The winds of globalism seem to be blowing in our direction; and I see indicators that we can bring at least a significant portion of the PCB market back to America in the next few years. That is if we stick together and do things right.
Here are 10 ways we can bring the PCB business back to America:
- Instill pride of product: Start branding our product as essential, focusing on how important the PCB is to all electronics in our country and the world. Create a product promotion campaign similar to the Dairy Association’s “Got Milk” and others like “Cotton it’s the fabric of our lives” or “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner!” It’s high time that we did something like this.
- Create a “Buy American” campaign. Full disclosure, I am a globalist and I work with companies all over the world. But I am also enough of a realist to know that true globalization will only come when we have level playing fields, which we certainly do not have at this time.
- Tighten up regulations when it comes to essential products and defense products being made in America. Yes, we have ITAR, but it is not being strictly enforced at this time. Many of our customers, including CMs building mission critical products, are still playing fast and loose with the regulations when it comes to defense and aerospace products. We need to tighten up our enforcement of ITAR. Now!
- Create partnerships between defense contractors and their select PCB vendors, where the defense contractors would actually invest in their suppliers assuring that that suppliers have everything they need in terms of equipment, and technological capabilities, to handle all of their (the contractors) PCB needs both today, and in the future. In this way we can all sleep soundly knowing that American mission critical products and all designated design paperwork are kept safely in the United States. Another advantage of this kind of cooperation would be that the PCB fabricators would also work on the Defense companies’ PCB R&D projects.
- Create similar partnerships between innovative cutting-edge companies building products of the future and their PCB vendors. Companies like SpaceX and Blue Horizon can invest in their PCB partners to make sure all of their intellectual property stays in safe hands. They could also invest in the PCB partners R&D effort as well. Once again assuring them of properly equipped and technologically capable PCB suppliers for all their products both today and in the future.
- Campaign the U.S. government to make certain that some of those R&D funds they say they are going to invest in American technology companies make their way to the PCBs shops.
- Besides the normal technology training, offer PCB shops training in how to successfully run a business. Our training has always been adequate when it comes to technology, but practically non-existent when it comes to business training on how to run a successful business, which in the end is how all companies survive and thrive.
- Our vendors, and our customers, have to start respecting us for what we do and what we can do for them. For almost the entire life of the American PCB industry, we have been dominated by our vendors and our customers, both of them dictating how we should build boards, whether or not they were right or wrong, obliterating the opinion of the PCB fabricators, who are the true experts on how to build their products
- The PCB fabricators have to change their attitude and start by tearing down the silos and getting rid of the motto which says, “We have met the enemy and it is the other companies in our industry.” If we are going to survive, we need to start working together, cooperatively sharing information, technology, and quality data to make sure we are all strong together. We have all limited ourselves by the N.I.H (not invented here) philosophy, where we strive to find the famous fifty reasons why something won’t work if it was thought up by someone in another PCB company. Instead, we need to find ways to work together. The only way we are going to survive is to work together. I have to say that this distrust, and the lack of cooperation the shops have had for one another, has been perhaps one of the most detrimental factors in the decline of the American PCB industry.
- Finally, by elevating our image and the respect for the American PCB industry. And by increasing the cooperative partnerships between customer and fabricators we can start building American PCB fabrication centers similar to Green Source. Green Source is a perfect example of how when a PCB user invests in PCB technology it can change the world. Green Source has completely changed the way PCB’s are fabricated today. I have to commend Alex Stapinski and the Whelen company for having the knowledge, the courage, and the insight to build the PCB fabrication of the future. If you want to see what the future of American (or global) PCB fabrication will look like, you only have to look at Green Source’s facility in the hills of New Hampshire. It is a shining example of what can happen when a forward thinking OEM chooses to invest in a PCB fabrication center and sponsors the building of a completely efficient, environmentally safe facility able to produce all PCB technologies using cutting edge equipment and processes. Check it out and you too will start believing in the possible renaissance of the American PCB industry.
So there you have it, ten (not quite simple) steps to bring the PCB industry back to America. Will it all come back? No of course not, but we can certainly bring back all the PCB business that goes into mission critical products, as well as the PCB business for the new and innovative proprietary products of the future. I don’t know about you, but I sure would sleep better if I knew that the PCBs for at least those products would be built right here at home. It’s only common sense.