Traditional soldering, or rather through-hole soldering, is out. This assembly process had once predominated electronics manufacturing. Major manufacturers are now looking for a more sophisticated alternative. All those manufacturing players who were affected due to low productivity or quality issues associated with through-hole soldering are now finding a quantum of solace in surface-mount technology (SMT). Moreover, SMT is environment-friendly due to the possibility of lead-free mode of operation.

If you are an entry-level electronics professional, it’s a good opportunity to make your career recession-proof by adopting the SMT path. Let’s delve a little deeper into the sector and figure out what skills your employer may expect from you.

Know the field

Open any electronic gadget and observe minutely the circuit. You will see some tiny components mounted on a board. In most cases, these are surface-mount devices (SMDs) assembled using the SMT.

The SMT market in India will grow proportionally with the growth of electronics manufacturing dominating all other production technologies. The electronics consumption in India has over the years seen phenomenal growth and is now valued at over $300 billion with an estimated growth rate of 23 per cent. The increased investments by global EMS (electronic manufacturing services) players in anticipation of the tremendous electronics demand will further accelerate the market size.

Ernst & Young projects that India can target an EMS share of one per cent in North America, two per cent in Western Europe, one per cent in Asia and five per cent in the rest of the world. It could account for 2.2 per cent of the worldwide electronics EMS market of $497 billion by 2010, which works out to $11 billion.

Market players at the top

The SMT players can be categorised into SMT production equipment suppliers and SMT equipment users for manufacturing. Juki, Panasonic, American Tec, Tyco and CDIL are the prominent names in the SMT field. EMS players are also major stakeholders.

Considering the skilled manpower of India, India is being seen as the logical outsourcing destination. Original equipment manufacturers such as LG Electronics, Nokia and Samsung already have their footprints in India. Moreover, some large EMS providers operating in India at present range from global participants such as Solectron, Flextronics International, Jabil Circuit, Celestica and Foxconn Technology to local firms like Deltron, TVS Electronics (TVS-E), D-Link and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

Telecom equipment are in demand. So companies like Nokia, Siemens and Bharti Teletech are the potential recruiters of SMT professionals. Bharti Teletech has already started recruiting in this field.

Find your role

SMT is broadly dedicated to electronics and telecom professionals. Most companies look for degree or diploma holders with some hands-on experience in electronics. The scope for postgraduates or doctorate degree holders is rather limited. More precisely, in-hand experience may be more advantageous than higher educational degrees. You will find no threat from your contemporary fellows with IT or computer science background. But, at the same time, you should be prepared for a typical blue-collar job.

As an SMT engineer, you will work either at the manufacturing plant handling the process line or in the service sector dealing with maintenance and troubleshooting of SMT machines. Often, it involves quality control and shop-floor management. The designation and responsibilities may change with time but it is almost impossible to get rid of hardware if you decide to build a foothold in this sector.

What you can get?

The SMT sector offers a decent starting salary in the range of Rs 8000 to Rs 10,000 per month (excluding allowances) for diploma holders and Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 for degree holders .

4B3_feb_img_4One may continue career either in SMT services or in SMT manufacturing. But the growth prospects are higher in the latter case.

—Vishal Dahiya, Factory Automation, Panasonic

Though the SMT sector is not as high-paying as the embedded sector, it is an ideal field for steady job seekers with average competency. According to Pradyunma Salaria, deputy manager-SMT, American Tec, a diploma holder from even a not-so-much-reputed institute may earn around Rs 500,000 per annum with 4-5 years of experience in this field. The package could be Rs 700,000-Rs 800,000 for degree holders with similar experience. But to climb the ladder, you need to keep a soft corner for your soft skills. Because, with the progress of your career, you will be expected to lead a production team towards productivity improvement by designing projects and new processes, in spite of the technical nature of the SMT jobs.

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