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94 SMT Magazine • November 2016 Liu: The smart factory means the production can be adjusted by the equipment itself. Also, it must be flexible. When you get an order, it gets sent to the designer and the designer gives them the specs. All the information is sent to the different equipment. The equipment runs automatically and the material control is also very flexible and automatic. For the electronics industry, the smart factory must be very flexible with a high level of automation. Las Marias: You mentioned that you are focusing on the SMEs. Why is that? Liu: In China, the very big companies are rich enough, so they contact big name companies. SMEs have lesser capital. They want to use their limited money to improve their produc- tion level. They need more help and they need more free counsel—and that's what we want to do. Small and medium companies need to transform their operations into smart factories because the rules of the market have changed. Every user wants to use the equipment in their own way. They are always changing their re- quirements based on market demands. Man- ufacturers must follow these changes, so be- ing flexible is very important. For a big com- pany like Foxconn, which does mass production, there's no prob- lem. But in the future, the mar- ket will have more and more need for people working on individual products. There will still be a need for mass production from the big companies, but smaller compa- nies must focus on the low-vol- ume production. Las Marias: How will they justify their investments in transitioning to a smart factory? Liu: They need to consult first. They have to know what they want to do and what their pur- pose is. Initially, they will tell us what their purpose is and what they want to do. Then we can help them with the design and maybe give some lec- tures or seminars to let them know what they need to do, step by step. Different companies have different requirements and different pur- poses, so we develop different solutions. We teach them because small and medium compa- nies don't know what the smart factory should be; they just know they need to do this. Right now, EMS companies are competing in price. Lower and lower prices cannot make money, so they want to get more orders, not only PCBAs, but they hope to get orders from the design through the final product. But they are not an OEM, so maybe this week they hope to get an order for a memory disc. Maybe next week, they will get an order for laptops. The change is huge and happens very frequently. Small- and medium-sized manufacturers face this situation. For mass production, Foxconn doesn't have that problem because they might only focus on one product, for example the iPhone, but smaller companies change between orders very frequently. A friend of mine has an EMS company and he told me every week they get 30 customer orders made up of 380 different kinds of products. In one week! They are always changing between products. Las Marias: That's a big challenge. ACHIEVING THE SMART FACTORY VISION James Liu

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