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At this year’s IPC APEX EXPO, Rex Rozario’s term as an IPC Board member came to an end. At the show, I sat down with Rex, who reflected on his time with IPC and the areas on which he hopes the association will focus more in the future—namely, strengthening the relationship between the UK and the U.S., as well as continuing to encourage smaller PCB manufacturers to join IPC and contribute.
Barry Matties: Rex, we're here at the IPC APEX EXPO and there have been some changes on the IPC board, including you completing your term as a board member.
Rex Rozario: That's correct, I’ve finished my term, which was an eight-year cycle. A person can go back on the board after two years if they choose. When I joined, I think almost 60% of the board was PCB manufacturing guys, so we had a lot in common when discussing whatever topics came up. During all those years, gradually, some of them sold their companies or decided to part ways. But at the end of my term, in the last few years or so, to my surprise I was the only PCB manufacturer. Some of the guys are still there, but they are not in business. You've got to be in this business to have something to offer.
That was a concern, and also during APEX, they normally offer the PCB management meetings, which I always come to, and to my surprise they weren’t here this year. So I got the VIP tickets for the dinner only. They had EMS obviously, but what's sad about the dinner was that there were only about 30 people. It was a surprise. Going back in this industry, the PCB management meetings used to attract about 200 people worldwide. It started off like that, but of course now we're also clashing with CPCA. Half of the guys who would have come here are not here.
It is scary to think that now that I'm leaving whether the lights would just go go out. Fortunately, we had a long chat about it and IPC has found someone to join the board, Tom Edman, the CEO of TTM. He comes from the big boys and so forth, but at least he is from the PCB side.
Matties: It’s definitely a different perspective that he represents.
Rozario: Exactly. Whether the small guys would have elected him I'm not sure, but at least there is a PCB guy still there and they can build on that, hopefully. I think next year there are plans to have a PCB management meeting and to publicize it and make sure the statistics and all that is presented. Something good can come out of that.
But things are changing, and the technology goes through an evolution every year. I came here in the 1970s—the time of the Beatles and so forth, and it’s like one of their songs—“Get back to where you once belonged.” That's going to be a hard climb, but my only hope is that the goal will be to try and join people together.
Can I just reflect a little bit on the ‘70s?
Matties: Of course.
Rozario: My knowledge of IPC happened completely by accident. I met a guy, Rollin Mettler, who was the president of Circuitwise, a PCB manufacturer, in an airport and we were flying to Galway, Ireland. We had a mutual customer, Digital. We got talking and he was very interested in what was happening in the UK, especially with the Beatles, and so forth. NEPCON was also very big in the UK. He came to some of the exhibitions and I came along with him and a few other guys over here and we became very friendly. There was a strong presence of a USA/UK partnership.
And then the PCB Conference happened in London, and the guy I met there was the President of IPC, Thom Dammrich. We all put our heads together and the idea actually started in a Birmingham pub. I think four or five guys were having a pint and they said, "Well, what about a world conference?" Of course that's how it escalated and everybody got together.
Then we brought the Japanese, and then the Europeans joined us. Originally it was UK, USA, Japan, and Europe. They were the four original members. Others joined in and it became the World Electronic Circuits Council (WECC). Every third year we held the world conference. We held only one in England and then on to other countries. Many years later we brought it back to Scotland. At that stage, Bill Miller, a Scottish guy, was in WECC and with IPC, and he became a chairman at some stage. It hasn't gone back to the UK since the first conference.
Photo of some of the Committee members planning the First PCB World Conference in London. From l to r: David Latham, late John Walker, Bruce Routledge and Rex Rozario.
When the UK became a member of the European Union, we said we were Europeans so it wouldn't be UK or Germany or whatever; it will just be Europe. Most of the time it moved around Europe. I think gradually with people moving on and leaving, the UK-U.S. close relationship has deteriorated and there's no contact. I think I was the last guy who had contact between the U.S. and UK. I'm sure I'll still be around and I'll go to all these exhibitions, but hopefully we'll try to get it a bit closer.
Matties: My recent visit to your hometown was great. You talked a lot about your past and your history, but you also talked a little bit about the future. Now that you're off the board, what does the future look like?
Rozario: I think it's a new era because IPC is looking global. It's not just the U.S. or UK. They haven't got a presence in UK, but it's now clear they’re looking at Europe. They just opened up a European office in Brussels and they are obviously engaged in activities, and they're hoping some of the big names in Germany and so forth will have a European council. These are early days, but we hope it will happen and we'll all be in it together. It's not easy with Europeans; they've had their own way for such a long time and they are doing quite well on their own. They’re not looking for something to get bigger, they’re big already.
I'm also concerned for the smaller PCB companies. They’re still looking for an association and something to tag onto. I hope that in the future the IPC can also get these guys in and they'll join as members so they can also contribute and get on the board [of directors]. You've got to be a part of that to make things happen. You can't be on the outside looking in and saying, "Oh well, nothing is happening. Let's go somewhere else." I have spoken to quite a few people and encouraged them to get in touch, go to some of the sessions and speak up, and hopefully at the next PCB management meeting these guys will be there. If attendance is good, they will then see the benefit of being with IPC.
I certainly felt in all my years that I had tremendous advantages in being with IPC. I knew what was happening in the industry, I met the right guys, and we traveled around. But we are not small anymore. When I first joined we were the little minnow in the corner and all the big boys were around the big table, but as time went on they were all gone, and we were at the the big table.
I only wish IPC the best and good luck. I hope that they will succeed and get bigger and more global, which is happening now.
Matties: Thanks for sharing your insights and thank you for all your service on the IPC board. I know you spent eight years of your time there, but many years participating as well, and that makes a difference. I think you've got the right message. People have to take part and be involved to make a difference. Thank you and thanks for spending time with us today.
Rozario: Barry, thank you for your time.
Matties: It's always my pleasure.