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12th May 2015

Hot Roles and Burning Soles (SMT / CONTROL)

Jeff Budd

Jeff Budd

Senior Consultant

Jeff has been recruiting in the technology space since 2010 – starting out in the…

As the ‘post show’ healing process starts and my feet begin to repair from 4 days of ‘ground pounding’, I find myself with the chance to reflect on my observations from the SMT and Control exhibitions in Nuremberg and Stuttgart.

SMTBack in October, the general consensus at Semicon was that 2015 forecasts were looking very strong for equipment OEMs, with fab spends in Europe set to double and RF/ IoT/ wearables projects due to boom. I rode the wave of optimism with the tool vendors and have been surprised at how suppressed the market has felt since. Clearly the political situation in Russia has impacted on success in Eastern Europe, and the crash of the Swiss Franc has reduced confidence to a certain degree, but over the past few months there seemed to be an invisible force of resistance stopping customer enquiries from turning in to orders, and subsequently orders turning in to fab ramp ups (obviously with a few exceptions, especially in the refurbished tools market).

Of course there have been some large IC manufacturer mergers/acquisitions and we’d expect a period of settling, but production in the Far East has strengthened and I’ve found it interesting that the majority of my clients have also noticed this trend but haven’t necessarily been able to ‘diagnose the problem’.

Control logoHowever I’m pleased to report that the tide has clearly changed as both SMT and Control were awash with enquiries, orders and jobs! Vendors of pick and place, packaging, bonding, metrology, cleaning, laser and printing equipment were all reporting additional activity and discussing their hiring strategy for the rest of the year. In such a volatile and reactive market, it’s where recruiters add the most value – making business critical hires happen quickly for companies experiencing a sudden influx of technical queries, install/maintenance requirements or sales opportunities.

Undoubtedly this is one of the many temporary peaks we’ll see over the next few quarters, but it’s nice to see companies taking more calculated risks to grow and making smart business moves to capitalise on the ‘high’ so they can push through the next ‘low’ unscathed.

The ‘predictable unpredictability’ of the equipment market means companies are always on standby to hire at the drop of a hat once customer orders are actualized. I try to keep as close as possible to clients and candidates who are the real ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground, so I can work accordingly in the background and reduce the panic for companies once the market suddenly livens up. This is why I really enjoy the trade shows, getting the ‘front line’ gossip over a coffee, beer, or in this case my first ever Mezzo Mix!

Perhaps European production isn’t enough to worry Asia just yet, but the demand for local support, quick supply and quality over price certainly has its place. I suspect we’ll continue to see the purse strings open, as lots of OEMs are reporting the need for additional reliability and/or better post-sales care. Ironically 2 qualities my feet could benefit from…

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