Staff profile: Sean Ross - Chief Technology Officer

In this article, we profile one of the owners of the company, Sean Ross.

Q: Please describe your role at Circuitwise. What does a typical day look like?

As Chief Technology Officer, I work across all aspects of the business to ensure we have the best possible systems and equipment.

Most of the time, I am working with the production machinery. I evaluate new technologies, procure them, install them, learn how to use them, write operational and maintenance procedures, integrate them into our operational systems, and then train others in the business.

I also work across the full suite of software we have in the business. We have a customer Manufacturing Resource Planning system called InvMan. As part of our quality-driven continual improvement processes, I am always identifying new features for InvMan and working with our programmer to implement these.

In addition, I am always investigating new software and determining how it might benefit our business. For example, I am looking right now at options to improve the efficiency and productivity of our surface-mount pick and place machines.

Beyond that, I audit suppliers of components, equipment and services to our business, which is required as part of our ISO 13485 quality systems.

I also run a sister business of ours, Cluso Vision Systems, which was created to commercialise and export manufacturing innovations we develop at Circuitwise. I’m always designing new features and versions of Cluso’s flagship product, the InvMan Smart Storage System.

Q What is the most common question you get asked at work?

Customers are always asking about how to do things most cost effectively and that is where I am typically brought in. I work with customers and staff to work out ways of improving costs and time savings across the whole process. I mainly provide design for manufacture (DFM) advice around component selection, placement of heavy or sensitive components and optimising product assembly. I also provide advice about what is possible, particularly around unusual projects like those involving rigid-flex PCBs.

Q: What is the most important part of your work?

Making sure every job goes smoothly is the most important part of my work. Mostly, this involves ensuring new jobs are analysed properly and integrated into our systems. For example, if a PCB design has an unusual mixture of large and small components, or varying copper thickness, it can leave to uneven heat distribution and potential issues such as tombstoning. In this case, we will embed sensors into it and run a sacrificial board through the reflow oven using a program to determine the optimal temperature profile for each zone of the oven.

Q: What is the most interesting part of your work?

I enjoy working with a wide range of technologies, new machinery and the innovative automation features that are always coming out. I have always like that kind of thing, particularly working with robots. I get the most satisfaction from process improvement. If I find a process that takes 10 minutes and I can get it down to one, I’m really happy.

Q: What is your best tips for customers in manufacturing electronic products

Customers should think about optimising the testing time of their products as much as the design of the PCB itself. Customers spend a lot of time optimising the design of PCBs, minimising components and size of the boards, shaving a few cents of the unit cost of production. However, testing of the boards is often an afterthought but it is often the biggest bottleneck and one of the costliest parts of the whole manufacturing process.

It's important to ensure the design is easily testable with probe points at appropriate circuit nodes and include as much self-testing into the system design. If the testing process is unavoidably long, consider testing on a panel or test multiple products at the same time.

Q: What are your favourite activities outside of work? What are you most enthusiastic about?

I enjoy having a beer with friends. But honestly, I tend to spend my spare time researching different technologies that can help us at work. I really enjoy this so it doesn’t feel like work.

Q: What is a fun fact that people may not know about you?

I speak Thai. I lived in Thailand for a year when I was younger learning Muay Thai kickboxing.

Q: Where did you grow up?

I grow up locally in Baulkham Hills and went to school at Crestwood. My main sport was kickboxing and spent any other spare time hanging around my parent’s factory. I started working on the production lines here as early as I could, at the age of 14.