Posted September 2020
I am continually amazed at your ability to focus on THE issues!
One interesting aspect of Covid is how it has forced both employer and employee to both adapt and innovate in areas such as labor & scheduling and facility layout. I know a few larger companies who never had third (in one case even second) shifts, however now all employees are spread over three shifts so to reduce social contact. Supposedly employees are not unhappy with this change and management has realized greater flexibility on the shop floor. Ditto, how many job functions are more efficient with people working from home – less gossip time and interruptions. Communication technologies previously not embraced have enabled this and, I believe, will not go away if and when Covid-19 subsides.
Another interesting aspect of the sabre rustling is that just about all countries, except the loudest sabre rustler of all – the U.S. – are aggressively implementing strategies such as you report Japan is doing to secure the raw materials and supplies to weather a prolonged trade war(s). The US is talking the talk, but not walking the walk as, for example, they allowed a Japanese company acquire Taconic and then move production from the U.S. to South Korea. The DOD, a heavy end customer of PTFE laminates, never knew until after the fact.
----- Peter Bigelow, President, IMI
Posted August 2020
Much of the news that comes from China does not ring true or accurate. You have to really scrutinize the contents carefully to truly understand what is written. ----- H. Nakahara, PhD, N.T. Information
"We’re seeing a very strong business environment, even with the Covid-19 impact. " ----- Shane Whiteside, CEO/President of Summit Interconnect, North America's's 3rd largest fabricator.
Regarding: “Are American fabricators really ready to accept and process large volume orders? Should they? We have heard some new horror stories about attempts to move volume orders from China to smaller" U.S. operations. The reports include no response to inquiries, late deliveries, quotations with errors and more.”
"Maybe many don’t WANT high volume orders! So many fabricators have niched in to specific technologies and/or volume runs over the past decades and have facilities that are not designed for high volume, such as they are in China. So the business decision: stick to your knitting or attempt to shift gears and go for high volume jobs. My guess is that most are choosing to stick to what works and not take the financial risk to retool (or retrain) to be able to handle high volume." ----- Peter B., President IMI
Posted February 2020
"PS…. BTW, as one of the “recycled” IPC board members you referred to in your Linkedin Apex post a few days ago, you should really study at the overall churn of Board membership we have had since we put in Term Limits about 10 or so years ago. The number of new companies and new members represented has never been so dramatically different and dramatically international. The mixture of new members and “recycled” members is extremely balanced and provides for a great deal of new ideas, while also maintaining some continuity to the past. As a member of the HoF and someone that has been intimately involved in the organization for all of your years of service, I am not sure that this was the best forum for making your point. (Not sure who your target was here!!)" ----- from Steve Pudles Member of the IPC Board of Directors, newly inducted member of the Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame and CEO of Zentech
Posted April 2019
Yes, smaller companies should be doing more in the way of consortia. Some are, but they are typically partnering with either a large company or academia on a project by project basis. I believe, at least in our industry, there are two basic reasons why more is not taking place with smaller companies.
First, there is a lack of trust between companies. The small guys are so focused on “getting the order at all costs” that they are afraid if they collaborate with a “competitor” they will lose a customer and not be able to steal one in return. This has become, in my opinion, more prevalent over the past decade or so as the number of companies shrink and company presidents have no place to meet, greet, and build trust like was the case when the Presidents Forum and TMRC were active.
Second, and in large part because of the first item, smaller companies do not have relationships with attorneys to craft consortia agreements to protect (or even define) intellectual property, non-disclosure agreements. They often do not know how to eventually market the developed IP, etc., etc. Large companies have staff and/or retained law firms to handle this. Their company culture is more comfortable with working with a different company.
In short, resource band width and trust retard the ability for small and smaller companies to work together. This would be a great subject for an industry meeting: hearing how it works (e.g. human resources and investment required)vfor the large guys and then subject experts explaining what and how a small guy has to do to make it work on their scale. ----- Peter B.
I am more than happy to meet and work with those smaller companies throughout all industries, the likely outcome is synergies and common interests will be identified and mutual interests served.
