There are a great many new products being developed today, probably more than at any other time in my career. With everything from the pandemic to a dangerous war that the entire world is watching with a great deal of unease to the threat of a cyber-attack that puts our very way of life in danger, the world is changing and changing fast.
Because of the results of the pandemic, we are experiencing shortages like we have never faced in our lifetime. It is affecting those of us in electronics as much if not more than most industries. From the challenges of interrupted supply chains and ransomware, not to mention a war in Ukraine that threatens the entire world, these circumstances are affecting not only how we do business but what we will be producing to meet the needs of our customers, who in term have to meet the needs of their customers and the world.
We are tasked with finding ways to produce products in a timely and efficient fashion. These products and services have many purposes:
- Some are designed to combat cyber-attacks through security devices that help make our homes, companies, airports, our country, and the world a safer place
- New medical devices have been designed to deal with pandemic urgencies
- There is some creative work around supply chain interruptions
- Replenishing our defense and aerospace suppliers to inventing new weapons (unfortunately) of almost mass destruction
We are tasked with finding ways to produce these new products in a timely and efficient fashion.
Considering all these new challenges, we are forced to find better and more efficient ways to get these new products to market. This means working together in more cohesive and cooperative ways.
Therefore, it is more important than ever that we all work together—and I really do mean all of us. Those of us who fabricate PCBs must open our minds and doors to the idea of working together. Where for so many years we competed to the point of treating one another as adversaries, we now must come together to form a cohesive partnership.
It has always been assumed that our competitors were our enemies, and that kind of attitude was a serious factor in our domestic PCB community as we saw the number dwindle from nearly 2,000 viable fabricators to less than 200 today.
In hindsight, one has to wonder if we had all stuck together when it mattered, things could have been different. We could have protected ourselves from the offshoring that our larger OEMs spearheaded. With a united front we might have been able to have enough of a voice to do something about that. But we didn’t.
If we had worked together in a collaborative way, maybe we could have shared our ideas and innovations to our greater good instead of working in silos hoarding our own technological improvements and thriving on the NIH (not invented here) attitude that drove us to denying that anything our competitors had developed was not even worth stealing.
Our domestic PCB industry could have stood stronger and been much more vibrant today if we had stood together, shoulder to shoulder as one united industry.
But alas, we did not, and today this what we have: fewer than 200 companies striving to stay alive with our wagons still moving in a straight and vulnerable line instead of coming together in a circle of strength.
But it’s not too late. We still have a chance to work together, not only to strengthen our own domestic industry but to start watching it grow and thrive. I am seeing encouraging signs of our companies wanting to work together.
There is certainly a growing market for domestic products. All of America was shocked when, for the first in our lifetimes, there were shortages. When, for the first time, our grocery stores had empty shelves. It was something we had only seen in the news photos of other less fortunate countries.
We were shocked when we could not get the basic products to build our products. We were shocked when our PCBA brothers and sisters could not get the components they needed to build their products. And we were shocked again when we realized that the orders for our PCB products were slowed down because without vital components to put on our boards, there was not a real urgency to put those boards on order.
Finally, we were all shocked when we realized that we had given away our very independence and exchanged it for reliance on a global supply chain that was beyond our domestic control. Our medical people could not even get respirators to save American lives because they were not built here any longer.
But now we have a second chance. This is a time for unification especially in our own industry as well. Let’s reach out to one another, start talking to one another, and find ways to work together to develop a strong and productive partnership with our fellow PCB fabricators. Let’s do this together.