Gene Weiner: Lessons Learned From COVID-19



Barry Matties speaks with Gene Weiner, president and CEO of Weiner International Associates, about the electronics industry’s continued operation under COVID-19 restrictions and some of the lessons learned during this pandemic. One such lesson: Companies and nations must do a better job of sharing information to help prevent this from happening again.

Weiner describes his view of the current situation as “mixed,” and he faults the world’s governments for being unprepared for such a pandemic. But he believes the world—and especially the U.S.—is set to rebound after the smoke clears, and he credits IPC President and CEO John Mitchell with showing leadership during this crisis.

I-Connect007 continues to deliver original reporting and coverage of the electronics design, electronics manufacturing, and contract manufacturing industries, including up-to-date information from the companies, associations, and supply chains globally. Find the latest news and information at www.iconnect007.com, and on our new topic bulletin board, “Industry Leaders Speak Out: Responses to COVID-19 outbreak,” found here.

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Audio Transcription:

Barry Matties: Today, I’m speaking with Gene Weiner—a man who has over 50 years of experience in our industry. Gene is the president and CEO of Weiner International Associates. He is also an IPC Hall of Fame member. Gene, welcome. And let’s start with your view of the current condition of the industry.

Gene Weiner: Well, the view is mixed. We have not seen anything like this, although we have experienced over the decades a number of severe recessions as well as rapid increases. This, though, caught everybody not by surprise, but in a way that was unexpected as it exploded in just a few months’ time from an unknown source around the globe to wreaking havoc on the world economies. And it is as yet unclear as to how or when it will be controlled in the future.

What is certain is that there has been a total lack of preparation or foresight by various governments around the world, although this type of thing had been predicted by a number of people publicly in talks and so forth a number of years ago—five, six, seven years ago. The way it affected the United States is rather unexpected, too, as the United States did have—and does have—the ability to rebound quickly but had not maintained its emergency stockpile of ventilators and other materials and research programs that would enable to confront this type of coronavirus rapidly. And also because the electronic industry, which is the heart of almost everything we touch, if you take printed circuits, semiconductors, and the software that joins it all together, it affects everything from a refrigerator to the car you drive to the TV you watch and the cellphone in your pocket or hand.

Matties: Interesting.

Weiner: The critical effect of a global supply chain is really what has become quite evident here. Because of the supply chain, all of the materials, boards, circuits, and assemblies of what we use in everyday life are truly global. And no one country is totally independent of it—save possibly China, and we know what happened there.

Matties: In large part, the shortage of medical devices is what’s keeping our industry very busy right now. What do you see around that?

Weiner: I see a tremendous effort by America’s printed circuit manufacturers, their assembly companies, and OEMs, to quickly rise to the occasion and produce not only test kits for finding the virus—in the way Abbott Laboratories and others quickly came up with quick solutions or short-term solutions to find out if someone has been affected—but the construction of the ventilators, which is a rather complex piece of equipment, rebounded quickly.

But what was surprising to me is that no one agency of the government had any record as to who was capable of producing ventilators quickly and marshalling all the forces to put it together. For example, asking GM to produce it quickly—when there are a number of EMS companies that are better equipped to do this—was surprising to me. And it was surprising to me that no one had brought this forward quickly enough. However, IPC—under the leadership of Dr. John Mitchell—has really risen to the challenge and pointed out how to fix the problem, share solutions, share equipment, share parts, and keep things going in a way that was totally unexpected. It has shown what IPC can do in an emergency to help everyone everywhere.

Matties: What lessons do you think our industry has learned or needs to learn?

Weiner: Our industry has learned that we need to share a number of pieces of information and facilities and capabilities with each other, as we have often done in past decades through trade associations such as IPC. It’s amazing how everyone has stepped forward and shared the solutions they have found and offered to help other companies—whether it’s a quick-turn circuit for a ventilator, a test kit, or the availability of providing electrical test equipment for new pieces of equipment that are required. It’s interesting to see how the workers in our industries have stepped forward and gone to great lengths to put themselves at risk—24/7, in some factories—to solve the problems and keep the factories running and provide critical needs for the national emergency.

Matties: Gene, we certainly appreciate your 50 years of industry experience and you taking the time today to share your thoughts with our listeners.

Weiner: It’s been a pleasure to share our experiences and what we learned with others, and that is part of the lessons that we’ve learned.

Matties: Once again, you’ve been listening to Gene Weiner, the president and CEO of Wiener International Associates.

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