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Engineering

Creativity is a key skill for today's engineers

by Susanna Tai

Manoj Attri, general manager, Flextronics Plastics

Adaptability and general business knowledge help in keeping pace with change

In order to make their mark in today's business world, engineers need more than just their professional qualifications and basic technical expertise. They must also be analytical, creative and adaptable enough to take on multi-faceted roles in different industries, and ready to develop the range of management and planning skills required of key corporate leaders.

"Engineers play many different roles and should be able to act as a technical interface between customers and in-house production staff or design groups," says Manoj Attri, general manager at Flextronics Plastics in Gongming (Shenzhen). "Engineers are looked to for suggestions, input and advice on finding practical solutions, so they must be capable of working with different departments on any type of product." Having specialised in mechanical engineering for the last 18 years, Mr Attri knows just how diverse the field has become. "It now touches on software design, manufacturing processes and production," he says, adding that the discipline is now a vital part of the supply chain in any manufacturing industry.

He originally joined Flextronics in 1996 and, after working his way up, has been in his current position for roughly six years. The company is headquartered in Singapore and focuses on providing innovative design and manufacturing services for global technology brands across various market segments. Revenues in the last fiscal year reached US$15.9 billion and the company has a global presence with facilities in 32 countries across five continents.

Previously, Mr Attri was a production manager with a local contract manufacturer in his native India, which was doing printed circuit board assembly. This is an area he got into after completion of his mechanical engineering studies at the Indo-Swiss Training Centre (ISTC) of the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) in Chandigarh (India). "I have always been fascinated with the assembly of mechanical devices," says Mr Attri, who is now taking his MBA with the University of Ballarat in Australia

In order to make their mark in today's business world, engineers need more than just their professional qualifications and basic technical expertise. They must also be analytical, creative and adaptable enough to take on multi-faceted roles in different industries, and ready to develop the range of management and planning skills required of key corporate leaders.

"Engineers play many different roles and should be able to act as a technical interface between customers and in-house production staff or design groups," says Manoj Attri, general manager at Flextronics Plastics in Gongming (Shenzhen). "Engineers are looked to for suggestions, input and advice on finding practical solutions, so they must be capable of working with different departments on any type of product." Having specialised in mechanical engineering for the last 18 years, Mr Attri knows just how diverse the field has become. "It now touches on software design, manufacturing processes and production," he says, adding that the discipline is now a vital part of the supply chain in any manufacturing industry.

He originally joined Flextronics in 1996 and, after working his way up, has been in his current position for roughly six years. The company is headquartered in Singapore and focuses on providing innovative design and manufacturing services for global technology brands across various market segments. Revenues in the last fiscal year reached US$15.9 billion and the company has a global presence with facilities in 32 countries across five continents.

Previously, Mr Attri was a production manager with a local contract manufacturer in his native India, which was doing printed circuit board assembly. This is an area he got into after completion of his mechanical engineering studies at the Indo-Swiss Training Centre (ISTC) of the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) in Chandigarh (India). "I have always been fascinated with the assembly of mechanical devices," says Mr Attri, who is now taking his MBA with the University of Ballarat in Australia.

Rapid growth

During his time with Flextronics, Mr Attri has helped the company achieve exponential growth in China and, in particular, has been instrumental in expanding their plastics business. Initially, he was responsible for customer interfaces, program and vendor management, quality, distribution and engineering. Today, he oversees mechanical operations in China and supports partner relationships with clients such as Microsoft, Alcatel, Ericsson and Lifescan.

In addition, he is involved in strategic corporate decisions about new acquisitions, the expansion of existing plants or investment in new ventures, such as the moulding plants established in Xixiang (Shenzhen) and Doumen (Zhuhai) in South China. Throughout the course of these developments, Mr Attri has never failed to find the work challenging and interesting. He has also taken the time to keep a close eye on how manufacturing processes and mechanical engineering have been advancing hand in hand in other parts of the world.

Since settling in Shenzhen, he and his family have come to enjoy life in what they see as a vibrant city and which they now regard as their second home. Spare time is likely to be spent shopping with his wife and two daughters, visiting Hong Kong, or chatting with neighbours in conversational Mandarin. "It's amazing, but I knew nothing about China before joining Flextronics," he says. "However, the industry here is growing rapidly with the relocation of manufacturing bases from elsewhere in the world and the prospects are most promising."

Encouraging prospects

He believes that the outlook for engineers from Hong Kong is also encouraging, despite the fact that they must contend with the shift of production facilities to the mainland. "It is a matter of getting used to a different job focus," he explains. "Hong Kong is specialising more on design work and improvement of tool making capabilities. As an international city, it will maintain a key role in the electronics manufacturing industry and will serve as the vital link between clients, factories and overseas partners."

Mr Attri points out that there is still a common misconception that people with technical skills do not make good managers. He asserts that this is not the case, emphasising that one of the key personal attributes for successful engineers is to be good with people, since their work involves constant consultation, collaboration and delegation.

He suggests that young people thinking of becoming engineers should identify an area of particular interest and then develop sufficient expertise in that field. "They should know their preference, let's say mechanical or electrical engineering, and have an idea where this chosen career path may lead," he advises.

Whenever possible, Mr Attri takes the opportunity to share his skills and experience with younger engineers. His aim is to provide guidance, as well as to help them reach the highest professional standard within the shortest possible time. "If I was able to achieve something in my career in five years, I hope to help them do the same in two or three years," he says.

Keeping pace with change

  • Engineers have a diverse role in any business and must combine technical expertise with management skills
  • Innovation and adaptability are essential attributes for a successful professional
  • Communicate with colleagues and customers to explain technical options
  • Keep abreast of changes in engineering and manufacturing practices in other parts of the world
  • Young engineers should choose an area of specialisation and outline a likely career path



Taken from Career Times 18 November 2005

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