Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services


A local supplier considers the true costs of cross-out PCBs

27 June 2007 Manufacturing / Production Technology, Hardware & Services

Manufacturers of electronic equipment all know the nuisance value of crossed-out PC boards on multiple unit panels, but do they know the true cost of these defects in the manufacturing process?

South African PCB supplier, Cirtech Electronics, has studied the impact of cross-outs on the industry and has drawn some compelling conclusions that are not always evident to manufacturers of finished items.

Elroy Arendse of Cirtech Electronics displays an example of a PC board with multiple cross-outs, as is frequently supplied to South African manufacturers via the import market
Elroy Arendse of Cirtech Electronics displays an example of a PC board with multiple cross-outs, as is frequently supplied to South African manufacturers via the import market

According to the company's technical director, Geoff Oliver, there are several areas that are negatively impacted by cross-outs. "On worldwide average, 15% of panels per batch manufactured will be crossed out," he said. "This leads to huge losses in people-hours, process efficiency, wastage of materials, common mistakes and inconsistency in manufacture, all of which cost the industry dearly. In a country where productivity is of vital significance in remaining globally competitive, this matter should be of the utmost concern to all manufacturers."

According to Oliver, the reason that PCB manufacturers release panels with large numbers of cross-out boards is that it is still cheaper for them to compensate by manufacturing up to 20% more units than to segregate, discard and replace 20% of the batch.

The Cirtech Electronics analysis of the situation suggests that the major impacts of cross-outs on PC boards are:

1. Additional working time is required to count individual boards received in order to verify quantities in line with delivery notes.

2. Longer production times and lowered efficiency due to setting up machines to avoid cross-out panels in differing positions per batch.

3. Wastage of qualified technician's time in resolving problems after components have been placed onto defective PCBs.

4. Since it is not viable to apply solder paste selectively to individual board units on a multiple unit panel, manufacturers are compelled to apply solder paste across the full panel, including the cross-out modules. On certain panels there can be as many as 25% cross-outs per panel, so wastage of good components and solder paste can run as high as 25%.

5. The accidental use of cross-out boards in full manufacturing process also occurs due to illegible or faded markings. This means a 15% drop in productivity in addition to avoidable wastage of other components.

"And it does not end there when you consider the full costing of defective boards". Oliver mentions such additional upstream costs as freight or transportation, where defective boards take up space and add mass to a delivery. "Plus there are the delays in delivery to the client, caused by additional product acceptance checks and repacking of boards. Why accept cross-outs if there is a better alternative?" he asked.

Certain manufacturers such as Cirtech Electronics supply PCBs that are free of cross-outs. Guaranteed X-Free boards are available from Cirtech Electronics in Cape Town and can be shipped anywhere in the country with short delivery times. The company recently launched its Circuit Express product range, where prototypes of single, double and multiple layered boards can swiftly be manufactured to meet the user's deadlines, sometimes within the day.



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