OEM electronics manufacturing involves maintaining a delicate balance: offering as much flexibility as possible without compromising production efficiency. To meet the growing demand for made-to-order products with ever-shortening product life cycles, any way a process can be streamlined to increase efficiency is potentially very valuable. Lately, one way the industry has managed to increase both is through high-mix, flexible-volume manufacturing revolving around a mixed-model assembly solution. Originally developed to tackle problems created by rapid line changeovers, mixed-model assembly entails grouping products that share a number of similarities, including processes, materials, and work content. This ultimately boosts profit margins because it focuses on meeting client requirements in a timely manner.
The most efficient high-mix, flexible-volume manufacturing system makes use of both automated and manual technologies to optimize each step of the process. Flexibility is particularly necessary in manufacturing environments that assemble products with wide variations. Many modern manufacturing facilities produce a wide range of products for their OEM clients. To accommodate many different variations of the same product without compromising efficiency, assembly lines have come to rely on mixed-model assembly. The mixed-model formula best fits an environment where the degree of product variation is high. This means that the assembly line has up to thousands of option combinations available for a product, including any specific client customizations. In mixed-model assembly, many different variations of a product are produced on one assembly line without the need for time-consuming changeovers. The end result of mixed-model assembly is more streamlined operations overall, as well as reduced inventory and streamlined layouts of assembly lines.
Mixed-Model Assembly Meets Demand
The flexibility to accommodate multiple variations of products requires strategy and careful planning. It’s not uncommon for offshoring or reshoring to play a primary role in a company’s strategic plan. Many leaders in the manufacturing industry agree that offshoring is the best option for high-volume, repetitive assembly processes, while less-repetitive, low-volume work is often best kept in the U.S. Mass customization often makes it virtually impossible to manufacture products cost-effectively. Most often, it’s more cost beneficial to offshore manufacturing in order to give clients the manufacturing flexibility they need. If everything were done here in the U.S., manufacturers would have to import all of the materials needed to be able to offer the variety of options and customizations to which clients are becoming accustomed. With build-to-order products rapidly becoming the norm, manufacturers must remain flexible enough to recognize when it makes sense to offshore or reshore their production operations to keep a competitive edge in the industry.
Regardless of location or product manufactured, all mixed-model lines share a number of similarities, such as flexible design to accommodate a variety of models and customizations. Some models might require different tools or labor tasks than others. Yet most mixed-model lines are equipped to handle the production of many different products. Materials to create the products are always kept adjacent to assembly lines, though typically in smaller quantities. This cuts down on overall production time. Line workers are trained in many different tasks for each product. Each worker knows what process to follow no matter what product is on the line. Sequencing assists in balancing workloads so stations don’t become overloaded or bottlenecked. In order for a mixed-model assembly line to be most successful, it should follow 5 particular guidelines:
- Groups of products are well defined
- Each product should have well-documented standard work definitions
- Training and cross-training line employees should be a priority and are often carried out by team leaders or supervisors
- Sequencing rules and production schedules should be fully developed to optimize the variation of products being manufactured at any given time
- Line operators should always be engaged in operating and improving their assigned line
We’ve established the benefits of mixed-model assembly lines, how producing a variety of product variations in relatively shorter time leads to higher profit potential compared to more rigid traditional production methods. Not only does this model save time and money, but mixed-model assembly also makes it easier for manufacturers to meet client demands for more control over every aspect of their products.
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We contribute our 40 years of design and manufacturing expertise spanning multiple diverse markets, and we look forward to discussing how we can deliver world-class products for OEMs across the globe. We understand our home India market, familiar with its vast regulatory and selling environments. We foster growth opportunities within India through our strong technology incubation ecosystem. We also assist global OEMs seeking to enter the India market by leveraging the local supply chain and favorable operating environments for cost reductions.
Our flagship Chennai location opened in 2006 and lies within a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for electronics manufacturing, offering economic incentives for imports and exports. This primary facility is within 90 minutes of the Chennai seaport and 20 minutes to the international airport, with additional road and rail, connectivity linking to the rest of India and beyond, as well as infrastructure advantages with faster import and export clearances. We also have labor force availability, both technical and manual, to rapidly scale to client demand.
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