Q. Could you tell us about your company?
A. Reliant EDS is an EMS (electronics manufacturing services) company, which involves itself in PCB Designing, Manufacturing, and Assembly. We started off as a PCB Design company in the year 2005 and in the year 2011, we started providing complete services in PCB layout, PCB Bare-board Fabrication and PCB Assembly work.
Q. Do you handle all these operations in-house?
A. For PCB Manufacturing, we have developed an integrated global supply chain by having our company network stabled in Hong Kong, from where we are procuring our PCB Blanks. As far as PCB Design and Assembly is concerned, we are completely doing it in-house in India. We are providing high speed PCB design work using tools from Zuken Redac, Cadence and Pads. We are also probably the only PCB design service company in India to offer Layout work on CR5000.
Q. Different sectors have different requirements. What kind of challenges do you face often?
A. PCB Manufacturing faces a host of challenges. If PCB Design, Fabrication and Assembly are considered, they may sound as three totally independent business units but all of them are closely linked. If manufacturing is considered, being a design house allows inspection of any possible problem during manufacturing. These can be done during a complete analysis like acid trash and possibility of cross-talk between different signals which are going through the PCB. There can be manufacturing issues like an incorrect placement done on the board. So ultimately once the board is manufactured, good yield is obtained and the finished product has a longer life. Hence, manufacturing wise, cost is low. These things help the customer and we are able to lower the cost, increase reliability, and yield. Being an integrated company really helps the customer and us.
Q. Could you talk about a technical challenge that you faced recently and how you managed to solve it?
A. Technical challenges are plenty in this field. We are generally not into energy meters and consumer electronics. Consider PCB assembly where we are essentially targeting the higher end segments like Telecom, Defence and Medical sectors. So the biggest challenge we have in the Defence or Telecom Sector is dealing with huge varieties of components on the board and while assembling, an adequate solder profile should be provided. An adequate solder profile is one in which we ensure that a correct solder bond is formed between the component and PCB. For this, the correct on-board temperature must be achieved and temperature variations should be minimised because of different types of components on the board. We are also giving a lot of stress on giving the correct temperature profile to a board, which results in close to 100 per cent, even for the most complex board.
Q. So what do you have to go through to get the right profile for a board?
A. To make such kind of a board with the right profile, the time spent ranges from 2 hours upto 3 days. By temperature profile, I mean increasing the temperature from a particular level (which is room temperature) to a particular maximum temperature, which is specified in the assembly guidelines of the component. Consider a big board of dimensions 200mmX200mm where there are temperature variations across the board because of the different types of components. So a way has to be found to balance it in a manner that solderability of different components is not compromised and also right results are achieved. We are looking at 3 things in our business which is customer satisfaction, 100 per cent repeat business from the existing customers and setting up a bench mark in the industry.
Q. How do you improve reliability in your manufacturing?
A. Reliability starts from the time the board manufacturing starts. Quality and Reliability is not doing a final QC in the end. It means quality has to be in built into the product right from the time the manufacturing process starts. For example, quality in a car is not defined by the sound of an engine or gloss of the paint, but by how a car runs over a long period of time. So in the same way when we are doing the assembly, we use the best of the raw materials. In fact we use solder paste from America, which is approved by companies like Nokia, Lockheed Martin and all the Defence companies. We follow strict guidelines related to exposure time of the paste to the atmosphere and time elapsed since it has been printed on the board, so that it could be used up in re-flow. Quality has to be maintained right from the first process. We manage quality by the means of strictly defined processes and having an auditor at each level, wherein a process is audited and signed up by an auditor and only then the process moves to the next stage. First, a complete documentation is provided.
Consider a problem attributed to assembly. We are able to trace back on each process and see what process was followed and hence we are able to do a complete cause and effect analysis for any problem that may have happened. So quality is not just trying to give the best product, which looks or feels the best, it’s about making a product which is robust and stable. In case there is a problem in the product, then we try to identify where the problem occurred and take corrective action. Having a complete documentation and sharing it with the customers and component manufacturers to find out where the problems are and to be able to come out with the right product is what we believe in.
Q. What is your company’s USP?
A. Our company’s USP is giving the right product to the customer at the right time and right cost. There is no concept of low cost or high cost. Consider 10 kits where each kit is woth 3 lacs. The question is if I am charging a customer ‘X’ amount and any other supplier is charging ‘X-deltaX’ but he gives a lesser yield, the customer loses more amount in the component cost rather than the bare board and the assembly cost. So the question here is that each board has to arrive at the right costing and each board has to be given right the first time.
