Six habits to develop successful electronic products

With this post we start a series of articles related to the development of electronic products. We will address aspects such as resource optimization, risk mitigation, situations to consider, etc. to bring your product to market on time and with the quality and cost commitments set.

 

The importance of electronic design

Without a doubt, the development of an electronic product, no matter how simple it may seem, is not trivial at all. There are several considerations that must be taken into account and many dangers that can end up ruining the initial approach.

An electronic product is the result of the joint work of various disciplines (electronics, mechanics, embedded software, cloud platform, etc.) and the intervention of various actors (material suppliers, PCB manufacturers and assemblers, mold makers and injectors, testing laboratories). certification, etc.) that must cooperate in a coordinated manner with the ultimate aim of placing the initially conceived electronic product on the market.

Of all these aspects and agents to take into consideration, today we wanted to talk to you in particular about 6 habits related to the electronic design part carried out by companies that manage to meet their budget and quality objectives, as well as deadlines and execution times of the development of its products.

First of all, it should be noted that, on average, for an electromechanical product consisting of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and a mechanical enclosure, the cost of the electronic board in the final unit production cost of the equipment it is around 40%, and it is also usually around 40% of the total product development budget.

These numbers indicate that companies cannot afford to underestimate the importance of electronic design. Therefore, it is key to ensure that the manufacture and assembly of components on PCBs will be reliable and as expected. Any other situation will incur quality problems and delays that will place the investment in the project at serious risk.

In addition, although it is true that most companies tend to be primarily concerned with project execution times, followed by development costs and recurrent costs of the final product, the truth is that many companies see in the quality and final reliability of its products the main competitive advantage with respect to the rest of the products on the market, since it allows them to compete in the value offered without sacrificing profit margins.

This again highlights the importance of product manufacturing to ensure that any quality problems are detected in time and eliminated before the problems become more pronounced.

calidad PCB electrónica

The main habits to keep in mind

Therefore, and under these premises, we are going to quote below the 6 most valuable habits in the execution of the electronic part of a product and that well end up having their value and weight in the total of the manufactured product:

  1. In the first place, it is vitally important to involve the manufacturing agents in the early phases of the design process , both to learn about their capabilities and to analyze all the risks that exist and proceed to mitigate them in the design. In turn, this will allow you to increase the expertise and know-how of the engineering part in charge of designing the equipment. Only in this way will you be able to anticipate possible unforeseen events and facilitate industrialization, reducing the risk of delays due to late discovery of manufacturing problems or those manufacturers who promised that they would be able to make your product a reality, but who ultimately cannot produce it as designed.
  2. Related to the previous point, another key habit is to streamline the transfer of skills from the design phase to the manufacturing phase. If there has been a constant flow of information and fluid communication between both parties, there should be no inconveniences or problems at this point and the industrialization phase should move quickly. This, which may seem like a simple task if all the agents have been involved from the beginning, can take a long time otherwise and suppose a severe reschedule of the project.
  3. An important technological habit is to always use comprehensive data formats that contain all the information necessary for the manufacture and assembly of PCBs. In the end, there are quite a few files and documents to exchange when manufacturing takes place:
      • Drawings and schematics of the design
      • Bill Of Materials
      • Specifications and specific application notes
      • Surface Finishes and Test guidelines
      • Programming files of the machines responsible for manufacturing and assembling electronics, etc.

If there are also different variants of the product, the volume of information can grow rapidly. In this sense, the use of a comprehensive data format such as ODB++ or IPC-2581 allows all the aspects necessary for manufacturing and assembly to be brought together in a single intelligent file, thus avoiding dealing with a large number of files and their corresponding versions.

In addition, this type of documentation minimizes human errors when interpreting and manipulating the documentation, which can pose a risk to the quality and integrity of the data. In short, you will be able to meet the objectives of Time-To-Market, cost and quality more consistently than your competitors.

  1. Focusing on continuous improvement processes allows you to learn from your past mistakes to avoid future delays. The key is to allow the engineering team to have access to manufacturing information and past experiences to accelerate decision making towards a better design. The more knowledge you have of the different phases of the product lifecycle, the better you can anticipate all the considerations to take into account.
  2. Another good practice to overcome the problems that may arise in production is to keep track of and record all those aspects that contribute to the production of waste and residues in the factory , as well as rework activities. This allows you to identify practices that can potentially waste your time and money, and thus analyze the best way to optimize them.

    Likewise, carrying out an estimate of the production costs during the design phase allows the engineering team to consider at all times the different design possibilities that allow the equipment to be produced at the estimated prices and thus avoid cost overruns. Being aware of production costs allows the engineer to keep in mind the commitment to cost optimization without compromising quality.

  3. Finally, one last aspect to deal with is the subject of Intellectual Property (IP). Many times there is a fear of sharing key aspects of the design with third parties, even if they are trusted partners, for fear that they may take full control of the IP. In order to be able to operate with peace of mind, it is convenient here to limit the data that is shared with third parties to specific subsets of the product. In this way we ensure that suppliers do not have access to all the design information, only to what is strictly necessary to proceed with their work. This undoubtedly helps to mitigate the risks derived from exploiting trade secrets or the IP of your product, as well as encountering unexpected problems or litigation derived from an infringement of intellectual property that could alter the marketability of your product.

Conclusions

In summary, we can indicate that businesses that are built on the aforementioned pillars are more likely to be successful in launching their products, achieving a better Time-To-Market, adjusting to the planned costs for the product and achieving the quality objectives.

In a globalized world as competitive as the current one, the small details end up making the difference. So now you know, do not miss the opportunity and apply these 6 basic principles in the execution of your next product.

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