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Chatting with IPC President John Mitchell is always a good time—he never fails to be upbeat and full of ideas, and his eagerness to fill us in on what’s happening with IPC was evident during our recent interview at the IPC Fall Committee Meetings, co-located with SMTAI in late September. In this discussion, we talked about the launch of IPC EDGE, world trade (or rather IPC’s summary that is now available) and the upcoming IMPACT Europe.
Patty Goldman: John, let’s get right to it: What’s happening at the IPC meetings this year?
John Mitchell: What’s happening is a whole lot of standards committee meetings. We just had an awards ceremony recognizing dozens of our standards’ award recipients and great contributions from our committee leaders on specific standards that have come out recently. I’m not sure how many people are here for the standards meetings but there are more than 75 award winners, so it’s probably two to five times that.
Goldman: What else is happening with IPC?
Mitchell: This summer we launched IPC EDGE.
Goldman: I noticed. Tell me more.
Mitchell: IPC EDGE is our online education portal. It launched in July; I believe July 19 is when it went officially live. We’re in the process of loading our entire online video training catalog onto the site and it includes our most popular courses including PCB and assembly related content. Keep checking back.
In addition to the current video catalog, we’ve also developed four of what we call foundational courses. When people get certified, for example, if they’re getting certified in IPC-600, or 610 or 6012 or what have you, sometimes there are people who aren’t ready for the certification. They get into the classes and the instructors get frustrated with that. Some of the materials that we’ve had available online we’ve put together in packages called foundational courses. Learners can go through those before getting certified so that they’re not starting from scratch, per se. We’re very excited about the packaging of those materials in this new medium.
Goldman: Who are the materials in IPC EDGE available to? Can anybody make use of them or do you need IPC membership?
Mitchell: They’re available to anyone within the electronics industry supply chain. You just log on to edge.ipc.org. We offer member discounts on all our courses, but you don't have to be a member, just like if you go to a certification training course you don't have to be a member, but if you are there is a discount available to you.
Goldman: You can always take it and pay full price or you get a nice discount if you’re a member, because you want them all to become members, of course.
Mitchell: That’s right. Also within the next few days, we’ll be launching a new ESD program. We partnered with the ESD association to do a third-party certified actual ESD training program that will be available to employees everywhere. That’s a new program that we’re trying to help standardize in the industry and hopefully also decrease cost as we do it. [It is available online.]
Goldman: For the EDGE program, how do you choose what goes into that or do you just migrate everything possible to it?
Mitchell: Initially, we migrated courses over. However, with this ESD program, this is an area of need for just about every manufacturing plant in terms of ESD training. There are external groups that are looking for third-party validation, so we partnered with EOS/ESD Association, Inc., to generate a training and certification program that would meet both of those needs. There is an example of a need and so that’s an offering within EDGE.
EDGE is a platform, if you will, and then there are various courses. Going forward we expect to have literally hundreds and hundreds of courses available in different areas. Some may be management related. Others may be technical related. It just depends on the audience. Some would be free. Some may be low cost. Others may be a priced higher, depending on the content and what we’re offering there.
Goldman: And where you get it from or how much it takes to develop it.
Goldman: Who does develop these, committees or subcommittees?
Mitchell: Typically, they’re not committees. We review content with some of the advisory groups and things like that, but sometimes it’s a third party and sometimes we do it internally, like our multimedia training group. It just depends on what you’re doing. We’ve talked with some education partners where we’ll just take their content directly and resell it. In other cases, we’ll get input and feedback on it as it’s been developed. Other times, it’s just been solely developed by us.
Goldman: I can envision some of the subcommittees developing something for you on a certain subject, for instance.
Mitchell: It’s more like a review than them developing it because most people don't have time to create content for us.
Goldman: True. I understand, because you must create script along with everything else.
Mitchell: Exactly. Typically, just like our certification programs, sometimes we’ll contract a piece of that, but then they’re beta tested with groups and we get feedback and we’ll modify it based on that.
Goldman: Now, I know you also do these webinars every so often for IPC members. You have one with Mike Carano coming up.
Mitchell: Yes, correct. It’s called Wisdom Wednesdays.
Goldman: Will they eventually be part of EDGE also?
Mitchell: That’s a good question. I guess it’s possible. It could be available as member-only content for free that they could look at later. That makes sense.
Goldman: It does make a lot of sense, for those that can't make that Wednesday, for whatever reason.
Mitchell: There are recordings of them available currently. For members, you can log in and hear it again.
