Partnerships are now more important than ever, not only with your vendors (as we regularly focus on in this column), but with your competitors as well. “Competitors” is kind of a nasty word, isn’t it? But there is no denying that’s what we are. I believe that if we can all start working together in partnership in this new post-pandemic world order, life will be much better individually and for our industry.
More than ever we have to really communicate with one another. We have had to increase our level of communications with our suppliers, customers and design and assembly partners. I do believe that if the last 18 months have taught us anything, it is that tired but true phrase: We’re all in this together.
Did you know that the reason the COVID-19 vaccine was developed so quickly was because everyone was working together? The corporate walls between competitors came down and communications opened up.
There was an openly shared exchange of information in real time as the research scientist shared what they were developing and discovering so that everyone working on the vaccine knew all the developments at the practically the same time. When a research scientist in Germany discovered a vital bit on information it was immediately shared with all of the other scientist working on this world saving vaccine.
Egos were set aside for the good of mankind, and in fact this kind of open communications brought us the vaccine in a matter of months, instead of years, thus saving maybe millions of lives. Now, if that does not show the value of open communications between companies, I don’t know what does.
The space program has been another example of companies working together. There were over a thousand companies working on getting that first space shuttle built and launched.
In fact, the entire space program from the time it was launched after the Soviet Satellite Sputnik stirred us to life was a complete cooperative effort from all the major U.S. companies from Rockwell and Martin Marietta to Lockheed, Texas Instruments and IBM. Hundreds of companies and millions of people worked tirelessly so that Neil Armstrong could walk on the moon less than 12 years after Sputnik shook us up. Talk about what great partnerships can do.
As an example of how partnerships evolve, American astronauts today hitch a ride on a Russian rocket to go to the Space Station. I bet you did not know that.
I bet you also did not know that when something goes wrong with an autonomous vehicle in Tokyo or anywhere else in the world, all the other autonomous vehicle companies throughout the world learn from it. That’s because there is a globally shared AI system that is constantly feeding learned information to all the other autonomous vehicles in the world. It’s just another example of how cooperation, communication, and partnerships can work to make everyone (and the world) a better place.
In our own industry there is an ever-increasing demand for new products getting from concept to reality faster than ever. When companies come up with a new idea for a product, they want that idea turned into reality in several days, not weeks or months.
Many of our customers don’t want to place a P.O. with a design service bureau, then find a board shop to build the board and place and P.O. with that board shop; and then find an assembly company and place a P.O. with that assembly company; and if the product needs special testing and cable assemblies, they have to find those sources and place P.O.s with them as well. In some cases, it can take up to 10 different transactions to convert an idea to reality. That’s too much time, too many transactions, and too much that can go wrong along the way.
What our customers want is one completely synergistic solution. They want to place order, with one source and forget it. And yes, they want it fast.
Now, there is no way we are going to be able to accomplish that without excellent communications, cooperation, and yes, partnership.
I am pleased to say that I am seeing more evidence of this kind of cooperative spirit than I have ever seen before. Designers are actually coming to PCB shops for advice, and PCB shops and assembly companies are actually forming cooperative partnerships with each other. Best of all, our customers are talking to us, trying to learn from us as to the best, most economical, and most efficient way to produce their products. It is happening as we speak. This is something that has been a long time coming, but it’s a good thing it’s finally here.
So, let’s keep it going. Let’s consider this time only the starting point, our Sputnik moment if you will, where we all face the future together, trying to build the best products in the world together and in a complete spirit of partnership
It’s amazing how much can get done when no one cares who gets the credit.