It’s time to partner
Look they tell me there are only about two hundred and fifty or so board shops left in North America, this is really down from an estimated high of fifteen hundred depending on who you talk to. The industry on this continent has been devastated in the past twenty years to the point of annihilation if we’re not careful. There are many to blame from the large companies, our customers who took our technology to China so they could get their boards built as cheaply as humanly possible, to our government who certainly did not do enough to helps us out over the years by somehow leveling the playing field; to our own IPC who kind of sold us out to the CM’s who were not even around when the IPC was founded by board people, but when the CM’s showed up IPC went their way and turned on us in favor of those CM’s and in the end for the sake of the almighty dollar; to our selves, yes ourselves, in many ways we have ourselves to blame because for years we have been beating each other’s brains out. North American board shops have turned our competitive environment into a zero sum game with a few firm winner s and many, too many firm losers.
We have never been an inclusive industry, nor have we been a cooperative one. It has been every man for himself for a long time now. We are such independent operators that we cannot even bring ourselves to steal one another’s ideas, not matter how good they are.
We operate in our own vacuums or silos if we want to use th term of the day to the point where if someone else is doing something that is working something say like nesting (putting multi part numbers on one panel) we come up with all kinds of reasons why this would not work for us.
If we see that someone is marketing their company differently that we are…if we are marketing at all, then once again come up with fifty reasons why it won’t work for our company rather than try and see what’s working and then steal it for ourselves… no, no one will ever accuse us of stealing good ideas because in our silo environment we don’t think that anyone else has any ideas worth stealing.
We will do anything we can to beat the other guy to the point where we have just about eliminated the other guy. To the point where we are very worried, as we should be, about our own vendor base and their ability to be able to afford to support the few of us left here in North America.
When are we going to get it? When are we going to stop this insanity and start working together start partnering with one another, start sharing our advantages and minimizing our disadvantages?
Yes partnering, I know that’s a dirty word in our lonesome rider, everyman for himself industry. Say maybe that’s what it is; it still is every man for himself? Ours is still a very male oriented industry, maybe things would be better if we had more women owners. Women are always more collaborative. Remember how a few months ago even in our do nothing congress it was the women legislators who got together formed and ad hoc collaborative initiative and got some things done. Maybe that’s what we need in our industry as well.
We certainly need more partnerships in areas from marketing, to sales to technology to innovation and research and development.
If you are a rigid board shop find a flex board shop to partner win. If you’re a commercial board shop then find yourself a partner who builds military boards and if you’re a quick turn prototype shop find yourself a production partner to work with.
Instead of having your very expensive sales team only selling your specific services and technologies, have them sell all services and products through a series of productive partnerships that you take the initiative of developing.
Think about it do we keep playing this economic “Darwinistic” game that we are playing now… or do we do something about, come together, get stronger and help one another to not only sustain what we have left in terms of the North American PCB industry but start to growing that industry again.
The old adage United we stand divided we fall has never been more true.
Look in just six short weeks we will all be meeting in Las Vegas at the IPC Apex meetings why don’t you board shop owners take those six weeks to get in touch with some of your potential partner counterparts and set up some meetings while you’re in the same place at the same time? Get together, talk things over and figure out how to help each other. I promise you it will be a game changer. What are you waiting for…give collaboration at try, it’s only common sense