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When we set out to plan the topic and content for this month’s issue of SMT Magazine, we initially focused on improving the electronics assembly industry. Because even if your PCB assembly process is optimized, there is always room for improvement; no matter how successful your company has been in the past, you can’t rest on your laurels and be complacent, doing whatever you have done in the past because it has worked. It is always in your best interest to strive towards a better operations model.
But what we found during our conversations with industry experts is that, while investing in the latest technologies and having a systems-based approach in your assembly processes are important, the key factors that will make you successful in your continuous improvement goal are the skills, training, and education of your workforce. However you look at it, the human factor remains a critical issue when it comes to your overall efficiency. Your operators, engineers, supervisors, line managers, etc. will continue to oversee most, if not all, of your systems and processes.
So how do you make sure that they have the proper knowledge and skill sets to perform at their peak levels, day in and day out? In our recent survey on assembly training and education, one of the questions we asked concerned the importance of training to electronics manufacturers.
Around 85% of our respondents consider training important to their workforce. In fact, the majority of respondents—47%—say it is very important. Such training could be on-the-job training, formal in-house training, training through third parties, and training by suppliers.
The majority, or 67% of the respondents, consider supplier trainings—be it in technology, equipment/machine, or chemicals, among others—to be important because suppliers are the process experts, thus their resources should be utilized as much as possible. One comment is that suppliers can introduce technology or knowledge that could help them address their issues in their respective areas.
Meanwhile, when it comes to determining what training their operators or engineers need, we found several factors: the technologies currently deployed and yet to be installed in the line, their mistakes, and productivity (yield data and rejections).
Industry Associations’ Role in Training and Education
As we all know, industry associations, such as IPC and the Surface Mount Technology Association (SMTA), help advance the electronics manufacturing industry through standardization, training, education, advocacy, and interaction through trade events, exhibitions and symposiums. They help members to become aware of the latest technology developments happening in their industry verticals, and of the market trends shaping the direction of the industry. Moreover, they also provide platforms to connect all industry stakeholders to discuss strategies and solutions to the electronics manufacturing engineering challenges of the future.
In our survey on assembly training and education, we also asked our readers about the importance of industry associations, especially when it comes to training and education for their members. Majority, or 60.6% of the respondents, consider these associations important for their business—it’s a split between “Very Important” (30.3%) and “Important” (30.3%).
Key reasons mentioned include: they provide industry standard reference; they give non-partisan benchmarked industry consensus training; they provide a common ground for members to meet and share information; and they provide diverse support and idea sharing important to operations.
To read the full version of this article, which appeared in the August 2017 issue of SMT Magazine, click here.