BY MARK LAING, SIEMENS DIGITAL INDUSTRIES SOFTWARE
Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) companies face challenges every day to accurately and quickly provide quotes to their customers. They must generate quotes they may not necessarily be going to win; but the risk is, if they don’t participate in the bidding process, they might not be included the next time around. This dynamic within the industry makes it challenging to compete and keep a viable business going.
The data from which the quotes are based can be a singleBill Of Material (BOM) and sometimes static Gerber files. With these data sources, it’s difficult to know how accurate that information is
from the start. If there are inaccuracies in just one of the files supplied from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), inconsistencies get built in,
especially if there’s multiple files. The data also may be incomplete. This makes it challenging to reliably create accurate and timely quotes based on the given infor- mation from an OEM customer.
Then, there’s the challenge of sourc- ing materials from the supply chain. Knowing what something is going to cost, what materials are needed to buy, whom to buy it from, and how much is going to be needed is difficult if the Request For Quote (RFQ) data is inac- curate or incomplete. The materials of
the quotation will be approximately 70% of the overall cost. Timing adds another challenge on top of translating the data and sourcing materials when the EMS doesn’t know exactly when or if it’s going to be needed.
Because of the broad spectrum of files that OEMs generate, there is no standard BOM. They are typically formatted for a human to read which is different than the format a software program needs to read. This means that the information cannot be set up in an easily repeatable way. It can’t just be dropped into a spreadsheet. This is especially true of Approval Vendor List or AVL, information. Given that having
How to Speed Up PCB Manufacturing Job Quotes
- Siemens BOM Connector makes it easy to price different scenarios, locations, and labor rates, decide between ICT or flying probe test, recognize whether it’s an NPI or previous project, and compare shipping methods.
a good list of alternative parts helps the part acquisition process, this AVL data is increasingly critical.
Also, when working with an OEM- approved vendor list, it’s critical to know the actual manufacturer name and part number. This is particularly important for medical or mission-critical products where it must be specifically those ven- dors or those parts, with no alternatives or substitutes allowed.
Effects of the supply chain crisis
In recent years, global movement of supplies was affected dramatically by public health and geopolitical events, as well as environmental concerns. These are issues that appear to not be going away any time soon; and they could get worse, with the ongoing war in Ukraine and escalating tensions with China, environmental catastrophes, and the rising cost of transport.
These supply-chain issues affect a manufacturer’s ability to understand where alternative parts are available from. For example, if a component that needs to be included in a quote might
be discontinued in the future or there might be a six-month lead time when it’s needed in the next few weeks to build a particular product.
Less time, more accuracy
For accuracy, the contents of the BOM need to be well- understood because this is the primary source of information that drives the quotation.
have a shorter lead time for the infor- mation from a supply chain. This can be achieved in two ways: first, knowing whether the part may be in inventory and not need to be purchased; and
second, having information available via a direct connection to a supplier.
Electronics manufacturing quotations need to be timely and accurate. Either of these two will not be acceptable, both are necessary. For accuracy, the contents of the BOM need to be well-understood because this is the primary source of information that drives the quotation.
Typically, EMS providers use a spreadsheet application that is combined with macros or automation to extract the important data needed to obtain pricing information on those parts. They email suppliers based on the extracted data. The suppliers’ responses with the pricing information are then aggregated. Whether or not the necessary part numbers can be obtained from the BOM fundamentally affects pricing accuracy. Reliance on email and manual response times from suppliers slows down the time it takes to submit a quote.
Furthermore, because of the challenges in connecting the customer’s BOM with the manufacturer’s inventory, parts are typically purchased that were already in storage, the manufacturer just didn’t know it. We will hear shortly in this article, firsthand, from one such manufacturer on these challenges that they experienced.
Manual processes that slow down supply chains can be sped up with automation. Automatic RFQ and DFM processes enables an EMS company to provide clients with accurate quotes within seconds, rather than days or weeks. Manual and semi-automated solutions are not fast enough or accurate enough to deliver accuracy that quickly.
Fully automated, intelligent software knows the structure of a BOM and how to extract the pertinent data held within it. It understands the unique characteristics of reference designators, customer part numbers, manufacturer names and part numbers, and the relationships between them. An automated system allows manufacturers to use templates and save the imported settings so that they can be reused. This speeds up importing future BOM files and improves their accuracy.
The solution connects to the man- ufacturer’s ERP system and provides many ways to determine if the parts are on hand in sufficient quantities for the project. Exact matching of manufac- turer part numbers is easy. It supports fault-tolerant searches, smart searches, and alternate parts, looking to find as many parts as possible that are already sitting in inventory. Being able to save those connections so that they can be used again from the same customer improves future accuracy and reduces overall quoting time.
Of course, the software should be able to find prices for parts that are not in inventory. Connection to the component supplier’s web portal allows automated extraction of prices, lead times, and stock levels, as well as alternative parts. A fully automated solution can perform these queries much faster than manual methods.
Finally, a small number of parts will need to go through some form of RFQ process but being able to quickly create an email with an attached spreadsheet file that can be easily updated by the supplier, saved and returned, and then imported directly saves significant amounts of time. It also makes the quot- ing easier for the supplier, which means that they may potentially lift the priority of that request over ones that require much more effort.
The solution connects to the manufacturer’s ERP system and provides many ways to determine if the parts are on hand in sufficient quantities for the project.
Let’s see how one EMS company took advantage of such an automated solution to improve both the timing and accuracy of their quoting process. Headquartered in Pretoria, South Africa, Omnigo is
an Electronics Contract Manufacturer (ECM), providing Printed Circuit Board Assemblies (PCBAs) and turnkey project services to telecom, mining, and defense companies. They were looking for ways to improve the RFQ response times.
“We have always used a manual, spreadsheet-based process for providing quotes,” explained Marius Nel, director of operations. “It worked well, but with the advent of Covid and the turmoil it created
in the electronic component market, we realized that we needed to look at alter- native methods to become nimbler and adapt to an ever-changing environment.
“We imported our clients’ bill-of-materials into spreadsheets and sent email requests to our suppliers. Once all the responses were received from our suppliers, we consolidated them into a master spreadsheet.
Components would then be manually selected according to cost and/or lead time considerations, and a quote would then be sent to the client. Once an order was received from a client, it went through a ’scrubbing’ process to validate the information and import the BOM into our ERP system.”
Turnaround times were long because of their manual quotation process.
They also had technical and cost cal- culation gaps due because validation of the BOM would only take place once an order was received.
“We began to search for a solution that would improve both quotation turnaround times and accuracy. Siemens Valor BOM Connector was the best fit,” said Nel. “With this solution, materials data can be imported directly into the platform and information is validated
immediately, improving performance and accuracy.”
Quotes can be imported directly through supplier APIs. Once an order is received from a client, they simply export the relevant information and import it directly into their ERP system. “We’ve reduced our average RFQturnaround time,” Nel said. “Much of the improvement is due to our ability to instantly process supplier quotations