The electronics market is more dynamic than ever, especially communication technology and consumer electronics, where product life cycles are extremely short and vibrant. Driven by technology innovation, consumer demands and global competition, new generations of products and new models of platforms and gadgets appear at a rate limited only by the human imagination. This constant flow of new products poses a major challenge for manufacturers, as they need to adopt their production lines to the dynamic nature of the market.

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

Lewis Carrol.

Manufacturers face a double challenge: in order to keep ahead of the game they need to rapidly introduce new products and models. On the other hand, they must maintain high levels of quality and operational efficiency. Visual inspection plays a major part in the way product quality is perceived by consumers and end-users. For products – like people –  there is no second chance to make a first impression, and end users experience new products first with their eyes.

Ports inspection is today a major challenge for manufacturers.

 But it’s not only cosmetic defects like scratches, dents, shade variations, smeared labels, strands of human hair or fingerprints that keep manufacturers awake at night. Functional defects – such as bent pins on ports and connectors, untightened screws, missing components or wrong barcodes – can cost manufacturers a fortune if leaked into their customers’ space. Each faulty product that is packed and shipped as finished goods or integrated into a complex system is a painful cost issue and may damage brand reputation and customer satisfaction.

For the first time in the history of industrial manufacturing, a new and advanced technology is available to help manufacturers tackle these challenges: smart visual inspection.

Kitov.ai has developed an automated system that captures all the critical defects of interest, even those that are often missed by human workers, in one scan. Featuring 3D computer vision and Artificial Intelligence, this system offers manufacturers unmatched detection capabilities. Kitov’s solution also generates a database of defect images and statistics that was not available with manual inspection. Using big data analytics, manufacturers can now gain control and improve quality by tracking and proactively responding to trends in production, as well as improving product design.

For decades, smart visual inspection was the “holy grail” of automating quality processes. The main constraints have always been system flexibility and the cost of customized solutions that require a high level of expertise and lengthy setup. Kitov has also introduced a game-changing, patented technology that allows fast and intuitive creation of new inspection plans by non-experts. This gives electronics manufacturers the flexibility needed for rapid introduction of new products.

This case study is a typical example of how Kitov’s innovative technology has helped a high-end electronic equipment manufacturer deal with the challenges of quality and rapid NPI (new product introduction and manufacturing) in a high mix environment.

Whether you’re manufacturing servers, switches, routers, communication platforms or electronics as standalone products or for integration into mission critical systems in MedTech, Energy, Automotive or Defense industries, this case study demonstrates how you can benefit from Kitov’s solution.

The customer’s conclusion: “Kitov-CorePlus is the only out-of-the-box solution in the market that can inspect such complex products”

In 2016, during a ramp-up in production, driven by growing demand for new products,  a leading communication supplier shipped out, a large batch of defective communication switches.  The defective products were discovered only upon installation.  The cost implication of this quality crisis was significant:  product repacking, repair, logistics, inventory and on top of all that – the damage to the manufacturer’s and to the brand’s reputation.

Customer Profile

The customer is a leading supplier of end-to-end communication solutions, storage, and hyper-converged infrastructure. It offers a range of high-performance network adapters and switches. The customer manufactures a portfolio of high mix products by engaging several different contract manufacturers that employ manufacturing processes similar to its own.

The Challenge

Whereas the manufacturing process has been automated in many aspects including handling, assembly and functional testing, extensive visual inspection is performed manually on all products. This manual process required a major investment in order to train and certify dedicated employees as quality inspectors prior to joining the manufacturing line. 

The visual inspection process covers the following quality requirements (partial list):

  • Surface inspection of all 6 sides – ensuring no scratches, dents on all surface sides
  • Silkscreen and PAD printing quality
  • Edge inspection – sharp and clean without any defects
  • Light-pipe indicators quality and existence
  • Screw quality and existence
  • Label location, edges and print quality
  • Communication port housing and pin defects (up to 48 ports!)

On top of that, the customer manufactures over 200 different products and models, making any customized automatic inspection solution impractical due to cost consideration and implementation time.

Unfortunately, the customer found out the hard way that manual visual inspection process is vulnerable to errors and misses of critical defects. In 2016, during a ramp-up in production of new products, one of its suppliers shipped out a large batch of defective communication switches. The defective products were discovered only upon installation. The cost implication of this quality crisis was significant:  product repacking, repair, logistics, inventory and on top of that –damage to the manufacturer’s brand reputation.

Taking into account the dual pressures of quality and cost, the customer sought an automated solution that could replace human workers for final visual inspection with a much higher degree of precision.

The solution

Kitov-CorePlus is the first smart visual inspection system that can be intuitively trained by a non-expert to inspect new products in record time.  By using Kitov-CorePlus, the customer has successfully created over 100 different inspection plans in a few months.  Those inspection plans, or recipes, are all uses by the same Kitov-CorePlus platform.

As product models flow randomly through the manufacturing process, the system seamlessly switches between the different inspection requirements based on the product model and manufacturer needs.

Using a 6-axis robot and rotating table, Kitov-One scans products up to 850mm by 420mm in size, covering the customer’s full product range. This flexibility enables the customer to inspect all test requirements such as surface, communication ports (housing and pins), labels, screws and more.

Results and Benefits

Kitov-CorePlus provided this electronic equipment manufacturer with concrete benefits:

  • The system is capable of inspecting a large range of products using the same hardware setup
  • The line can easily switch between different inspection plans with minimal impact on the cycle time
  • The system covers the full inspection specification performed by a human operator
  • Teaching the system to inspect a new product is easy and fast
  • Data collected by the system enables the customer to collect valuable inspection data in order to drive manufacturing process improvement.

Typical Port Defects Detected By Kitov

Bottom line

ROI was less than 6 months. The customer has adopted Kitov’s smart visual inspection solutions across its manufacturing facilities on a global scale.

Following deployment of Kitov-CorePlus, the customer’s concluded: “Kitov-CorePlus is the only out-of-the-box solution in the market that can inspect such complex products.”