Award-winning Koh Young Process Optimizer
Joel Scutchfield, sales director with Koh Young America, discusses the company’s outlook and new product offerings for 2019 including their Koh Young Process Optimizer (KPO), which won an award at IPC APEX EXPO 2019 for the process control software category.
Dan Beaulieu: Joel, can you tell me a bit about your company?
Joel Scutchfield: Koh Young is the market leader in inspection system technology. We manufacture both SPI and AOI systems plus a complete suite of software for smart factory realization. We also provide inspection solutions for specialty applications such as pin and case inspection. From a supplier perspective, we have a remarkably diverse portfolio to help manufacturers. Again, we’re leading the way in the Industry 4.0 initiative by applying the 3D information that we’ve collected and analyzed with our proprietary AI engine. Our plan is to improve our customers’ condition from an automation and communication standpoint for our equipment as well as for our partner equipment sets.
Beaulieu: For people who might not be that familiar, can you explain the term “smart factory?”
Scutchfield: Sure. Smart factories are about improving things at the speed of business and using the information and data available to pass from system to system. In our world, it involves utilizing the unique 3D data that we have collected. This information is essential to smart factories. The first thing you must be comfortable with before you can apply data is to ensure it is accurate, meaningful, and repeatable. It must be information that can be used to make a decision—whether by a human or an AI engine.
We quantify it as true 3D, which consists getting the right kind of information, parametric, objective, and data the right way by using the subsystems and algorithms to ensure that it is reliable and something that we have high confidence in. Then, getting the right amount of data is important because big data theory must be statistically relevant. Next, we feed that information into our AI engine to apply the analytics involved in creating tools such as our Koh Young Process Optimizer (KPO), which won at award at IPC APEX EXPO 2019. That tool is designed to elevate the closed-loop control of the print process.
We have been building solder paste inspection systems since 2002. We are the leader in the introduction of the moiré fringes concept for that technology. We have had closed-loop capability with all the usual suspects on the printer side for many years or things like X shift, Y shift, theta, and clean cycle. Now, these tools within KPO involve three elements that provide very specific functionality. The first is our process analyzer PAN. We automatically provide a design of experiments behind the scenes using our AI machine-learning modeling to provide recommendations to the user for speed, pressure, and release in the print process. We can now reduce the DOE time from a manual perspective down to about a two-hour process by collecting 15–17 boards worth of data, which would typically take anywhere from 24–38 hours by an experienced engineer.
The second piece is that in the diagnostic module, once those conditions and settings are applied, it continues to monitor the ongoing process and raises any red flags when anomalies occur far beyond what we would typically track in the past. Then, it gives the operator a warning that something is amiss and recommends what to look at to make that correction. The third piece is something that allows us to completely close with the process so that the data being monitored can be used to adjust the printer for those variables without any operator intervention.
Beaulieu: Is all the data you’re collecting for AI used internally your customer, or does it go to a brain database where everybody can access what you’ve learned about the technology?
Scutchfield: Right now, it’s internal to our systems and what we are doing. As we move forward, and through initiatives such as CFX and Hermes at the show, there’s certainly an opportunity to share that data as we go forward. I think that’s really what the initiative is looking for. Today, we’re using it to make systems as efficient as possible to maximize the functionality of SPI, AOI, and mounters by monitoring placement results, and then feeding the data to the mounter for the nozzle, spindle, feeder, and other related issues. The data will be used to ensure efficiency in those same conditions up and down the line.
Beaulieu: So, who do you primarily work with?
Scutchfield: We work with everyone. As the market leader, we have a “who’s who” of partners. We have many early adopters on the SPI side that bring us in early to conversations on what’s coming next that we need to prepare for with SPI or AOI. We have about 54% of the global SPI market, and roughly a third of the global AOI market. We recently celebrated our 13,000th system installation with a customer base spanning automotive, EMS, medical, military, aerospace, industrial, and other sectors.
Beaulieu: Do you use robotics or line measurements?
Scutchfield: We are using robotics in our technology and our approach with the systems, but that’s the extent of it now. In terms of working with robotic systems for load and unload of our systems, definitely. I have some conversations going on right now with a customer that wants to use robotic load and unload in a dual-lane environment.
Beaulieu: I can imagine. I’ve been to companies like GreenSource Fabrication where the whole thing is automated, so it’s going to be your kind of product.
Scutchfield: That’s what we’re going for—full automation from the board build to the back end of the process.
Beaulieu: With 54% SPI market share, how do you stay on top? Do you have people chasing your heels?
Scutchfield: When one out of every two SPI machines sold in the world belongs to Koh Young, we certainly have people chasing us. When you look around this show, you can see it’s a saturated market. I don’t know the exact number of AOI companies represented here, but I think somebody said it’s over 20 companies. So, we must continue to evolve and make improvements to stay on top. Much of this is driven from the smart factory initiative. The use of our KPO tools that involve linking SPC, real-time, and remote monitoring between the AOI and SPI allows the user to have information readily available at any time. It also gives good direction on production status, and how to quickly apply corrections.
With all the big data that’s available—plus the data that we collect—we must be conscious of the amount. We need to boil it down for the user and give them the top-five heavy hitters that would potentially allow them to make immediate, actionable changes. Having a lot of data is great, but being able to manage it is the key, which is what these Koh Young tools are doing.
Beaulieu: In your global market, where’s your strongest insulations right now?
