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NOVEMBER 2020 I SMT007 MAGAZINE 9 Nolan Johnson is managing editor of SMT007 Magazine. Nolan brings 30 years of career experience focused almost entirely on electronics design and manufacturing. To contact Johnson, click here. importance and sophistication, especially with the advent of the digital factory concept. Now, test and inspection can—and should— play a role all along the line, verifying correct- ness mid-process as well as at the finished product stage. Big data, AI knowledge bases, and processing equipment that can adjust based on software commands mean that inter- mediate test steps are not only verifying prod- ucts but also serving as key process control devices, keeping the line solidly within the process window. In his column this month, Michael Ford starts with a passage so spot-on that I simply had to repeat it here: "…test and inspection have no place in the smart factory if it is there simply to detect defects…In the smart factory, test and inspec- tion are reinvented, contributing direct added value, playing a new and critically important role where defects are avoided through the use of data and create a completely different value proposition." It's this shifting role for test and inspection that we set out to study in this issue. How does the role of test and inspection change? What are manufacturers asking of their inspection equipment? What are equipment manufac- turers supplying in response? Who's leading the changeover—equipment manufacturers or their customers? Is test data actually being incorporated into the smart factory process control flow, and, if so, how? Can a manufac- turer extend the useful life of the inspection machinery already on their line, or will they need to buy all new? These questions—and this shift in role for inspection—is the natural result of digital fac- tory infrastructure development in the form of AI, interoperability protocols, and big data. In the long term, expect a lot of development attention to shift from collecting data to ana- lyzing and using that data. As you read the articles and interviews in this issue, it should become clear that this shift is already well underway. SMT007

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