"Going back to the basics is usually always correct."
Stanislav Suchovsky, MSc is the R&D Lead Engineer at RECOM Engineering GmbH & Co KG. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava in 2002. After receiving his Master of Science degree, he worked for 14 years as a designer of power supplies for commercial avionics. Currently, Stanislav is working as lead power supply engineer at the RECOM headquarters in Gmunden, Austria.
“The work supports all the stages of the development of a new product—which means from the design requirements through feasibility studies, to the detail design and manufacturing data, and production support. All this requires is having some knowledge of simulations and calculations of electronic circuits, creation of schematic, layout techniques, PCB technology, and electromagnetic compatibility,” he says. “Close cooperation with internal and external partners like testing department, EMC department, purchasing, component manufacturers, production, marketing, R&D institutions, and suppliers is necessary. It is a multi-tasking role where several projects in different design stages are happening simultaneously.”
This brings with it several challenges—one of which is managing the unexpected tasks popping up daily. “As the team is working in parallel on several topics and cooperating with many departments and suppliers, there are many new questions to be answered. Some tasks require to re-adjust the whole product strategy, which involves deep cooperation with the management and consumes time. In addition, since the company is very international and the people are located all around the world, it is sometimes quite interesting to manage,” says Stanislav.
He adds that having good relationships and open communication within the team are crucial.
One of the things Stanislav likes most in his job is the freedom in the work. “The designer has the power to create a new product his own way,” Stanislav explains. “Since it is a highly specialized position, the designer’s voice has some influence at all levels of the company—from the top management to various departments.”
What he likes the least, though, is the lack of resources to work on all interesting projects.
“We have to reject some projects because of the lack of workforce or non-realistic expectations regarding project costs or schedule,” he says. “And the delays caused by unavailability of the components.”
Back to basics
One go-to trick for Stanislav when it comes to making his job easier is going back to the basics.
“I like to go to the basics, because it is usually always correct,” he says. “Make your design producible with minimal manual work involved. Think about second sources/alternate parts from the beginning. Set your system of work and your outputs as much automated as possible.”
For example, Stanislav says CAD/CAM libraries and design rules should help generate error-free manufacturing data and incorporate requirements. He says designers should be familiar with the whole life cycle of their product to avoid a lot of potential troubles at a later stage, such as manufacturing or customer support, to name a few.
“After I graduated, I worked in the aerospace industry—where the BOM cost is usually not the highest priority,” says Stanislav. “Compared to the industrial market, the volumes are low, the standards are different, and everything is a custom design. Very deep analysis and simulations are required. Typical project lifecycle was around four years, and one power supply designer was able to support one to two designs at the same time.”
The designs he is currently working on have much shorter duration. He is required to be involved in many more projects at one time.
“The complexity of the industrial general purpose power modules is lower than the custom aerospace power supplies. On the other hand, the pressure on the cost optimization in very challenging. However, in the end, with each project, an engineer learns something new.”
Stanislav took up engineering because he always wanted to understand how things work. “I grew up with 8-bit microcomputers, and then came the era of PCs. I followed my interests in computers and programming, and so I ended up at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering,” he says.
To students still in the university and taking up engineering courses, here’s what Stanislav has got to say: “Follow your interests, go deep, but do not forget to balance it with other activities.”
Stephen Las Marias is the editor of EETimes Asia. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.