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Machine data integration for automated traceability & process control

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SMT and semiconductor backend equipment manufacturers are well aware of the benefits of integrating their machines to form a cohesive and automated SMT line. However, many companies have not been able to take full advantage of these benefits because they lack a clear understanding of how to properly integrate and leverage machine data.

Let's dive into the details of machine data integration on how it enables automated traceability and process control.

  1. What is Machine Data Integration?
  2. Why should you consider integrating machines?
  3. How to best approach machine data integration?
  4. Benefits of machine integration

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What is Machine Data Integration?

Machine data integration is connecting and collecting of real-time data generated by machines, into a centralized networked system.  

Integration often uses machine based APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), whereby the machine data consists of request and response data sent across the network, such as a board entry or exit events.  API data is transmitted in various formats with particular rules, called Protocols, such as

For older legacy machines, data is written to files that can be picked up via network transfer processes, with some of the most common data formats being

For machines that do not generate data, off-the-shelf IoT devices can be used to measure and send power, voltage, current, temperature, humidity, and vibrational data.  

Machine data integration can be done for almost any SMT, semiconductor, and robotics system (automated machines).

From die bonders, laser etchers, air showers, conveyors, solder printers, mounters, AOI, AXI, reflow ovens, through backend test and even manual work stations using a barcode scanner and/or torque wrenches.  The ability to integrate machine data has never been more accessible.

Why should you consider integrating machines?

Machine data integration enables not only the ability to monitor and manage machines, but the ability to monitor the health and status of the entire production line.  A digitized view of exactly what is happening on the factory line at any point in time. 

This dramatically reduces the costs of manual data entry and manual process control, all of which are prone to significant human error, and often the direct and indirect cause of downtime and bad planning decisions.

When machines are properly integrated, data can be shared in real-time, which allows for better coordination and decision-making throughout the production process. This, in turn, leads to increased efficiency and productivity as well as improved quality.   

This is a powerful means to maintain competitiveness and responsiveness, and manage the demands of today's complex electronics supply chain.

How to best approach machine data integration?

There are a few things to consider when planning to integrate machine data. First, understand the existing capabilities and limitations of each type of machine, as well as what options you have for upgrading for better connectivity.  Ensure you are working with an integration vendor that has strong technical knowledge and experience working with data generated by these machines.

Second, it is necessary to identify all the different connection technologies to be supported on the production line in order to connect the targeted machines.  Both physical connectivity and network security need to be clearly understood.    Older machines often cannot be connected to a corporate network due to software security risks.  Ensure the integration vendor knows how to work around this, in simple cost-effective ways, such as isolating a high risk network using a secure port forwarding router, and other standard IT approaches.

Third, it is important to have established and clearly documented communication protocols per each machine model.  The integration team must have the ability to integrate with machines that have both standard protocols and their own custom protocols, using REST, SOAP and WebSocket technologies. 

And fourth, it is essential to develop a comprehensive testing and validation plan.  The machine data integration solution must provide the factory with the ability to self-manage and monitor. 

Benefits of machine integration

Now that we understand what machine data integration is, and how to implement, let's look at key benefits.

1. Automated traceability (EDHR)

One of the top benefits of machine integration is automated traceability.  This information generates a digital device history record, which addresses the growing compliance requirements of today's modern supply chains.  When machines are properly integrated, it is possible to track and log the movement of materials, product and labor throughout the manufacturing process.   Having this product traceability from start to finish, is a value that cannot be overstated in today's manufacturing industries.

2. Process control

Machine data integration results in the ability to improve process control. This real-time data allows for better coordination and decision-making throughout the manufacturing process as events happen.  Event data can be modeled after the fact, providing insights into how to predict and avoid downtime.  This in turn, leads to the enablement of automated process control, a key element of Industry 4.0.

3. Reduced costs

Integrating machine data can also help to reduce labor costs, maintenance, downtime and inventory scrap loss.  When machine data is collected, there is no need for manual data entry.  This data will provide insights on frequency of downtime and unplanned maintenance, and what are the contributing variables .  Inventory scrap rates across product, time of day and other factors, such as change over can be better managed.  This will lead to significant unit cost savings and greater overall margins.

4. Remove the need for 3rd party software

By integrating the various machine sources of data, the need for costly (and frankly completely unnecessary) upgrades to machine software is removed.   This also eliminates the need for multiple instances of 3rd party software, which can be expensive, difficult to use, and represents many points of failure in a connected factory. 

A data integration solution that maps to existing machine data formats and protocols will accelerate the factory's ability to turn on real-time data.

5. Increased efficiency and productivity

Integrating machine data will also lead to increased efficiency and productivity.  The sharing of data across the production line in real-time allows for better coordination and decision-making throughout the manufacturing process (fewer points of human error). This directly leads to increased efficiency and productivity.

6. Improved quality

Integrating machine data will help drive improved quality.  Real-time data reporting can address if upstream processes are causing downstream yield issues.  For example, monitoring AOI failures with respect to solder printer and mounter settings and tooling, can yield immediate insights and correlations.  The same can be applied with functional or in-circuit tester data, in order to correlate against supplier components, operator training, and many other factors.  

This in turn provides supporting data for process improvements, as opposed to relying on changes done by trial and error.  By automating machine data collection, a wealth of defect information is available that can be leveraged to improve product quality.  And ultimately enables the factory to automate quality monitoring and control.

7. Comprehensive testing and validation

Finally, it is important to invest in a comprehensive testing and validation plan when integrating machine data. By taking the time to test and validate the system, companies can ensure that their factory line is running at its optimal performance.

Machine integration can be a complex process, but the benefits become exponential. By taking the time to understand the capabilities and limitations of each machine, determining the right way to connect them, and establishing clear achievable goals, companies can reap the rewards of increased efficiency, productivity, and quality. 

Guidance for Better Manufacturing Operations

Direct connectivity to machines using a single solution to handle different data formats, protocols, and structures is the key to unlocking the power of Industry 4.0 and IoT for your business. Machine integration is the first step toward taking full advantage of these technologies.

Intraratio can help you discover the power of MES and yield management systems for your manufacturing process. Arrange now to speak with an MES expert who can guide you through the ins and outs of the right advanced solution for your manufacturing operation.

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