A Conversation with EIPC Executive Director Kirsten Smit-Westenberg


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The EIPC booth was a busy place during productronica, with several members and other organizations headquartered there, resulting in a constant stream of people stopping by to visit, get information and study the upcoming conference agendas. Overseeing the big, and even the little things, was Executive Director Kirsten Smit-Westenberg, who made sure important questions got answered, people stayed hydrated, and EIPC’s magnetic pins found homes on shirt collars. She managed to find a few moments to sit down with Editors Pete Starkey and Patty Goldman to fill them in on the latest news from EIPC.

Patty Goldman: Kirsten, it’s so very nice to meet you in person. Please fill in our readers on your position at EIPC and the latest news.

Kirstin Smit-Westenberg: I am the executive director, and have been for five years now. Before that, I was project manager, so I was responsible for all the events that we organized. The executive position is a little bit more than that, and includes doing the financials, taking the membership, recruiting new members, and continuing to organize the events.

Goldman: So what all is going on at EIPC?

Smit-Westenberg: What's going on now, for me, is organizing and preparing for our winter conference in Lyon, France, which will be held February 1 and 2, 2018, at Alstom SA, a train equipment maker in France. It is located a little bit outside of Lyon. This will be quite different from the other events that we organize, which are normally held in a hotel. This time, we were invited to have our conference at the Alstom facility.

Thursday and Friday of the program will be within the Alstom facility, including a tour to see some of their production line where they make railway engines. Unfortunately, we will not see the actual trains being built, but we will see some of the assembly lines. It’s a technical conference, so we have a very interesting program scheduled and the theme is future trends for successful positioning of Europe’s place in the global supply chain. We will divide our program into four sessions and a keynote session, with speakers from all over Europe and the U.S. We have Walt Custer again, to give a global market outlook and we have a bunch of interesting companies within Europe presenting, so I'm very happy with the program. Then in the evening we'll have a nice social program and dinner in downtown Lyon.

Goldman: That sounds excellent. I also understand that you're planning a special event for your summer conference.

Smit-Westenberg: Next year is our 50th anniversary—EIPC was founded in 1968. For our summer conference to be held on May 31 and June 1, we've decided to have a 50th anniversary conference and we'd like to do something special for our guests, so we've organized a social program, a dinner cruise on the Rhine River in Bonn, Germany. Our two-day conference will look similar, in a way, to our other conferences. It will be a technical conference on a Thursday and Friday, with two days of papers from companies all over Europe. We invited some of the founders of the EIPC, like Doctor Fassini, who has accepted. Hopefully, some other people who have been involved with the EIPC for 50 years will be present. We also will visit Radio Antenna, in Bonn. I am very much looking forward to this milestone and I  think it will be a great event.

Goldman: It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun, with a lot of reminiscing, and maybe an exceptionally large crowd.

Smit-Westenberg: I hope so. I hope that people will see this as something special and that we will extend our crowd from 80−100 to maybe 150 or more. We would be delighted to welcome all our members and more. Of course, you're invited to come, Patty. It would be a pleasure to have you experience your first EIPC conference.

Goldman: Yes, it would be. Of course, We usually have Pete Starkey attend and I’m sure he won’t miss that one. Pete, how many years have you been in EIPC?

Pete Starkey: I'm thinking back to the days when I was doing presentations in EIPC conferences and I remember, in the late '80s and the early '90s, talking about first-generation photoimageable solder resists. I remember doing a joint presentation with Diethard Kapp-Schwoerer, who was with Ciba-Geigy at that time on liquid photoimageable innerlayer resists. At that time, I was in PCB manufacturing and was recounting my experience of new production technologies. But, really, for the last 15 years or so, I've attended the conferences as a journalist to produce a technical review of the proceedings, which people are always interested in reading. It’s a big compliment when people say, "I wasn't able to attend the conference for whatever reason, but I have read your review and feel you've captured the essence of what was presented." And I've always been made very welcome. Thank you.

Smit-Westenberg: And we very much appreciate the excellent technical reports and the reviews that you do for the conferences. I get those responses as well.

 Starkey: That's very encouraging for me and a great compliment, I think, to a lot of my colleagues at I-Connect007. We're pleased to help to publicize the outcome of these events.

Goldman: I understand that the PCB fabricators in Europe are very busy this year. I'm sure you're going to stay busy.

Smit-Westenberg: We will be. This productronica has been an interesting edition. It's been very busy and there has been a positive vibe for all four days. We experienced people being very optimistic for the near future. Of course, not the far future, but who can predict what will happen in five to 10 years? But, at least, two, three, or four years, they were very optimistic about that. And we can read from Walt's numbers that the economy in Europe is doing better than it has done for quite a while.

Goldman: Things are looking up.

Smit-Westenberg: Yes, and that reflects on all of us, so it's good for everyone.

Goldman: Kirsten, thank you very much for your time.

Smit-Westenberg: Thank you, Patty.

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