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While covering the West Penn SMTA Expo in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, I met the new chapter president, Jason Emes, a quality engineer with Pennatronics Corporation. He enthusiastically filled me in on some of the latest goings-on with this Keystone State chapter.
Patty Goldman: Jason, congratulations on your presidency.
Jason Emes: Thank you. I stepped up last year after Bill Capen was elected to the national board of directors.
Goldman: Tell me a little bit about Pennatronics, and yourself.
Emes: Pennatronics is in California, Pennsylvania, right next to California University of Pennsylvania. We're a circuit board assembler, which means we take customers’ designs, get all the components, put them on, and then provide that to the OEM customers, or contract manufacturers; we build to print.
Goldman: You procure the circuit boards from someone?
Emes: Yes, the raw boards and all the components. Then our machines put it all together, we test it, and then ship it to the customer.
Goldman: How many lines do you have at Pennatronics?
Emes: Two surface mount lines, two waves, selective solder, eight manual assemblies, hand soldering benches, and a lot of test features. Function tests and circuit tests, conformal coating, in-line washer, and stockroom.
Goldman: What's your position there? Tell me about your job.
Emes: I'm in quality engineering. I went into that role about seven years ago at another company, and naturally progressed and found an open position at Pennatronics, in quality. A lot of the work I do is process quality, monitoring, ISO and our quality management system, supplier quality, and then mostly data analysis on the manufacturing lines.
Goldman: One of the big things we hear a lot about is reliability. It's becoming the big thing with circuit boards and assemblies and with the whole autonomous driving thing coming along. It's the big buzz word. Is that part of your job too?
Emes: Yes, our inspection requirements are to IPC standards, such as the industry standard for soldering, and all electronics manufacturing additive processes. As far as operational reliability, that would be up to the OEM customer to do field testing and reliability of course. We will build the board to their prints and to IPC soldering requirements and acceptability guidelines, but then as far as the end use, we won't be involved with that as a contract manufacturer. Sometimes we don't even know what the circuit board is going to do, but we know what we have to build, and we build it to IPC acceptability. That's our deliverable.
Goldman: Now that you're president of this chapter, what's happening at West Penn SMTA?
Emes: We're continuing to support the region with three or four good technical meetings each year. This expo is our biggest event. We’re just trying to create an opportunity for people in this region to learn and keep up to date. We try to keep the topics interesting and up-to-date, and engage the users: "What are you guys interested in?"
I’ve heard some great ideas already today. Someone said, "It would be interesting to have a talk on conformal coating rework." That's a great idea for maybe a meeting. We try to have meetings at restaurants, or ballparks, or hold them at companies with accompanying tours. A meeting's success often has more to do with the venue than the topic.
Goldman: Well, the participants are also important because that's where all the networking happens, and that's where you learn as much as anywhere else. Just talking with everybody.
Emes: Yes, that's a big benefit that people sometimes overlook. "Forget the topic, forget the venue, look at all these people I get to talk to and learn from." I feel that roundtables are the biggest benefit for learning rather than listening to a presenter. Let's all sit at a table and talk. "Hey, what's your biggest struggle at your company?” “Oh, I've solved that." "Hey, here's my biggest struggle." "Oh, I've solved that." Sharing knowledge is what SMTA is all about.
Goldman: It is. How long you've been involved with SMTA?
Emes: Two and a half years. I went to SMTA in Chicago. Before that, I had never even heard of SMTA. I went to a dinner with some of the leadership at SMTA and they asked if I was interested in taking a role within the chapter. I thought, "Sure, why not?" I started as vice president. Then when Bill moved on, I took on the role of president. All our officers are babies in this because West Penn was an older chapter, and I think a lot of the officers have since gone their separate ways. There was a desperate need for young, new leadership to come into the chapter. And it absolutely has.
Goldman: That is great to hear.
Emes: I'm very new. Elaina, our vice president, is very new. Shantanu, our secretary, we all started at almost the same time. Julia is new, too. Marilyn, who's been in the chapter for 25 years, is ready to step down. She's going to be our chapter ambassador, mentor, and liaison. Really, all the officers have been in this chapter for less than three years.
Goldman: Do you have new ideas that you're going to bring out?
Emes: Yes, a lot of little things, like making the handy notebook we gave to everyone here, creating a logo and brand awareness. We’re trying to reach to a younger group. SMTA, like most organizations, is an older group. We need the 20-year-olds, so you have to find a different way to reach them at universities. I have a good relationship with Cal U. That's a good opportunity to get some of the younger people.
Goldman: Maybe get a chapter started there?
Emes: Yes, a student chapter would be excellent. It's just awareness. Like I said, I didn't even know what SMTA was. I'm in the industry and I didn't even know what it was. Shame on us for not getting that brand out there.
Goldman: I did see a few students here; are they college students?
Emes: Yes, but not from Cal U; I'm not sure what university they're from, but that's the other nice thing SMTA does. Any student event is pretty much free. Memberships are almost free. It's almost like you have no reason not to be a member of SMTA if you're a student.
Goldman: And you have some interest in the electronics industry. Of course, the other part is getting people more interested in the electronics and realizing what it is.
Emes: True. What a great opportunity for students to get this in their resume and say, "Hey, I'm a member of SMTA. I already have all these contacts and people I've networked with." There's good potential for job opportunities right here. That's a big benefit.
Goldman: Yes, the best part would be getting to know all the people here. Most of us fell into the industry as it is.
Emes: I know. That's what I did. I fell into it.
Goldman: Is your company a member?
Emes: We're a corporate member.
Goldman: Maybe that's the other thing, reaching out to all the companies.
Emes: I know. I was just talking to a guy here, and I told that he needs a corporate membership, because of the benefits for every single person in his company. It's so affordable; there's no reason not to do it.
Goldman: With SMTA, the focus is knowledge and imparting that knowledge. With things moving as quickly as they have been, you can't just say, "Hey, I know it all,” and sit back.
Emes: You bring up an excellent point. We have a meeting and a technical talk, and by next year that information has changed. Unless you're keeping up with it by whatever method, you're going to quickly fall behind and you're going to learn something that someone is doing that you should have been doing three years ago because you thought you knew everything. That's what great about SMTA—every single person has something to share. They are the experts, and they're sharing it.
Goldman: The whole venue is sharing.
Emes: It's a non-profit, so it's just simply sustaining it and sharing the knowledge.
Goldman: Very good. Jason, thank you so much for your time.