Certainly some level of protection of our respective customers will need to be established but this can be done with NDA and agreements of that nature.
The rest of the world particularly China has the benefit of collaboration amongst its businesses/ interests (if only thru government intervention) why shouldn’t we . Sign me up I am all for it, more often than not we are going to be stronger together ,communication and a forum to build trust is the key. ----- Andy K.
Very interesting report. Trade pacts are complicated indeed! You point to some things that should be of concern to most everyone in the business. Often, where-ever we go, we go together.
Your closing question is a good one. There should be more opportunities for smaller companies to participate in creating the future. They are more nimble. A lot of smart people exist outside the walls of the behemoths.
I am attending the NextFlex conference at Boeing this week. They have done a good job of rebranding flexible circuit assemblies as flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) and building the brand. If it brings new blood into the flexible circuit community, I am all for it. ----- Joseph F.
Posted March 2019
Weiner's World: Insightful, as usual. Suggests a glimpse into a developing future of consolidation, consortia and continental divide. Greater opportunities for the small guys who can take advantage of theattendant slowdown in demand response. Should be fun. How far the future------any where from tomorrow morning to a decade. ----- Bernard K.
This was a great piece of work. But scary! ----- Ray P.
Excellent information thank you ! ----- Andy K.
Posted February 2019
…the Automotive program you pulled together for the IPC's Execiutive Forum on Advancing Automotive Electronics was top notch – an excellent program. Strictly between us . . . .it seems to me that the IPC would be crazy NOT to want to do such a program annually, but, I fear, will only do it again if others, like you, do all the work!
Posted January 2019
China's soon to be imposed new regulations that will require makers to have technological patents for their products and to set aside at least 3% of their annual revenues for R&D is interesting, especially the concept of having “technological patents for their products”. Does this mean every new process innovation will be patented so non-Chinese companies are not able to use what might be considered a basic process (remember Lemelson and AOI)? Or, does this enable manufacturers in China to patent their customers' product if it is not already patented in China? An interesting and slippery slope! ----- Peter B.
Packed with insights and info---- as usual. ----- Bernie K
Posted September 2018
Kudos! Great summary of what’s happening currently and the implications and downstream effects of various trade agreements. Many times people don’t think through what will happen as a result of these agreements. Your summary was valuable in aiding them to think it through. Thanks! ----- Clint N.
Posted August 2018
The world just got really complicated really fast, didn’t it! ----- Dr. Alan R.
Not a single day passes nowadays without reading about ADAS, EV, PHEC, FCV (non-combustion engine driven) and ultimately fully autonomous cars. I had an experience of riding a VR simulated car in Japan. I was scared. All these are being rapidly implemented. They continue to be improved, but, I wonder when a "truly reliable and safe" autonomomous car in which I will have enough trust to use will become available.
When achieved, and I am sure it will be some day, autonomous cars will save millions of lives. It will provide new freedom, convenience and mobility to physically handicapped people. However, one must wonder if a 7-year old boy could get in and drive away.
Obvious questions include: Will the necessity of a driver's license be ceased? Who will be responsible when an accident occurs? Will private car ownership fade into history?
There are a many of legal, financial and economic, subjects to consider.
But, if it were available today, I could go to NYC for a “night on the town” and be taken home safely.” ----- Dr. Hayao N.
What happens when a tariff – be it 10% or 25% or any amount – is attached to the cost of a component, raw material or capital equipment? At what point does the economic hardship cascade far and fast enough to erode corporate or industry profits and stifle growth? How does an industry deal with an artificially induced impediment to profit and growth? I fear we are all about to find out.
How our industry and the global economy responds to the geopolitical mine field called tariffs is not yet known. It will most surely play out in various ways in different parts of the globe over the upcoming quarters. What most certainly will happen, however, is all of us in electronics, as well as the general industrial and retail consumer, are about to get a first-hand lesson on how small the world really is and how a small tariff placed on an obscure item in one part of the world can and will ricochet across the globe and result in some very different products either not being available or, if so, at a much higher price. ----- Peter B.