Scutchfield: I think automotive is a big part of our business, followed by industrial. EMS would fall into that industrial category to a large degree, but we work with both large and small companies. In the Americas last year, we had 67 new customers, which included a lot of small companies with only a few production lines.
Beaulieu: So, you’re dealing with $10-million to multi-billion-dollar companies.
Scutchfield: That’s exactly right. We’re covering the gamut. The tools are designed so that both size companies can take advantage of what we’re doing. At IPC APEX EXPO 2019, we’re showing our next revision of auto-programming, which will significantly reduce the time it takes to program. Again, this is driven by the AI engine we’re utilizing. We’re also showing the pin inspection system I mentioned earlier, which is very much a part of that automotive world for things like terminal pin and fork gap measurement. Perpendicularity, spacing, and critical distance measurement are all pieces of that specific tool, which is very well accepted in the market already. We see that as a huge growth area. We’re showing our award-winning SPI auto-repair feature, which allows us to dispense paste after we identify an insufficient solder scenario. With this feature, the user doesn’t have to clean and reprint a board.
Beaulieu: You seem passionate about this. How did you get into the industry, and what’s your background?
Scutchfield: I’ve been in this business since 1986. My first job out of college was with the Defense Systems Group at Texas Instruments in Dallas. I was there for several years before moving into a division of United Technologies Corporation focused on high-volume board assembly for Carrier HVAC. Then, I moved to the supply side in the mid-1990s where I’ve had stints with Panasonic and Omron before finally leading the Koh Young America sales team.
Beaulieu: Those are classic companies. Where did you attend school?
Scutchfield: I went to Purdue University and earned an engineering degree. During my time in manufacturing, I was focused on the PCB assembly process.
Beaulieu: IT sales and marketing is my background. So, how do you sell this product?
Scutchfield: It really depends on the customer’s needs and their aptitude to understand exactly what we’re doing and how it is much different than the rest of the market. When somebody comes up and asks me about how Koh Young is different when the other companies are claiming to do the same thing as Koh Young, and I simply explain it is just not true.
Previously, I mentioned true 3D. We never had a 2D AOI system when we started to develop an AOI tool. We started with 3D from the start. We took that same 3D moiré technology from our market-leading SPI and applied that to our AOI tool. A lot more data needs to be collected, but at the end of the day. We started with a 3D technology base with true 3D parametric data while others are still using 2D elements for things like part and lead tip find. These are critical measurements and the heaviest contributors to false calls, so measuring it correctly with our 3D technology is a huge differentiator.
We take that off the table immediately when anybody asks us about false calls or differences. Once they understand what’s going on in the background and the fact that we’re not using 2D technology, they start to understand very quickly why Koh Young is the market leader. They see why we have fewer false calls, because we do things differently. We have fewer escapes, a more robust base, and can feed data to an AI engine that interprets parametric information. We’re unique in every one of those aspects compared to our competitors.
Beaulieu: What’s your ideal customer profile?
Scutchfield: I think it’s really a customer that understands the value of the true 3D measurement principle and what it will do for them. Remember, many other companies came from the 2D world, so they’re bolting on a 3D element to create a 2.5D system. The customer who understands what we do and how we will fulfill their needs . We also want customers who value the smart factory initiative, because that is driving our industry, and in part, our developments.
We have so much to bring that it is a true differentiator. We want a customer to understand those key points about true 3D, how it fuels the AI engine, and the output as tools to fulfill the smart factory initiative. That’s our ideal customer profile.
Beaulieu: So, you sell an outstanding product.
Beaulieu: Let me ask a question that has troubled me. Supposedly if a self-driving car gets in an accident in Tokyo, all that information of that accident is fed back into the AI of every self-driving car in the world. Did you know that?
Scutchfield: The power of AI is definitely growing.
Beaulieu: I wonder how generous the information sharing is with competing companies. Taking that to the ultimate end of AI in your business, how will you manage the line between having a competitive advantage and sharing data with everybody?
Scutchfield: That’s a great question. I was on a panel earlier this week where that question came up. There will be a point where we’re going to have to be much more careful and diligent about how we achieve this goal of a self-healing system. Our situation is a little bit unique because our AI engine is proprietary. You can buy an AI engine and apply it to your application, but we developed our own engine with our domain knowledge; it’s specific to what we do. There will be a time when the information sharing decisions will be made, and it will extend to every equipment and software provider.
We’re getting the ball rolling now with the CFX initiative, which is requesting everyone output certain types of information. For the most part, everyone is on board, and it has been put into play. What comes next will be interesting because it’s not just passing information here. This is a great start, but at some point, it must be a closed loop system. There must be intelligence built into this that allows us to make changes in a different sandbox.
Beaulieu: Do you have any last comments before we finish?
Scutchfield: We’ve had a momentous week. We’re always happy to be at IPC APEX EXPO and show our new tools. We’ve received a lot of great feedback from customers on the new tools like our Zenith 2 with side cameras. All the new advances in the KPO smart factory world has been well received with a lot of excitement. We’re looking forward to making further improvements. We have a lot going on. We’re very heavily focused on R&D—more than half of the company is involved in these initiatives. We will continue to see new things as we go forward, and by the time we get to Chicago next fall for the SMTAI show, we can share more.
Beaulieu: We will look for you there.
Beaulieu: Thanks for being with me today, Dan. I appreciate it.
Scutchfield: Thank you very much, Dan.