Acronyms 1 to 10


If you have not worked with a CM/EMS (hey, both of these are acronyms!) then you’ll be sure to come across acronyms and not know what they mean.  Most of our employees have worked in the industry for many years so chances are we may accidentally assume a level of understanding of these terms exists with you.

We are pleased to have worked with customers that have varying degrees of understanding of these terms.  Some knew hardly any, while others new most.

We hope we are not insulting your intelligence by mentioning some that you think are understood by most.  Keep in mind that we are located in Huntsville, AL.  Huntsville is known as one of the most popular places to launch a startup!  So, over the years we have worked with high-tech startups that had employees know very few of these terms.  We had to educate such customers as we worked with them.

At Futaba we hope to educate you.  And by educating you, you’ll be in a better position to make decisions for your company as you meet and work with an electronics assembly firm of your choice.

This is the first in a series of 5 blog posts.  In each post 1I’ll go over 10 acronyms.  Let’s get started with 1-10.

1. 5S = “Sort.  Set in Order.  Shine. Standardize.  Sustain.”


Sorting involves placing tools, supplies and other items needed in the manufacturing process in appropriate areas.

Appropriate areas would mean placing infrequently used tools further away from frequently used ones.  Sorting also includes establishing areas on the production floor to store product that is in a certain stage of development. Sorting not only makes the work environment more efficient, it also improves safety by establishing rules such as not storing material above a certain height.

Set in Order

Once tools/items/material/product has been sorted, the designated storage areas are “set in order” frequently by color coding.  This includes not only color coding storage bins but also color coding the floor with colored tape.


Every single work day there is set aside a period of time to clean.  Having clean and shining work areas help workers produce more effectively and helps extend the life of production equipment.


Once a company has determined what works best for the previous 3 steps, the next step is to create a standard that all employees must follow.  Frequently this standard is displayed on the production floor and in the warehouse so that all employees will understand what goes where and when.  The image shown to the right is Futaba’s 5S standard that we have on display throughout our


This concept means that a company must never cease to following the previous steps.  Each employee must press on and daily follow the established standard in keeping a clean, organized, and safe working environment. To summarize all this succinctly, consider 5S to basically mean being disciplined to keep things clean and organized.

2. AOI = Automated Optical Inspection

An AOI machine is a machine that uses camera(s) and special lighting to visually inspect a printed circuit board assembly during the manufacturing process.  Such machines are good at detecting missing, skewed, flipped, and unsoldered parts.

3. APQP = Advanced Product Quality Planning

Is a highly structured process that is followed to assure delivering quality product to a customer (typically an automotive customer).  The focus is not only on the manufacturing process to assure quality product is built, but attention is also given to all areas – such as material procurement and shipping.

4. AQL = Acceptable Quality Limit (or, Acceptable Quality Level)

An acceptable quality level is an inspection standard used mostly with large production runs.  It describes the maximum number of defective units in a production run when samples are randomly taken.  The AQL standard will help quality personnel know how many units to inspect in a given shipment, and the number of defective units that will trigger a “fail” condition.  A “fail” condition could mean rejecting the entire shipment of parts.

5. ATE = Automated (or, Automatic) Test Equipment

A machine used in the manufacturing process to electrically test boards to confirm that they were manufactured correctly.  An ATE is normally used to test the functionality of the manufactured boards.  Whereas an ICT (another acronym described later) is mostly used to perform parametric testing.   Parametric testing means confirming that the correct part type was placed on a circuit board – something that ATE mostly cannot do.

ATE is also called by another acronym: EOLT.  EOLT stands for Electronic end Of Line Test.  ATE and EOLT are both functional tests.  We have a detailed article on electronic function test here.

6. BOM = Bill of Material

A BOM is a list of materials needed to produce an electrical assembly.  At a minimum a BOM contains: a part number, a source, a source part number, and a reference designator (where to place the part on the circuit board).

7. CAR = Corrective Action Report

This is a document created by a part manufacturer for the manufacturer’s customer in response to a defect being found by the customer.  The document describes the root cause of the defects and the steps that have been taken to prevent this type of defect from occurring again.

8. CC = Conformal Coating

Conformal coating is a thin coating of clear material that is sprayed on electrical assemblies to protect them from moisture, dust, and certain chemicals.  As the coating is sprayed, it conforms to the shape of the components on the board. Normally CC is only applied on those assemblies that will be used in harsh environments.  We have a detailed educational article on CC here.

9. CM = Contract Manufacturer

A CM manufactures products for a customer.  A CM in the electronics industry manufacturers and assembles electronics.  Normally a CM does not build and sell their own products but builds products designed by their customer.

10. Cpk = Process Capability Index

A Cpk value is a numeric value that describes how closely a manufacturing process or manufactured assembly meets its specification.  A Cpk value greater than 1 indicates that the process or assembly meets the specification.