned for later this year.
Also in the pipeline for later this year is a major extension to Omnigo’s automated LabView test system. The company’s main aim is to not only produce electronics cost effectively but to also test boards, subsystems and systems completely, highlighting the belief that this forms an integral part of closing the quality control loop.
Most of the recent expansion has been geared towards the demand and growth in fully tested subsystems and systems. This is a worldwide trend that has been established overseas with great success and benefits to clients. Whilst maintaining and expanding its military capabilities, Omnigo has now positioned itself to more aggressively enter the commercial market.
In-house management system development
For several years, Omnigo has strived to implement a flexible and efficient production management system, but has been unable to find a standard software offering that precisely met its exacting needs. This finally led to the decision to develop an in-house solution – thus was the Omnigo Management System (OMS) born. This system now gives the company real-time tracking of production in terms of status and cost.
This process starts at the quotation phase right through to invoicing, and includes material buying, kitting, production test and quality assurance. OMS is a real-time, SQL-based system that also keeps track of cost, rework and warranty repairs. The system can also provide total cost of production, which is a major benefit in the company’s ability to quote accurately and competitively. For clients, the benefit is more accurate production status as well as more accurate delivery dates.
Omnigo is still experiencing secondary effects from the worldwide economic collapse. It currently has a number of contracts pending which are being held back due to financial pressures in other sectors as well as rescheduling of contracts, revising of quantities and schedules to the total suspension of certain programmes indefinitely. The company believes that this will ease towards the end of this year and into the early part of next year.
BBBEE is still seen as a major challenge, specifically the fact that the new regulations are not being implemented homogeneously across the board. Onmigo also sees corruption in business as a serious problem, in that the supply of products and services does not reflect the quality that the contracted price reflects.
Lastly, the company is optimistic that despite the negative factors impacting the electronics industry, it will grow in the next 12 months. It is hopeful that exchange rates will remain stable at current levels and that inflation will not rise beyond the current band as this would impact on current wage negotiations.
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