Resource Planning in the electronics industry
Success in an economical sense is always about weighing revenue and expenditure. Therefore, planning is a crucial topic in project management – it is the only way to achieve success. Planning resources can be very complex and is mainly about reconciling personnel resources, plant resources as well as material resources. The goal is to precisely know how much the product development will cost the company and therefore knowing how high the profit will be. In the electronics industry, various challenges need to be faced in the project management process, but one thing is for sure: The electronics field will increase complexity in the future.
Variables in planning
In most industries, but especially within electronics and software development, technology is getting more and more complex. Simultaneously, the deadline pressure is high due to the constantly changing world. There are permanently new challenges that require new development. To counteract this time pressure, one can easily invest more working power to enable shorter development cycles. Unfortunately, there is an encompassing problem, which makes this impossible for many companies: skill shortage. Without available human resources, they cannot invest more working power in a project. Thus, precise planning with all employees is essential to not have a bottleneck right before the end of the project. Working power is one of the short-term resources that are needed as well as space and materials. Besides, long-term resources need to be involved in planning, for example, maintenance or other tasks that may appear after a certain time when the project will be finished.
To be able to plan with all resources one needs to figure out, which requirements the project will entail. What needs to be developed, which materials are needed, how many working hours need to be invested? As a second step, the requirements need to be compared to the available resources. Ideally, the workload can be covered through the employees, for meetings and working enough space is available and all materials are deliverable in time. Put this into practice, this is a utopia and one always needs to be flexible enough to compensate mistakes or delays. In this whole process, certain software can be a good support for team leaders or project managers.
Change in the mindset
To keep up with the growing complexity, many companies changed their mindset concerning development. In the field of software development, all features were developed and afterwards they have been tested as a whole release. This “waterfall method” has various weaknesses: In advance, one cannot assume how many bugs will appear and how much work and time is needed to fix them. A great change in software development was establishing Lean management. This mindset has been allowing to think in smaller steps and to divide bigger projects into smaller, manageable pieces. These can be finished one after the other. If not, all mistakes need to be fixed at once fewer delays in delivery times and less pressure appears. This change in thinking has not been adopted in the electronics industry so far. In most companies, parts are not developed modularly, but as one big project in many weeks of work. Especially for complex, non-manageable projects, this can lead to problems with the deadline – time pressure appears. Stressful situations for both, engineers and managers might appear.
Characteristics of the electronics industry
As for resource planning in the electronics industry, some characteristics need to be respected. In contrast to software, hardware needs material resources. The planning procedure is influenced by some factors: The automotive industry is one of the biggest industries within electronics development. For developing electric cars there are batteries or other ECUs (electronic control units) needed. For these, some special features need to be respected in resource planning, for example, the lead time, material availability and factory capacity. Especially in the automotive industry, it is crucial where certain parts have been manufactured – for the German car industry parts often need to be manufactured in Germany or at least in Europe. Nowadays, sustainability is also important: How much carbon dioxide is produced due to the manufacture – is it maybe worth it to use parts of a different manufacturer? This all depends on delivering time as the project needs to be finished by a certain deadline. All in all, it is a complex task to plan with the possibility in mind that even small changes can lead to major delays.
A glance into the future of the electronics industry
As already mentioned, everything within the electronics industry is getting more complex due to a world of constant change. Skill shortage already causes a headache for many team leaders and project managers. What should they do if a delivery date is fixed, but there is just not enough working power available? Tools based on artificial intelligence are a possible solution to tackle skill shortage. The intention is not to replace human expertise, but rather to support skilled workers. Through this, employees can give away the dull and repetitive part of their work and rather focus on creative problem-solving. At the end of the day, they can complete more tasks than they would have without artificial support. CELUS provides this opportunity for Layouters and PCB designers: reading sheets pages of technical specifications will be a thing of the past. So, employees can invest their know-how in tasks that require human intelligence and skill shortage can be tackled. The fourth industrial revolution is based on these principles that will lead to industry 4.0 with more automation. More proposed solutions can be found here in our webinar. More information concerning skill shortage in general can be found in this article.