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Artificial intelligence provides transcendence for electronics manufacturing expansion

Attendees at Plug and Play Tech Center, connecting the largest corporations to the world's best startups through industry-focused accelerator programs in Silicon Valley and beyond, hear first-hand how one global EMS provider experienced real transformation using artificial intelligence.

Electronics OEMs and contract electronics solutions providers both strive for streamlining operations and indoctrinating manufacturing and supply chain, plus supporting functional department staff, with best practices.

The past 50 years of manufacturing have brought us to where manufacturers are today: OEMs, contract electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers, and original design manufacturers (ODM) each have processes and systems which can be seen in the assembly line, in total quality management (TQM) systems, Six Sigma, and LEAN, to name a few, that each save time while maintaining highest yields possible based on constraints.

These have helped form what is today the best practices which are followed in every modern manufacturing company globally. To remain competitive, OEMs and contract electronics solutions providers wanting to grow while building a sustainable business model must keep their eye on the future. “EMS providers must differentiate from the inside before it’s a visible trait or part of their DNA. Only then can the external value be presented to their customers or prospects: OEMs seeking evolutionary partners”, said Mark Swartz,founder and CEO of NEURAL Corporation.

Transcend and disrupt

In 2018 at the eSMART Factory Conference and at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley, one Neural customer presented the following transformation successes to live event attendees.

“We met with several technical consultancies, including IBM Watson, which could help with incremental change and perhaps provide some opportunities. Each of these had a common approach and similar opportunity compared to the others. None of these proposals would make the impact necessary to transcend and provide us with the resource improvements for our planned expansion. We then met with Neural Corporation, a Silicon Valley startup which was founded based on the early use of machine learning through technical universities in Europe and Asia. Neural beat them all on capabilities, cost, and time”, said one Neural customer, an EVP in a global, top 50 EMS provider with $1 billion in revenues.

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“Neural was solving problems which reduce ‘networks’ where human-to-human transactions caused delays and where time constraints are leading to costly processes. With Neural’s depth in business consulting, machine learning, and artificial intelligence they became the most opportune relationship for us.”

But all manufacturers must consider challenges beyond their four walls. End-market customers OEMs (and OEM customers of contract electronics solutions providers) also face complex challenges in forecasting, dealing with supply chain concerns and the distribution of key materials that their customers’ products require.

“With Neural, we integrated into our systems, a manpower automation solution which could help in indirect labor and lend some hand in production. We wanted to automate the indirect labor functions over a period with the end goal of maturing into a 50/50 machine-to-human task force. This would allow us to maintain a “mentor” role over the systems while having an unlimited workforce on call.”

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Every manufacturer should be thinking more about where you need to be in two, five, ten years, and consider ways to leapfrog your nearest competitors and future competitors. As a manufacturer, do you do what others are doing and make incremental improvements and follow a classic path? Or should you look further ahead and consider what manufacturing of the future would work and transact like?

“We know that today, and future products our clients will demand, are becoming ever more design savvy with intricate and custom-fabrication methods and materials. From diagnostics equipment through to the most advanced automotive systems, we could see what was needed to outpace our competitors while providing no decrease in quality”, said an EMS executive, and Neural customer, responsible for the Americas.

Discovery, plan, define, design, deploy, improve

This Neural client used the platform’s surrogates to ultimately create a hybrid-staff with a growing ratio of machine-to-human counterparts.

“We looked inward at the business and painstakingly, with Neural’s guidance, reviewed all our activities down to each, individual task to discover what could be done. We looked at and identified many ways to decrease waste while improving the overall functions of the departments during our planned growth. We focused on two major areas, production and the costly indirect labor functions which support the entire business”, cited the same EVP.

For this client, Neural targeted the entire portion of the business where a cluster of sensitive ‘networks’ caused the most challenge for manufacturing, plus networks which would also provide the client more direct value to their customers’ programs. These ‘networks’ are common to all manufacturers and notable when OEMs and EMS/ODM firms understand the processes which they oversee.

“Neural helped us classify these as major nervous systems which must be working in concert with the highest communication possible to truly support the programs which they support. We undertook an extensive planning and testing-to-pilot phase where Neural helped us to also find the best fit into our live systems, splicing into workflows without disruption to any program while making an elegant presentation to the board and all stakeholders that artificial intelligence does transform.”

Using Neural’s proprietary methodologies, clients can bring portions of the artificial intelligence online by a unique method, in essence weaving each (surrogate) into the daily routines of a current team member. This overlap provides zero ability to lose even one second of productivity. This is done on-site at the client’s location.

Transformation and real differentiation

“We targeted chunks of the network, as identified by Neural, then followed their system deployment processes to maintain quality adherence. Our transformation leveraged Neural’s advanced onboarding concepts where we operate like a startup within our own company consuming the processes and surrogates internally via Smith (SM) the name for the artificial intelligence to maintain control during Neural’s apprentice-to-mentor model,” stated the EMS EVP.

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Neural’s proprietary methods and strategies allow clients to have the lowest change causality while exhibiting the most immediate impact at each step.

“Functional roles in our organization which had undergone initial Neural changes ranged from document control to sourcing, buying and planning. Neural then lead us into other, supportive intelligence which could then directly help our program management, forecasting plus, our customers’ own programs and product teams”, the customer added.

“We set out to increase our workforce, save time on human processes, and decrease human-to-human networks which would allow us the endless capacity and increased communication speed which were previously staffed by human-based roles. Smith provided us value in directly realizing time equivalents of hundreds of man-hours. As Smith trained it evolved and took on additional duties and solved more problems than we imagined.”




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