Within the electronics manufacturing industry, products must be tested at various phases of the process to make sure they perform correctly. A manufacturing test engineer designs the testing procedures that will be used to test a product. Test engineers may design manual testing procedures, but most quality testing is done through various automated systems. Often the test engineer will design the testing equipment and write the programming code that will run the test and report errors. Manufacturing test engineers may also fill duties in training and management, as well as serve as liaisons between design teams, cost teams and upper management.
The overall goal of a manufacturing test engineer is quality assurance. Engineers must constantly strive to design electronics equipment that is reliable, cost-effective to manufacture, and efficient in design and function. A skilled test engineer saves the company money by identifying problems early in the design process, before mass manufacturing begins. Throughout the development process, from initial design to final product, the test engineer has a vital role in producing the highest quality and most competitive results for the company.
One of the primary jobs of the manufacturing test engineer is to identify each product's components, determine how to best test the component, and design a system or process for performing the test. Manufacturing test engineers will ensure that the assembly of the product allows for efficient automated testing, and often have input into the design of the initial assembly methods. Then the engineers will design and sometimes create the equipment and machines that will actually perform the test. This process also includes writing the programming code that will operate the machine, interpret the results, and collect the resulting data for analysis.
Once the test process has been designed, the engineer or engineers will be responsible for training and overseeing the test team, performing the tests, and analyzing the results. These results give information about the product itself as well as the effectiveness of the testing procedure. The testing process may require repeated re-working and refining of steps in order to iron out any problems and improve efficiency of operations. A test engineer must have keen observational, analytical, and creative skills to diagnose and overcome these problems.
After observing and analyzing the test results, the manufacturing test engineer will often prepare reports and make recommendations for improvements. Quality testing potentially touches every aspect of manufacturing, from design, to selection and cost of materials, order of assembly and packaging, and even marketing and after-market customer service. A test engineer is often the liaison between many different departments and teams, and must be able to communicate effectively with a wide variety of people.
Most manufacturing test engineer positions require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in either electrical engineering or computer science. Higher level management jobs may require a master's degree or higher, and most require several years of experience in addition to education. Depending on the type of product being produced, and the phase of development where the engineer works, additional skills may be needed in cost analysis, customer service, and team-building.