Posted July 2018
Great (June) column Gene, you hit the nail on the head concerning the trade/technology dispute with China - even if the US was minded to re-invest in volume PCB plants it would be unable to source enough state of the art equipment quickly enough. The North American SMEs are the ones set to suffer. ----- Alun M.
Well written and very insightful. ----- Andy K.
Posted May 2018
The top item in your May 2018 edition may be the most significant challenge our country, all of North America, and even Europe need to come to grip with: Harnessing the next generation to not only think, but to do!
On a global basis while the intellectual capacity of our brightest is clearly more than competitive, equally so is that our working class is globally non-competitive. Some tout and hope that robotics enables competitiveness however in ALL professions it is skill that trumps mechanized automation in making critical decisions and enabling shift-on-the –fly modifications and improvements.
In Asia they have a work force that wants to work and sees work as an opportunity, not a punishment. Leadership in our government, but more importantly in commerce and industry, must commit to doing something to turn the tide. Skill training is a big part of the solution. Basic math and science education as well. However the biggest challenge is to shift the attitude of the next generation to understand that work is opportunity, responsibility (such as showing up on time all the time, etc.,) is a critical minimum tool to even be offered opportunity and a must-have requirement to achieve success – success in a career and success in life.
And everyone needs to broadcast that in manufacturing there is opportunity -- and a bright future. ----- Peter B.
I can't believe how you continue to turn out these comprehensive reports on what's going on. You asked if it was too long. There was so much good data in your report to want to eliminate anything. My thought would be don't publish monthly ...instead publish whenever you think you might have enough stuff. It may be that monthly is convenient most of the time. I am really impressed with the job you. You keep getting better. ----- Raymond E. P.
More from Peter B.
I do not think length is an issue, content is. This month you covered interesting, important and timely topics. If it is a slow – or busy -- news month, then the length of your piece will reflect it. Just keep doing as you do; focus on what is important.
And on that point, I am continually amazed at reading how the companies that are the innovative shakers and movers are mostly non-U.S. or North American. Even those that are technically “U.S.” companies are doing their most innovative work in Asia. I wish our elected officials would understand that to “Make America Great Again” we must be engaged globally and become far more shrewd and forward thinking rather than worrying about this, or next quarter’s report to Wall Street!
Has anyone put together a global “Road Map” that shows the most advanced countries as well as the most advanced industries? I would not be surprised if Asia regionally and Automotive industry would be most advanced, followed by Europe and Computer/Telecom next, North America and mil/aero third – just one person’s opinion!
Posted April 2018
The ZTE fiasco is sending everything into a tizzy! I’m glad to work for a U.S. company!
BTW, Israel is investing in technology parks in Israeli-Arab populated areas. This is a great move which will help undermine internal terrorism. ----- Merril W.
Outstanding April Weiner's World! I must say I learned a lot about what is happening outside of my small North American World. For sure, times are changing big time, and quicker than one realizes. And yes, the electronics industry is more worldwide than most realize. ----- Gary F.
Great report. The value of the IPC will certainly be appreciated as an advocate for members of our industry.
Even we who know history seem bound to repeat it. The component supply chain is starting to pick up some of the 1979-80 activities, especially double ordering. I'm sure the brokers are preparing for the action. My input would be for component users to start making relationships now with distributors and major dealers in surplus materials. ----- Bernie K.
Your publication is fantastic. ----- Darby D.
Posted January 2018
Excellent interview with Barry Matties in PCB007.
You touched on a lot of topics and you were spot on with your analysis on dealing with China.
I especially liked your “no discount” comment. That was pretty funny reading because that was one of my favorite sayings. As you mentioned, China has a lot of momentum and are advancing quickly. Just shear numbers of engineers graduating from colleges in China is going to be a challenge for us. They will develop and come up with new ideas for manufacturing and processing products at lower prices. I saw a lot evolve in the mid 90’s up until 2012 and I can’t imagine what the future will be in China. They have a lot of smart people and are getting smarter each day.
