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80 SMT Magazine • April 2014 by Michael Ford MenTor grAPhicS, VAlor diViSion ThE ESSENTial piONEEr'S SUrvival GUiDE COluMn Expanding Your Comfort Zone In the engineering world, there is increasing pressure to be a specialist, especially in techni- cal roles. Does this intense focus on specialisa- tion work against us, however, when we con- sider the wider requirements of the business? How can we bring added value to specialist roles, such as PCB layout designer or SMT ma- chine programmer, which are key elements of the wider production introduction team, with- out getting distracted from specific objectives? Software tools help us focus excellence in a specific role, but software must now add more benefit from team environments, even when derived from a widely spread collaborative flow, and bring a step change improvement in perfor- mance without the cost of distraction from our specialist operations. As technology continues to evolve, there is always more to learn, whether it is how to bet- ter design a PCB or how to bet- ter prepare programs for SMT machines. These are not new tasks, but people perform- ing them are continuously pushed to achieve great- er efficiencies and perfor- mance. What often happens is that we end up with certain roles that are very special- ized in focus, e x p e r i e n c e , and outlook. Software tools have grown up around these kinds of roles, providing add- ed value, guid- ance and management, and in effect, promot- ing the specialisation itself. The issue, then, is how to effectively connect these specialist roles into a team or collaborative flow. Can we afford to distract people from their core strengths by asking them to acquire some level of expertise in areas that are related to their tasks, but out- side of their direct role? How can we optimise teamwork as part of a flow without losing our focus on individual key goals? Let's take, for example, the PCB layout de- signer, a specialist on the design team who uses software to create PCB layouts. This role involves the use of specialised skills and expe- rience, taking physical and electrical require- ments from the schematic diagrams and laying out circuits on a PCB. Several cycles of PCB pro- totypes may be needed during the design phase to correct issues from the electrical design, the physical form and fit of a PCB into a product, and mistakes in the layout itself. Specialist design tools provide support in these areas, enabling the skills of the layout designer to be maximised. Product de- sign is the first step in the flow for new prod- uct introduc- tion (NPI). Once complete, the design is passed to the fabrica- tion stage and then on to as- sembly. In each of these manu- facturing disci- plines, there are also experts in their fields, engi-

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