There is no doubt that innovation is on the rise. The number of new products being developed post-COVID is staggering. Our OEMs are not only upgrading their current products, making them better than ever, they are also developing new products at a very rapid rate.
It’s everything from medical products to security products, purification and sterilization products, to eco-appliances and new defense and aerospace products; these are being developed and brought to market every single day.
This means that those of us working with them need to be able to help them with the engineering, design, fabrication, and assembly of these products. We need to do it smoothly, quickly, and easily.
More than ever, our customers need us to help them get to that competitive market faster than at any other time in the history of electronics.
Because most OEMs don’t have PCB or assembly departments, or in some cases not even their own design departments, it’s up to us to provide these services. We must help them actually design their products as well. We are seeing more evidence of companies developing the idea of a new and innovative product and relying on us to make that product a reality. It puts all of us, from designers to fabricators to assemblers, in the expert seat.
Personally, I love this idea and I feel that we should welcome the opportunity. For too long, we were left out of the design process, especially those of us in the business of fabricating boards, but now finally we are being welcomed to the table.
Our customers are asking for advice and expertise and all I can say is, “It’s about time.” It’s long overdue.
Let’s not forget about security as well—the protection of IP intellectual property. Our customers are no longer as interested or willing to send their new designs off to the Far East. They are much more careful, especially when it comes to new and innovative products, about letting others in from various countries, especially those countries with loose or no patent protection laws.
What about China? Considering today’s geopolitical climate, does it still make sense to send production, especially new ones, to China? Whether we fall on the side of having nothing to worry about, or you are somewhat xenophobic, not everyone, including some of our customers right now, are very comfortable with sending their new and innovative inventions over to China.
This means that the burden of producing these new products quickly and safely and securely is falling squarely on the shoulders of American manufacturers. This is not a bad thing; I welcome the opportunity. But we must prepare ourselves by:
- Acting as our customers’ expert consultants. Whether our expertise is design, fabrication, or assembly of PCBs, we must be ready and willing to share our own expertise with our customers.
- We must work together. When a customer comes to us with a new product and has a very tight time-to-market window, it’s up to us to provide them with a timely solution. We must work synergistically and concurrently rather than our more traditional consecutive manner. This looks like all of us sharing information at the same time. I can visualize maybe three, four, or up to six companies working together—the design company, the board company and its vendors, the assembly company and its vendors, and of course, most important, the customers (and possibly the customers’ customers). That’s a lot of people leaving their egos at the door and climbing out of their silos to work cooperatively with one another.
- We will all have to be fearless. We will have to take on “science projects,” where we have to experiment, and we don’t exactly know how we are going to successfully produce the new product, but we are dedicated and willing to try. It’s a very scary thing to start a journey without a clear picture of the end goal or the path that we need to take to make that goal.
But then again, the future is like that, isn’t it? Conquering new technologies and inventing the future has never been for the faint of heart, and that is truer today than it as ever been.