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I recently ran into Ryan Miller of NCAB Group at SMTA Atlanta. Ryan is a field application engineer and a columnist for Design007 Magazine who joined NCAB last year. In this interview, Ryan discusses his path from Air Force Security Forces to design engineer, and he outlines what he plans to accomplish at NCAB.
Andy Shaughnessy: Ryan, how are you doing? Nice to meet you in person after editing your column.
Ryan Miller: Thanks. I’m glad to be here.
Shaughnessy: Ryan, you haven’t been with NCAB very long. What is your job like?
Miller: I've been with NCAB Group for about a year, maybe a little longer. I'm a field application engineer and a design engineer. Since I've been here, I've watched the company grow immensely. NCAB Group is the market leader in PCB technology, and we're always adapting—not only with the market, but we're adapting to our customers’ needs as well. We always want to impress upon our customers that we take responsibility for the delivered PCB. There are so many companies out there today that just don't do that. But that's one of the things that we take pride in.
In my daily activities as a field application engineer, I typically help out layout engineers, and make changes to a PCB design. Maybe there's a problem with the PCB at the factory, and we’ve got to work out that problem. Sometimes the design may be new and engineers will ask for a stackup and impedance calculations. Other times I may provide DFM support.
Shaughnessy: So, part of your job is being a DFM guy.
Miller: Sure, I do the DFM Analysis, but not as much as I did in my previous role. Since I came on board with NCAB Group, one of the things we started here is the Design Plus program. Here’s how it works: We've found that many of our customers have a need for PCB design work, and they don't always have the means or the capability for that design work. Now, they can give us their schematics and we do that design work. And that gives us an advantage because we can go straight into manufacturing with a design that is already optimized for our manufacturing processes. This speeds up the process during tooling.
As designers, when we’re designing a PCB, we're usually designing it from the perspective of what we need in the design. We not always thinking about what it's going to take to get that PCB manufactured successfully, right? With our design services, we already know that the PCB will get through the factory smoothly.
Shaughnessy: It sounds like you spend some of your time educating the consumer.
Miller: Yes, that's my main goal, to educate customers and support their designs, so that it goes really quickly when we get a design. Next thing you know, I turn around and the factory is building the board. It’s amazingly quick. We shave off a bunch of time and it saves a lot of time at tooling. You know, we just had a $30,000 order that was held up at the factory. And it needed design work that cost about $1,100. In this rare exception, the factory was able to fix the issue during tooling, so we saved our customer some money.
When I wake up in the morning, my goal is to help people. My attitude toward helping people is that I'm in a unique position. You know, I used to be in law enforcement.
Shaughnessy: Really? That’s a different kind of customer service. Everybody in this industry has a different story.
Miller: I was in the Air Force for 10 years. I was with Air Force Security Forces for six years then I cross trained into the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI, or OSI for short). When I got out, I used the GI Bill and got a degree in electronics engineering. I wanted be an electronics design engineer, and the circuit board world just kind of sucked me in. With this job, I get to feed that need to help people. When the customers call me here, they're not always happy. But you know, it's not the worst day of their life, like cops sometimes deal with. I'm very happy to wake up in the morning and think about circuit boards and even brag about them.
Shaughnessy: I heard that NCAB Group has been growing pretty well, with over $400 million in revenue last year.
Miller: Yes, over the year that I've been here, we’ve been growing quite a bit. The technology world moves that quickly. But overall, I think that building relationships has been the number one key to our success.
Shaughnessy: It’s been great talking with you, Ryan.
Miller: Thank you, Andy.