Great article, thanks for sharing. ----- Paul B.
If people aren’t listening to what you have to say, they don’t belong in this industry. ----- Mike B.
Your column is an easy to read wrap-up of important things going on. ----- Detlef S.
Posted December 2017
There are a number of people who are doing a great job in cramming more transistors into the same square milimeter of chip surfaces. The effect of this is not affecting PCB industry as much as those folks warn. If you see what goes on in Asia where still billions of dollars are poured to increase their capacity of conventional PCB. More than 90% of PCBs today still have line/space feature sizes of 75 microns or larger. The only area of PCB where much finer lines are required are for smartphones and wearable products, which account for only less than 10% of the entire PCB area produced.
Maybe fewer than 25 makers out of the existing 2500 PCB makers in the world are affected immediately by continuing integration of IC. The square foot and number of IC substrates are still increasing and only Ibiden and Samsung have lost their substrate business to A10 and A11.
Future FOWLP is not replacing existing substrates, but rather, creating a new market, which is more of a concern to assemblers than PCB makers. You cannot implement hardware with FOWLP alone. You still need PCBs!
Some folks in the PCB industry should pay more attention to what is happening in the chips and packaging industry segments, but at the same time, those in the IC industry should also pay more attention to what goes on in the PCB industry before stating that PCBs and substrates will perish.
The world makes 400 million square meters a year of double-sided and multilayer boards plus 60 million square meter of single-sided PCBs a year. Yes, less substrate in the future, maybe, but you cannot eliminate 460 million square meter per year of PCB overnight just be making denser ICs!
You know me. I am 100% PCB to the bone. When I lecture to my PCB friends about the possible influence of IC integration on PCBs, nobody pays any attention. They still expand. We have to coexist: higher integration of ICs and PCBs.
Having said this, we are at a turning point to do something about PCB structures after seeing the double PCB of iPhone X main boards. ----- Dr. Hayao N.
You have again well summed up the very busy events in Asia. By just walking through, and talking with familiar people and many of the companies at HKPCA it was clear to me that China has matured not only as an electronics center of excellence, but as a developer of new materials and provider of quality capital equipment. If, and how that all trickles to the West will be interesting to see. However, I am always reenergized by visiting Asia and seeing that our industry is alive and well . . . . just no longer here in America! ----- Peter B.
One thought that I had after visiting this month's SEMICON show in Tokyo: The semiconductor industry in Japan no longer seems to have an interest in pursuing volume. It seems that the companies there are now chasing unique specialty devices with great margins. ----- Dominique N.
Forget the "good old days". They are all a figment of your imagination. I was there, and I can tell you that they weren't that good. You just remember them with those rose-colored glasses that we use to view the past. So, forget about them, and for heaven's sakes stop, please stop waiting for them to come back because first of all they won't, and second of all you wouldn't like it one bit if they did. ----- Dan B.
Posted November 2017
PCB employee shortages---- let's start dipping into the retired ranks and adjust the mindset of companies so that they can use part time --- ad hoc--- assistance on projects from elder employees with flex schedules.
The IPC once published a capability matrix for consultants. Maybe a similar presentation would be good for retirees wanting to work on a reduced schedule. ----- Bernie K.
Isn’t it interesting that three major shows are all at the end of the year – in time for all to get ideas, input before they execute their 2018 business plans. Your last comment (Red Flag) about the possibility of double-ordering may be taking place also in the fabrication world. With Rogers pushing lead times way out -- @50 days for 3000/6000 material and up to 80 days for Duroid, etc., I am concerned that some customers are double-ordering with multiple companies with the hope that one, or another, will get laminate from Rogers sooner so to support their short-term needs. When suppliers lead times stretch out you never know how that translates through the procurement community at the OEM level. ----- Peter B.
Great insights and report---as usual. A whole lot of people are going to miss you when you when you retire --- if and when.
That "double ordering" report in the component supply chain takes me back to '79-80 ----- when I started my full time brokering. We're in far better shape today. ----- Bernie K.
