Automation Attracts: The New Guard to PCB Fabrication


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It only took a few seconds inside the GreenSource Fabrication plant for the I-Connect007 staff to realize just how different the facility is. The look and feel of the place, however, is just one difference; staffing the facility is unique as well.

Of the Charlestown, New Hampshire facility’s technology and people, GreenSource Fabrication VP Alex Stepinski said, “You don’t see other fabricators replacing plating areas. It just never gets done because it’s too hard. And then you have a lack of young people in the industry—everyone is five seconds from retirement, it seems. From what we see, if you go into any board shop, I think the average age is probably 55–60.”

Ask him why that is, and he answers right away.

“They can’t get young people to stay there because the places are all scary. If you’re a millennial and you walk into some place where there’s copper plating dripping everywhere…” Stepinski shakes his head. “Nobody wants to work there.”

GreenSource Makes a Choice to Bridge the Gap

GreenSource—like most of the industry—is struggling with an age/expertise gap. In fact, it’s more like a gaping chasm. Experienced PCB fabrication techs and engineers are typically over 50, with a much smaller percentage under age 30. In between, there’s a huge chunk of the age demographic simply missing from the work force.

“For every five that retire, they get replaced with one,” says Stepinski. Which raises one of the key questions for PCB facility ownership: what good is investing in new equipment if there won’t be anyone who can run it? After a thoughtful pause, Stepinski threw down the gauntlet.

“We see this across the whole market. We’re trying to stay ahead of it by making a nice working  environment and getting a lot of young people here. We have a good demographic. We have experienced people who have a lot of industry knowledge. Then we have a lot of younger people, and we have a bunch of people in the middle,” Stepinski explained.

“It’s a nice bell curve, as it should be. That’s going to be our advantage long term. I think 5–10 years from now, you’re going to see a lot more shops disappearing simply because there is nobody to run them.”

Management Plans

The GreenSource master plan, therefore, does not simply stop with equipment. Expertise is required as well—sustainable expertise. After talking to a number of staff members, the master plan emerged based on five key pillars:

  • Invest in cutting edge equipment  and processes
  • Make this facility cleaner and  more capable than any other in  the industry
  • Staff with high-caliber industry experts  and motivate them to teach down
  • Select and train local area technical grads
  • Avoid industry tradition (what was), and concentrate on current knowledge (what is)

To read the full version of this article which originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.

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