Now more than ever we need to work with one another. The times have evolved to where no one can do it alone. All the challenges that were brought on by the pandemic have only accelerated the need for finding new and innovative ways to work together.
When I started in this business, there were little or no interactions between PCB companies, for example. We all operated in silos, as they say. We seldom communicated or shared technology ideas and improvements. In fact, many times we were so overcome by the NIH (not invented here) syndrome that we would reject out of hand any new ideas.
The same was true of our relationships with our suppliers. Many of our companies were so strong and our bench was so deep when it came to engineering, that all we wanted from most of our suppliers was the product and the service, but not their advice and their knowledge. We were actually suspicious of a supplier who would come on too strongly with an opinion of how we should be building our products.
But then again, that was over 30 years ago. Our world has changed drastically since then.
Although the pandemic accelerated that change in attitude, it was already inevitable that a time of more cooperation and partnership was well on its way. Even before the pandemic, the shortage of technical talent in our own companies had caused us to turn to our suppliers in search of their expertise.
Companies like Taiyo, Technica, and TFE were already helping us with our technical issues as well as helping us on our way to new innovations. We have come to rely on these companies and all of the other similar companies who sell us their products and services as valued vendor/partners. We finally invited them into our companies, and asked them for advice, to be our technical consultants, to train our salespeople on how to sell the products we could make by using their products, to speak at our sales meetings, and to participate in our technical webinars.
We learned to trust them and they in turn started to trust us in a true collegial and cooperative spirit or partnership. Finally!
We are also doing the same thing with our fellow board fabricators. We are no longer (at least most of us) looking at them as the enemy, as the competition, but rather as noble partners, realizing that we all have to look out for one another if we are truly going to survive.
We have even arrived at the point where we are sharing capabilities and technologies, helping one another when something goes wrong. It has become more common now for one company to etch another company’s PCBs when that company’s etch line is down.
The same goes for other similar processes and applications, such as commodities like laminates; when one company has a lack or shortage of a certain special laminate they will buy some from a neighboring company. This would never have happened back in the day.
But we have come to realize that we cannot do it alone. So many of our customers are now asking for a complete product that we have had to develop cooperative partnerships with our contract manufacturing customers and PCB designers as well to provide our common customers what they not only want but need as well.
Think how powerful that kind of synergistic partnership is. How great it is that we can all work together providing our customers with a one purchase order, one total concept (design, fabrication, and assembly) solution. This is something that was completely unheard of just a few years ago. Now it is becoming the norm.
Actually, none of these kinds of partnerships would have been possible a few years ago, but now we are seeing more of them happening. This is a very good thing as the world becomes a much shakier place and we have had to find ways to survive and thrive.
And if I may predict, we are about to see more of these partnerships evolve in the future. The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the shaky frenemy relationship with China have taught us nothing if not that we are all in this together and we are all going to have to work together if our thing is going to work.
Things are looking up for our domestic electronics industry. Semiconductor factories are being built in Ohio and Arizona. Once shuttered domestic laminate fabrication centers are coming back. Most of all there is a renewed spirit that we all have to work together to make ourselves stronger—to the point of resuming our global leadership in electronics.
Our work is not done; in fact it is just getting started. But we are making progress and I’m seeing that most of us are realizing how great we can become as an industry if we are willing to share in cooperative partnerships.
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