Looking forward to the future
Have you thought about that much? Most of the companies I know have led “led lives of desperation,” to quote my fellow New Englander Henry David Thoreau. Most of the time more concerned about making payroll than buying that new piece of equipment, more worried about pesky Quality issues than sitting down to think and plan and strategize about the future.
And who can blame them? For over 50 years now, since the eighties most of our domestic electronics companies have been like modern day Sisyphus condemned to roll that boulder up a hill only to have it roll down time after time, working very hard but getting nowhere.
In this case the hill was an even market playing field where domestic companies were held to different standards while the doors flew wide open for offshore companies that had no interest, or obligation to play on that same end of the field.
While fledgling Western European and North American PCB and PCBA companies had to deal and cope and manage new regulations (worthy and necessary regulations I might say) offshore companies did not have to deal with those regulations and probably worst case scenario our customers, especially the larger ones who insisted that we meet all of the laws and regulations and directives and specifications and qualifications while keeping out prices down, merrily went off to Asia enjoying all the costs advantages that those companies, those unregulated companies could provide them.
Kind of makes you a little mad in hindsight doesn’t it?
Lest we forget, the Asians, especially the Chinese, did not come over here and “steal” our business. Our large domestic customers ran over there and handed it to them. Not only handed them the huge purchase orders but also the technology they needed to learn to build these products. Our technology, the technology we in North America had developed.
But enough of the miserable trip on the memory lane trolley. Let’s move on and take a look at our much brighter future. This is what the future looks like.
Our customers have woken up to the dangers of being so dependent on foreign powers who are often no better than frenemies. If Covid wasn’t enough of a lesson then the war in Ukraine has taught us that. We need to be more independent.
Our customers no longer brag about buying from China. Even Apple, China’s largest U.S.customer, is not bragging about buying from China. In fact, their largest supplier Foxconn has announced that they are going to come out with their own phones. Gee I wonder where they got that idea? And I wonder what design they are going to use?
American companies are looking for American suppliers. They are not only looking for suppliers, but they are also looking for American designers and engineers to design their products as well. They want to make sure that they can partner with their PCB and PCBA companies making sure that they have a state side supply chain that will be safe and secure no matter what happens in the rest of the world. In many cases these partnerships are leading to new product development. In some cases, our customers are willing to help fund new equipment to build the technologies they need today and what they will need tomorrow.
And here is something interesting. Our customers actually care if we make money or not. For the first time in the history of our domestic industry, our customers want us to make money, they want us to be financially healthy to the point where they are willing to pay a little more to make sure their vendors are making a little money as well.
And the playing field is getting flatter as more offshore countries are on their way to the middle class. Those countries are now imposing their own regulations and specifications. In many cases human rights is starting to make its way into the culture of most of the world’s leading industrial countries. In most modern countries, companies are being subjected to the same regulations we have had to meet for 50 years now.
And one more thing. It looks like the government will pass the so-called “chips” bill of $300 Billion and some of that money is about to trickle down to our level of the electronics industry. Can you imagine that? A government investing in its own electronics infrastructure! How very Chinese of us. Now that is going to go a long way to leveling the playing field won’t it? It’s only common sense.