Getting The North American PCB Industry Off Death Row Part 5
“It’s not fair, they are all working together, they all help each other out, you don’t know who owns what, and their government really owns them and gives them all kinds of funding to take over the entire Global PCB market!”
These are all statements, practically accusations that American PCB suppliers say about their Asian competition, especially the Chinese. And yes, it’s probably true, they probably do work together and yes sometimes (often) they help each other out.
So, let me ask you…why can’t we do it? Is there a law against cooperation among companies in our industry? Is it really wrong to share information (No, I am not talking price fixing, Heaven forbid!) I am talking about plain old cooperation. Plain old banding together to make our North American PCB industry better, stronger, and more united, taking a competitive stance versus the rest of the world.
But no, we don’t want to work together, we never have. “We have met the enemy and he is our competitor” is our motto to the point that we have virtually self-defeated our own industry.
Here are some of the most basic ways we could be cooperating with one another:
- Partner individually with other PCB shops in your area. You can exchange ideas, you can share processes, you can help out your neighbor if one of his pieces of equipment goes down. Heck if you wanted to go real old school you could set up a buying cooperative like the old Grange system to collectively buy laminates and the like. Hey, why not? The Chinese are doing it!
- Create technology co-ops where you share advances in technology throughout the industry in the spirit of a rising tide lifting all boats. You could make the entire North American industry stronger by sharing technology advances in a live blockchain type, open knowledge ledger like the pharmaceutical companies did when they were developing the Covid vaccine. Hey, why not? The Chinese are doing it!
- We could unite to lobby the government ourselves, so some of those funds come directly to us and are not siphoned off by an intermediate group that then decides how to spend the money their own way (like translating their specs into Mandarin) instead of it ending up directly in our hands. The Canadian government does this with their research grant money where the PCB companies get an actual annual check, a payback from the Canadian government for any industry raising technology that they develop during the year. We could go after something like that if we banded together. Hey, why not? The Chinese are doing it!
- We could look upon one another with more regard and respect. Most of the companies in our industry have no respect for one another. I have to chuckle when one of the companies I am working with frets over some of their “proprietary” processes getting out and being stolen by one of their competitors. I chuckle because our industry is so divided that the surest way to make sure your process is safe, is to talk about it in the media. We are so NIH (not invented here) that all the other shops will immediately go into their famous fifty reasons why it won’t work mode. We could have more respect for one another. We could work together and share the knowledge that each of us has obtained over the years. Hey, why not? The Chinese are doing it!
- We could create an industry marketing program to elevate the image of our industry. Something like the “Got Milk?” campaign that has been so successful for the dairy industry. Or other industry marketing campaigns like the one for American Cotton products we’ve all seen. Something along the lines of an ad showing a bunch of components on the floor with the caption, “Where would we be…without the PCB?” Hey, why not? The Chinese are doing it! (or are going to)
- And this one is important: We could band together and defend ourselves the next time our large customers take their business and our technology to another country. Talk about taking our intellectual property and giving it away while we stand idly by getting victimized. If we had had a common voice, we could have done something about that. If we had been united, we could have done something about that. Why not? The Chinese would have!
Look, my basic belief is Globalization. I am not an “America first at all cost” kind of guy, and I believe that all companies from all countries globally have a right to compete on the field of play, as long as that field is somewhat level. This means not just sitting around whining about what our competition in other countries is doing to us, complaining that it’s not fair. What we have to do is work together to make sure that we remain strong and that we use our great American ingenuity to raise our own industry to the point of not only surviving but thriving in a true global market. And that is the final and best way to get our North American PCB industry off death row. It’s only common sense.