Absolutely correct. It IS getting more complicated! In fact what we see are multiple routes to how businesses will look and disruption to so many, if not all, verticals. ----- Robert L.
With the impending challenges created by AI, IOT, and digital platforms everything will be impacted by the available talent pool or lack thereof, so we need to grow it - including from our existing workforce. HR will need a digital recruiting strategy and a digital training plan. ----- Val S.
Interesting on a couple of fronts. Yes, large successful companies can be destroyed by ego-centric management who want to beat the street’s expectation and/or their predecessor’s record (read, GE) which results in a massive restructuring which may work. Other companies see an opportunity in an emerging or reshaping market and buy up the pieces of other companies so they can add what they need to be a player (read Delphi). Such has been the case for generations and for some reason it still seems to happen in spurts rather than consistently.
Today the opportunity market is truly automotive. Automobiles are the only “consumer” product with the volume and value of electronics growing exponentially. The computer is becoming the engine of vehicles and with self-driving technologies, new applications for what should be a mature industry are developing. As Asia and other “emerging” markets are the fastest growing geographic markets the growth in automotive and opportunity both technologically and in volume is in automotive. Add to that the it is far easier to deal with automotive companies than with defense, who on top of costly quality requirements (which automotive also has) have added the layered and costly hurdles of security and nationalism for their supply base to jump over.
I would expect more mergers and divestitures as traditional companies jettison software, and chemical and materials operations where they are marginal players, and emerging or re-positioning companies piece together what they need to be globally competitive in automotive. And . . . . I fully expect the most successful at this will be Asian companies. ----- Peter B.
Posted August 2017
An independent industry certification organization would first have to understand the physical characteristics related to a unique application. HDI for example has hundreds of material/process combinations that substantially impact the performance. Back drill, a relatively simple mechanical process has taken 6+ years just to build out a reliability test vehicle. I believe PCB's will eventually mature to certify structures instead of attributes. It's just becoming too expensive to characterize all aspects of process applications for all materials and applications. For new technologies like VeCS from NextGin Technologies the strategy is to seek out key structures that are challenging for the OEM's and focus testing on those. IPC type collaborations worked well when the basic application for each technology was similar, but that's not the case today. ----- Joe D.
Nice, but there are some quality controls needs that are possibly outside a “standard” certification process. In Automotive, there are quality processes that require variation to be measured and be within a certain limit. The important thing is to have required specifications, methodology to test to the specs, and methodology to measure variation to the spec allowing for failed parts to be screened out. There are also requirements to incorporate stress testing to simulate changes happening over the lifetime of the product.
Certification is not required, but processes to ensure quality and good self-reporting are. Audits should occur to insure that processes are being followed as specified, but that’s the limit of a certification.
It’s an interesting perspective to state that the amount of business is proof of quality. I’m not sure that is entirely true. It depends on the priority of quality. There are consumer products, which operate at less extreme temperatures, have a shorter lifespan, and where failure will not cause a catastrophic life-threatening accident. In these cases quality is less important than in Automotive electronics. ----- Merril S.
I wonder how the new Presidential Executive Order on Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States will translate down to the printed circuit board (PCB) fabrication industry. Aren't PCBs (both rigid and flexible) a critical platform and interconnect component for many of the military's electronic devices, control systems, weapon systems? Isn't the supply chain to build these (e.g., copper foil, copper clad laminates) important enough to protect? Or are these just too small for anyone in Washington or the Pentagon to pay attention to the viability of this capability in the United States or with trusted non-American sources? I wonder. Do you? ----- GHW
Gene, you are perfectly right ! I am telling this since many years. One of our customers in Europe, lost the supply of PCBs for an important company making electronic devices for the military ( aiming systems, radars, etc,..) in favour of a Chinese supplier. The order was lost for a ridiculous difference of few tenths of Euros for a device that will cost milllions. Greed and incompetence have no boundaries. ----- Gaetano Dall Ora
Posted June 2017
This is a remarkable report and must reading for our IPC Community.
For the astute executive today, your report is the road map to tomorrow.
Congrats ---- and enjoy. ----- Bernie K.