We’re all feeling the discomfort, aren’t we? Things are getting squeezed and stretched. While the correct amount of that “something” is hard to put your finger on, there’s stress in the PCB manufacturing and assembly process.
It reminds me of coming home from the hospital with my first born. He was 28 days early, and naturally, his early arrival threw off all our birth preparations. For example, we attended the last session of our Lamaze class with a newborn in a baby carrier. Never have I seen sharper, dagger-eyed stares than from that class full of moms-to-be.
There were other disruptions, of course. The grueling labor process took the better part of three days. And because our son came a month early, we had to adapt, and quickly. We weren’t fully stocked up on baby items, so we sent his prospective grandmas to the store with a list and a credit card to fill in the gaps. That takes some trust, doesn’t it? At times, they had to get creative.
Once home, our newborn needed some special care. While he didn’t need intensive care in the hospital, understandably he showed symptoms of a slow start-up to his digestive system. You can imagine the learning curve as we cared for our precious son.
This affected my work, too. I had been timing most of my projects to conclude just before the due date. Rookie mistake. These projects were in the critical wrap-up phase when our son arrived. But with this new priority, those projects were rescheduled and given new deadlines.
Of course, it affected the baby’s mother immensely: physically, emotionally, and even socially. Making these quick adaptations were stressors for all of us. The changes ran from our highest-level family strategies (investments, features in our home, even careers) to the most tactical (whose turn was it to change his diaper?).
One of the techniques we used to aid her recovery from labor was acupuncture. Though a bit mysterious as to how/why it works, even some “acupuncture agnostics” use it as a treatment method for pain management. It certainly helped the mother of my children through her postpartum. Still, how is it that a point-solution soothes the body elsewhere? How is it that a new bit of pressure here can ease a pain point over there? Based on a desire to get some relief from pain, many folks seem satisfied to just trust the mystery.
This was the thought behind our cover image: Putting the squeeze in one area of the supply chain should, in theory, bring relief in another. Finding relief for business pain points can be a mix of strategic and tactical responses. For this issue, we examined a variety of steps being taken in the industry, from the halls of government to the manufacturing floor; all meant to ease EMS pain points.
As our team discussed the best way to illustrate the theme of this issue, the acupuncture image hit every point we wanted to make. To ease a wider, more general pain point elsewhere, a series of focused, short-term “micro-pains” can be employed to bring relief.
On the manufacturing floor, for example, one of the key pain points is component availability. As you will learn from the interviews and articles in this issue, there are methods for adjusting. Each method brings a small bit of pain in the form of process changes, learning new software tools, or validating new suppliers. Each step is a leap of faith, a decision to trust that the outcome will be better than the current situation.
To aid in the conversation, IPC Chief Economist Shawn DuBravac shares vital information on the state of the economy and your business in relation to it, while USPAE executive director Christopher Peters offers help to “thrive” in electronics manufacturing. And as I mentioned earlier, the discussions on Capitol Hill are crucial to our microelectronics industry. Thus, this issue includes an interview with Travis Kelly, president of PCBAA, and U.S. Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, who is co-sponsoring HR 7677, the Supporting American Printed Circuit Boards (SAPCB) Act of 2022. If you’re in this industry and not already following this proposed legislation, now is the perfect time to get caught up.
On a strategic/tactical level, we have a distributor’s perspective from the counterfeiting team at Digi-Key, insight on new sourcing software tools from CalcuQuote, and a no-holds-barred argument for the urgency of cybersecurity from Divyash Patel, owner of MX2 Technology.
I want to make special mention of the column by Dr. Jennie Hwang, who reports on her trip to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting. What she learned makes for a useful mind-setting exercise for industry pain management.
Ultimately, our industry pain, just like the labor pains that brought forth my first child, is more than simple physical pain. We’re working through huge changes to our environment and our place within it, which can be emotionally painful as well. Sometimes, as our cover image reminds us, our willingness to embrace change is a critical part of the supply “pain” management idea.
We’re always open to your suggestions for topics. Many of these topics have come from conversations with our readers. We encourage you to reach out with your ideas, news, and questions.
This column originally appears in the August 2022 issue of SMT007 Magazine.