Demands of the Day: The Critical Importance of Robust Traceability in Electronics Manufacturing

Manufacturing Insights Blog

By Carl Wurster, Solutions Engineer, Plex Systems

Today’s electronics and high-tech manufacturer faces an ever-increasing business imperative for robust product traceability.

From electronic manufacturing service (EMS) providers to PCB assembly, each link in the chain must comply with strict process and material traceability requirements that satisfy both customer traceability expectations and regulatory audits.

Proof Positive

Demand for product traceability is a key business issue faced by those manufacturers we consult with on a regular basis.

For example, we recently hosted an electronics manufacturing webinar – click here to access the on-demand webcast – with LNS Research President and Principal Analyst Matthew Littlefield. A live, interactive poll taken during the event revealed product traceability as a key business challenge for attending manufacturers. A recent “Roadmap” report generated by the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI) confirms the same:

There is a growing need for product traceability and product data reporting. This need is driven by increased concerns about counterfeit part... expanding environmental legislation banning “materials of concern,” which compels companies to require detailed product data attributes; plus requirements for OEMs to maintain traceability of critical bill of material components as well as the final product.

While avoiding product recalls is a key consideration, the regulatory environment compounds the pressure on manufacturers to implement robust traceability. Mandates such as the U.S. Restriction of Hazardous Substances legislation (RoHS) and the European Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) require comprehensive reporting, tracking and up-to-the-minute data capture.

Traceability Best Practices

The best approach for manufacturers is to ensure that traceability coverage begins with component production to PCB board assembly, covering the entire production lifecycle to fully track materials, machine and process. Traceability features must accommodate each manufacturer’s specific business needs, no matter how complex the manufacturing and assembly process.  

Key traceability best practices include the ability to:

  • Easily track Defects per Million Opportunities (DPMO) to identify failure points during high-speed PCB production.
  • Easily track product serialization and detailed product data through the entire process.
  • View component level traceability on a PCB (or finished product assembly) to track defects and failures in the field.
  • Tightly link quality and continuous improvement.
  • Access a real-time, complete traceability tree of complex component builds.
  • Generate complete traceability reporting documentation as mandated by OEMs, U.S. and international regulatory agencies.

What is critical is that the company completely tracks data about manufacturing, inspection, assembly, operations, quality, processes, materials and more, as events happen.