Effect of Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing on the PCB Manufacturing Industry

 In PCB Manufacturing

Industry 4.0 is leading to huge gains in factory productivity, efficiency, and data automation. This is primarily due to parallel advancements in AI or artificial intelligence, smart manufacturing, and IoT or the Internet of Things. According to Rush PCB Inc., machines in the future will be responsible for industrial processes. This will include specific learned tasks and exploitation of closed feedback loops for monitoring and reporting highly detailed production data, and detecting deviations that automatically trigger source parameter adjustments. The net result of all this will be systems will likely control and correct themselves while increasing yields substantially.

What is Smart Manufacturing?

Smart manufacturing uses ML or machine learning and AI or artificial intelligence to absorb and learn available information. The process typically generates huge amounts of data that the user must harness and analyze effectively. Of course, this level of intelligence and automation is yet to be achieved in the electronics industry, the PCB manufacturing industry is well on its way to trending towards Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing on the PCB Manufacturing Industry

How Does Industry 4.0 And Smart Manufacturing Impact PCB Industries?

A visit to any factory floor in any manufacturing industry reveals the commonplace existence of industrial robots. This is primarily due to their extraordinary precision, accuracy, speed, and endurance. Lately, manufacturers are extending the impact of industrial robots by interconnecting them to IoT devices.

In the manufacturing industry, such interconnected robots through IoT sensors enable the machines to communicate with one another and share data, while coordinating their activities autonomously. Sharing data among machines through IoT devices leads to improvement in robotic productivity and efficiency, while also reducing unscheduled maintenance and improving safety.

Key impact areas of IoT in manufacturing are:

∙ Predictive Maintenance — Industrial research finds that IoT technologies enabled predictive maintenance has reduced equipment breakdown by more than 69%, while decreasing maintenance costs by more than 24%.

∙ Productivity and Efficiency — According to industrial research, manufacturers using IoT applications are likely to create an economic impact in the range of USD1.25 to USD 3.65 trillion per year by 2025.

∙ Sustainability and Energy Usage — Using IoT in manufacturing typically reduces energy usage. For instance, real-time IoT monitoring of production lines can bring down the energy cost of machinery by 40% or more.

∙ Supply Chain Optimization — Today, a vast majority of supply chain leaders are reviewing technological solutions to improve their operational efficiency, production, and delivery speeds, while automating repetitive tasks.

How is Industry 4.0 Affecting the PCB Manufacturing Industry?

Customers are increasingly demanding detailed data on each finished PCB unit produced by individual manufacturing units on their shop floors. This allows customers to quickly identify, track, and troubleshoot any PCB defect in the supply chain with the highest levels of data granularity.

PCB manufacturers are meeting this challenge by undertaking process modifications to capture PCB production data and the root cause analysis at all stages in the manufacturing process. Although the process does generate vast amounts of manufacturing data, it ultimately helps in delivering full visibility into the manufacturing process. Furthermore, it also helps to assess the fundamental integrity of each layer within a multilayered PCB, while monitoring the status of the PCB as it progresses through the production line.

Additionally, PCB manufacturers are moving towards using smart manufacturing in many other ways to improve their overall processes, while identifying problem areas in their factory systems. The key components of this strategy are visualization application and advanced process control, which are fast becoming the enablers for full automation in factories.

In addition to the above, here are some key benefits of Industry 4.0 in PCB manufacturing:

Preventing Unplanned Downtime

The productivity of any manufacturing company can be significantly affected by unplanned machine downtimes. According to industry reports, this figure is close to 82%. Such unplanned downtimes may cost a manufacturer upwards of USD250,000 every hour, while such issues cost manufacturers nearly USD50 billion every year.

By using industrial applications that take advantage of the Internet of Things relying on advanced sensors, it is possible to monitor the operating parameters of equipment. This includes parameters such as vibration, temperature, electrical signals, and other specific indicators to predict malfunctions in equipment before they become catastrophic.

Defect Reduction and Quality Improvement

Smart manufacturing and digital transformation processes have a huge impact on improving quality. Using sensors, AI, machine learning, and cameras, robotic systems can monitor product quality much faster and more accurately than manual inspection can, and thereby detect defects and respond quickly.

According to industry reports, automation, and digitization have reduced the overall deviations in manufacturing by more than 65%. By reacting quickly, manufacturers can correct their manufacturing processes to avoid recalls due to defective products, thereby improving customer satisfaction.

Safety Improvement

Automation in the workplace enhances safety by reducing the risk of injuries and accidents with hazardous tasks and manual labor. By adhering to strict safety regulations and standards, automated systems can mitigate the potential for human error, while ensuring compliance with industry protocols and guidelines.

Manufacturing companies are increasingly investing in wearable technology, such as IoT-enabled smart vests and glasses, that support better posture when lifting heavy objects and produce alerts to hazardous behaviors.

Reducing Costs

With automation, there is a reduced need for human intervention in labor-intensive or repetitive tasks. Not only does this minimize labor costs, but also frees up human workers, who can now focus on high-value activities like problem-solving, process optimization, and innovation.

In any industry, maintenance of industrial equipment contributes to about 70% of the overall costs. The key activities necessary are predictive maintenance and operational efficiency.

Significant benefits are available from Industrial IoT technology, with its improvements in remote troubleshooting and reducing service calls when there is no maintenance required. Moreover, the use of sophisticated management platforms and connected devices allows operators to manage operations remotely, such as out-of-band remote management.


The traditional method of scaling up or down includes adjusting the number of staff. In contrast, automated systems offer inherent adaptability and scalability against market dynamics. Automation allows manufacturers to respond effectively and quickly to ramp up production volumes or diversify product mix, thereby adapting quickly to evolving business needs, and maintaining agility and competitiveness.

Does Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing Offer a Deeper Understanding of the Manufacturing Process?

There is a growing need for customers to have better visibility into the PCB manufacturing processes, well beyond the simple traceability of PCBs. So far, there was no mechanism for making automated decisions and operators were unable to identify past problems and trends accurately. With advanced process control and visualization, it is now possible to move towards an AI-enabled, full automated factory.

Advanced process control and visualization offer automated and highly detailed production reports to manufacturers, showing the complete visibility and defect-distribution picture in real time across manufacturing and inspection stages. This is effective right from the panel level down to individual board units. Analytics collected during production monitoring allow PCB manufacturers to accurately and quickly identify defect trends throughout the design and manufacturing process.

Based on actual data from production, PCB manufacturers can carry out root-cause analysis to close the feedback loop with designers. Not only does this improve the overall management on the production floor, but also results in making informed decisions that improve the production process. This can result in benefits like lower maintenance, higher productivity, reduced downtime, and overall higher operational efficiency.

Traceability and complementary analytics tools help with PCB tracking, and producing accessible and adaptable process controls in the production cycle. Such real-time connectivity helps to ensure identification and remedies of process irregularities once a defect is detected, It also provides insight into the status of machines and production of related alerts, while allowing remote control of the machines. Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing offer these indispensable capabilities as manufacturers introduce AI in smart factory automation.



Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing in the PCB industry form the backbone of modern manufacturing operations, thereby enabling important processes like automation and predictive maintenance. Manufacturers can have instant information from the factory floor through comprehensive wireless connectivity and seamless integration with cloud-based software. According to Rush PCB Inc., these manufacturing solutions help organizations dramatically improve productivity while reducing maintenance costs.