Please share a bit about your career background and responsibilities at Sanmina?
I began my career at Alcatel in 1998 by participating in an apprenticeship program we have in Germany called Dual Education. Essentially, the company paid for my education at the University of Stuttgart and I worked at the plant when I wasn’t taking classes. By 2001, I had my degree in IT and was brought on full time as a Test Engineer, focused on in-circuit testing and then later automated optical testing. In 2002, Sanmina acquired this Alcatel facility.
In 2006, I started managing new product introductions (NPI), developing my own processes and tests. I also handled the conformity checks of printed circuit board assemblies (PCBA’s). These responsibilities evolved into the role I lead today. Currently, I’m in charge of a seven-person team, focused on launch all new products at the Gunzenhausen facility and ensuring that they mature and transition to volume manufacturing.
Some of the products I’ve worked on are really interesting and span different areas like Avionics, Automotive and Financial Services. New products include electric battery chargers, specialized automotive sensors and ATM electronics.
What do you enjoy most about working at Sanmina?
I really like working closely with customers. It’s not only about the technology we are building but also the personal relationships that lead to strong partnerships. Quite often, the NPI team is the first contact point for customers. We are integral to building that initial trust that leads to success for both Sanmina and the customer.
I also enjoy learning about the innovation and cutting edge technology associated with new products. Some concepts never make it to volume production but we often get to build the prototypes nonetheless. In the NPI group, you never know what the day will bring. It’s a fascinating and challenging environment.
Another aspect I appreciate is the close team environment at the Gunzenhausen facility. While I’ve been here for a while, some of my colleagues have been here for 30-40 years, so we’re like a family. It makes working here fun.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Back in 2008, several complex PCBA’s for the avionics industry were transferred to Gunzenhausen for production. We hadn’t built aerospace boards here before, which involved heavy processes and a lot of documentation to meet industry standards.
My responsibility as NPI manager was to coordinate process development, troubleshoot anything that came up during the builds and perform inspections that verified compliance, according to aerospace standards and customer documentation. Within a few months, we went from having no experience in this area to being fully capable of building the boards and getting them fully qualified. Within one year of starting the business, our facility became fully qualified as an AS9100-certified plant, meaning that we had proven we were fully competent to meet aerospace regulations.
We worked long hours on this initial project and succeeded, thanks to a huge team effort. This is something that I’m still very proud of. We handled similar efforts in 2014 and 2015 with a different customer and larger product volumes.
What are the big trends you are seeing in Engineering as it relates to your position and the manufacturing industry?
More of our customers are considering bringing manufacturing closer to their headquarters in Europe. This will help them not only gain more control over supply chain issues and increase efficiency but it will also reduce their carbon footprint. Automation will be essential for reducing manual labor in these high cost regions.
Automation is a big focus because it can make basic manufacturing processes more efficient while reducing errors. Collaborative robots are also becoming popular to assist parts of the electronics assembly process.
What is your favorite inspirational quote?
I was once involved in a very complex project and one of my customers said “Whatever you do, make sure you don’t forget to have some fun while you’re doing it.” This has stayed with me. If you don’t have fun at your job, you’ll never perform at your best. If you bring a sense of fun to work and laugh at least once a day, the results will be much better.
What do you like doing outside of work?
I enjoy always learning new things. A few years ago, I restored a Rover Mini. I spent well over 1,000 hours rebuilding it and learned a lot in the process. I had no idea how it would turn out but I liked the challenge.
Five years ago, I built the entire interior of my new home with my father for my beautiful wife and two sons. It was very rewarding and I also saved a lot of money in the process. My father was a dairy farmer and taught me a great deal of self reliance. I learned a lot from him and it made me the very ‘hands on’ person that I am today.