Highlights on a Rousing Virtual IPC APEX EXPO 2021


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What a week that was! I didn’t get to endure the 11-hour flight each way, neither did I need my comfy old shoes, but it certainly was a marathon event. And real-time-plus-six-hours gave me a few late nights, but it was such a meaningful experience, and well worth the effort!

After my first clumsy attempts to navigate the IPC APEX EXPO website, I soon settled into a practised routine and became reasonably competent at finding my way around the vast array of options and an agenda running in as many as 11 parallel tracks. Thankfully, IPC has now made the content accessible on-demand so I can go back and review whatever I choose during the next 90 days.

After a welcome from IPC President and CEO Dr. John Mitchell, Programme Chair Gene Weiner did a splendid job of keeping the EMS Managers meeting and the IPC’s Raymond E. Pritchard Hall of Fame Managers Forum running smoothly. There was so much to take in.

The Managers’ Forum theme of “Managing Challenges in Periods of Transition” was relevant and appropriate, all circumstances considered, with an impressive array of top industry names discussing strategies for thriving during times of crisis. I made a special point of attending the session on vertical integration, kicked off by Alex Stepinski describing his journey, “From inventor to contractor in several steps of vertical integration,” as he looked back over the previous eight years and forward into the future. An inspirational lesson in creative and innovative problem-solving from a true industry pioneer. I took copious notes and spent a few hours distilling them down into a realistic review article.

Another inspirational event was the “Great Digital Transformation” keynote from Travis Hessman. I admit to having been a bit apprehensive, concerned that most of the content would probably go way over my head. But the way that Hessman presented the story avoided hype and technological sensation by walking through the process of transformation, with emphasis on process, from a rational and realistic perspective. He outlined the methodologies adopted by companies that had used them successfully and explained why companies who had gotten it wrong had failed in their attempted digital transformations. “Put the problems in front of the solutions, and develop processes, not disruptions!”

Maybe for reasons of personal familiarity, I was keen to attend the session presented by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), a high-value-manufacturing technology catapult based in my hometown, Coventry, UK. MTC specialises in robotics and autonomous systems, and is recognised for developing and proving innovative manufacturing processes, with a general policy of “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast.” It was interesting to hear MTC’s views on factory-of-the-future advancements and, in particular, the strategy for implementing IPC-CFX with legacy equipment—not everyone can afford to start with brand-new equipment—and envisage a smart factory for electronics manufacturing in a low-volume, high-mix environment.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the 2021 edition of Show & Tell Magazine, click here.

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