While doing an NPI board or Defence/Telecom Board, it has more than 2000 components so even if a small mistake is accidentally made like instead of one resistor you put another resistor, it will take at least a month for the customer to debug and find out whether the problem is in the component, board, circuit or assembly. It becomes practically impossible for a customer to find out. Currently through our processes, the customer will find no problem as far as the bare board and the assembly is concerned.
Q. Could you give us an idea how your industry is evolving with respect to the technology used?
A. Seeing electronics as a sector, the first place where electronics is evolving is everything is miniaturisation. Be it a cell phone or anything, things are becoming more complex. New components and technologies are coming up very frequently. The demands of the end-customers are increasing. Reliability has to be high. So the kind of machines that we have in our company is from Europe, Sweden and Britain. They are top of the line and undisputed in the world and they are machines that are capable of handling load for the next 8 -10 years as we see the technology growing.
Q. Is there any evolution in your manufacturing equipment?
A. When we define electronics manufacturing, then there are basically 2 categories of machines, which are available in the market. One is basically from the Japanese, which are more pneumatic and second is from European, which are more electronic.
Q. So how are these machines improving in each generation?
A. Consider pneumatic machines where everything moves on a belt. But when there is something which is electronic and magnetic, there is no belt involved. When there is no belt involved, it means there is no elasticity (elasticity, here, means any physical component coming back to its own shape after any thermal stress or pressure is applied to it). But if it is pneumatic in nature, then after a certain point of time, there will be a certain element of play, which will get in-built into the machinery. When elasticity does not come into picture, accuracy is available to the manufacturer over a long period of time. Also, earlier people were working on 1sigma, 3sigma but now people are working on 6sigma accuracy and micron level.
Q. According to you, what are the customer requirements usually?
A. This is a challenge because sometimes even the customers is not sure of their exact requirements. For example, a customer may give components which are ROHS Compliant but he might want to sell his products in India w/o ROHS Compliant. So we proceed with non-ROHS process. But at the end of the day, if a component is ROHS and a non-ROHS process is followed, then there is a total mismatch between the two. These discussions are important where we sort it out with the customer. The customer also shares his inputs. So it is more like a mutual discussion and building a new product to ensure that it is launched successfully into the market.
Q. Do you deal with BGA devices also? If yes, could you provide us with some details regarding them?
A. Yes, we deal with BGA devices also. We use different techniques during PCB Designing to minimise the PCB Board complexity. During soldering, we use the latest Type 4 Solder Paste, coupled with our Best In Class Infrastructure ensuring excellent BGA Assembly results.
*A ball grid array (BGA) is a type of surface-mount packaging used for integrated circuits. BGA packages are used to permanently mount devices such as microprocessors.
Q. What are the software design tools that you utilise?
A. We use licensed copies as a lot of the companies these days use unlicensed copies. We are closely linked with Zuken. We use Zuken tools like Cadstar and CR-5000. We also use Cadence Allegro and Mentor Graphics Cards. Apart from that, for signal integrity we use Cadstar Signal Integrity SI verifier and we use Signal integrity tools from Zuken.
Q. What are the marketing strategies that you use?
A. We focus more on customer attention. 90 per cent of our business is repeated business. It is not the question of going and selling but it’s the quality of work that makes our marketing easy. The risk involved in such kind of work is huge. Today if I am doing some work for my customer and I am doing it correctly, then there is absolutely no reason for my customer to shift to anybody else. In case you are not delivering to the customer then the customer will shift very quickly.
Q. Is there something else in your field that you want to share? Anything that you think the media has not covered properly?
A. Media is playing a role in terms of making us aware of the new technologies through Internet and print media. The reason why we were able to make decisions with regard to setting up the plant is because the only information that we had was by the means of reports published in the media. So, the media is playing an important role not just in terms of what is happening in the industry, but also development of EMS sector in the country. It also helps in making the Indian manufacturers aware of what is happening around the world, what are the new principles of manufacturing, and new technologies across the world that are being implemented. So this helps our company, as the machines which we have bought hardly have any presence in India but the advantage that we had in getting information about this machine was that today we are competing with companies in the US.
Q. According to you, what demarcates Reliant EDS from other companies in the PCB field?
A. Reliant is probably one of the very few companies in India which has been able to integrate PCB Design / PCB Manufacturing and PCB Assembly under one roof. We use our know-how in all the 3 spheres to ensure a high quality product is delivered to our clients.