Goldman: It’s already there, but you just don't have it as part of EDGE. How did you pick the name EDGE?
Mitchell: People need to be on the cutting edge, and it also sounds like education. One of our aspirational goals is education, so it all worked and it was short.
Goldman: It is short and catchy.
Mitchell: As opposed to the IPC Online Education Portal for the Electronics Industry, which was a little longer [laughs].
Goldman: It does not make a good acronym either. What else shall we talk about?
Mitchell: Recently, in elections, we’ve been hearing a lot about trade. Both presidential candidates here in the U.S. have been talking about whether they’re pro or con on TPP—the Trans Pacific Partnership. We had our IPC IMPACT event in Washington, D.C. where we had several leaders of companies and we set them up to meet with various policymakers, etc. We had a person from the U.S. Trade Representative come in and speak to us and there was a lot of interest around that. It seemed to be that there is a lot of confusion about what exactly TPP or TTIP would mean to our industry. We decided to undertake summarizing it. Well, that was a bit of an undertaking because TPP is over 7,000 pages long.
Goldman: It doesn’t summarize easily, does it?
Mitchell: No, but we did it. We summarized the key chapters that seemed to have impact to our industry. Then we broke it out and said, “Okay, in the design segment, here’s the things that might affect your industry. If you’re in the PCB segment, here’s the things that might affect you, as well as for assembly, OEMs and suppliers.” We did all those segments. Then it’s hot-linked back to go to the summary and we created a report. There is an appendix that adds another 60 or 70 pages to it, but the content portion is about 40 pages long. Then there’s a nice two- or three-page executive summary of that.
We made that available recently, and this is the first of what we’re looking to do called ‘Topic Briefs,’ because typically business leaders of organizations don’t have all the time in the world to do that. We figured if we could provide succinct, usable information on specific topics that would be advantageous. This is our first foray into that. I have a pool of about a dozen leaders from each of those segments as well where I give them the five- to ten-minute summary of what the document says and get their opinions. Those are in there as well.
So we’ve launched that. It’s available. Our four aspirational goals include standards, education, advocacy and solutions. So this is one of the solutions to solve an advocacy issue in terms of the trade issue.
Goldman: That’s sounds most useful.
Mitchell: And then there’s IMPACT Europe. Just like we’ve done IMPACT in the U.S. in the past, and will continue to do so, we’re having our first ever Impact Europe event on November 29. It’s a single-day event. We’ll host a member-only roundtable on REACH in the early morning and then it’s an open session on the EU Skills Agenda late in the morning to engage industry members. As you may recall, we opened our office in Brussels the beginning of this year. In fact, I just returned from Europe on Friday where we had the opportunity to meet with Airbus in Paris and then with GE and Bosch in Germany. We’re trying to engender much more activity and energy with our partners and our members in Europe.
A couple of things that have happened recently, as you know with the automotive industry, you see a lot more electronics showing up in your vehicles nowadays. It’s a very big growth area for our industry and IPC-6012 has recently released an automotive addendum, IPC-6012DA. If you’re doing automotive PCBs and you’re using 6012 now you can look at the addendum and get more specific just through that. That was a great breakthrough there.
At IPC APEX EXPO, there was a suggestion of doing a press fit standard for the automotive industry. That went through the TAEC and got approved and the two chairs are from Continental and Bosch. It was recommended from Europe; it’s starting in Europe and so that new standard will start off there. The interesting thing is it kind of flipped in that usually we’ve been very strong in the aerospace and military side and then other industries have said, “Oh yeah, we’d like to use that, too.”
Well, in this case, automotive started this and literally within 24 hours of us sending the press release out that it had started we had four aerospace companies call up and say, “Hey, we want to be part of that, too, because that affects us as well,” which was nice to see in a way. As far as the IMPACT event, we’ll be talking about RoHS, REACH and then there is this new initiative over there that was just approved, not necessarily on regulations, but more about addressing a skills gap in the industries. We’re looking to try to help that as well in Europe.
Goldman: Now, your IMPACT Europe, are legislators over there going to be involved and will they be meeting with people?
Mitchell: They will be. The intent is to have the legislators and people come attend and speak to the group there as well.
Goldman: That’s interesting. That’s going to be good.
Mitchell: We’re trying to do the same kind of thing as here in the U.S. Again, this is our first one there, so it’s not quite as established as our one in DC, but we look to grow it that way and we’re kicking it off later this fall.
Goldman: That’s great to hear. John, it’s always nice to catch up with you. Thanks for taking time to speak with us today.
Mitchell: Thank you, Patty.