What Makes a Good Process Engineer?


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Nolan Johnson recently spoke with Tuan Tran, director of customer solutions at Green Circuits, about what makes a successful process engineer. They also discuss a typical day in the life of a process engineer—from pre-manufacturing through post-DFM, for process improvement. As Tuan points out, there are a variety of paths to becoming a great process engineer.

Nolan Johnson: For a process engineer in PCB assembly, what’s a typical day in the life? How do you identify areas for continuous improvement?

Tuan Tran: Process engineering in assembly is very important in the sense of the two different worlds: production and NPI. The NPI, which is the prototype, is more valuable, but even production is valuable. We get a product from a customer that we need to build. A process engineer’s job is to make sure we build it properly. In order to build it properly, the process engineer should really engineer the job. Basically, we receive the data from the customer, analyze it, and figure out how we are going to build this job. Because the people on the floor are manufacturing people, and they build what you tell them to build.

They look at the print, they look at the drawing, and they’re going to build exactly what you tell them to build. It is the process engineer’s job to look at that data, dissect it, figure out which type of solder we need to use, and how thick of a stencil I should order. What is the process flow the product needs to go through? Do we do the top side first and then the bottom side or vice versa, and then what type of solder do we use? No-clean solder or regular solder? Do we use leaded solder or non-leaded solder? The process engineer needs to read the data, then identify and figure out how to build this board. I can write a good, detailed process instruction and when I release it to the floor, the manufacturing people will understand it and build it correctly. In that sense, the process engineering is very important to be able to tell the people in manufacturing how to build this board.

Now, the second part of the job for process engineering is after they have engineered this job we released on the floor. Does that mean it’s going to go a 100% perfect? Not necessarily, especially on product that we’re building for the first time. It goes onto the floor and then we’re building it, and sometimes there’s a lot of catch-up or a lot of issues that come up and the manufacturing people say, “Wait a minute, this part doesn’t fit.” Or “How come I’m not getting the good results that I want? I’m seeing issues.” The process engineer’s job is now to dive in while it’s on the floor, look at it and say, “I see a problem here. Let’s figure out this problem.” Either a) I go back to the customer and discuss this issue with whoever designed the product, or b) This is the problem I need to fix. I need to change the profile. The process engineer needs to get involved in that.

To read the entire article, which appeared in the March 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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