International Edition

  • Interview: Gene Weiner – Industry veteran and IPC hall of Famer

    Gene Weiner

    Gene Weiner is a well-known industry veteran and IPC hall of Famer. He has produced this year’s manager’s forum at IPC which, for the first time, crosses the entire supply chain with presentations from the captains of industry in PCB, manufacturing, EMS assembly, and supply chain logistics.

    TG: Hello Gene. Just to set the stage, can you give our readers a very quick recap on your background in the industry. Did you start out way back in the days of Shipley, the chemistry company?

    GW: Actually, just before that, I started out as a student technician at MIT Lincoln laboratories, where, I made the first print-wired memory plane, and coauthored a plated electrical connection for cored loop packaging it as well. And then Shipley followed that. I went there because they were one of my suppliers and I said, “Oh, this company going to go somewhere”. And I went and asked for a job.

    TG: Right. And then along the road, you ended up as, as a CEO of Excellon, the drilling company and your latest one I believe was, was WKK in Hong Kong?

    GW: Well actually, at Excellon I was never CEO, but I was on their advisory board under one of their presidents. And then I wound up in the board of directors of WKK another large public chemical company, and on the advisory board of a number of others on the board of directors of a French supplier and so forth. And I’m still actively working as a director or advisory director.

    TG: Great. So today we’re here to actually talk about the upcoming IPC APEX virtual event, where you’re responsible for organizing the Management Forum, which this year is going to be under the theme of “Managing Change in a Period of Transition”. Tell us a little bit about the Management Forum and who it’s aimed at.

    GW:   Well, the Management Forum is aimed at middle managers and newly emerging  managers that have to face a heretofore unforeseen circumstances and record changes and challenges due to COVID-19 and trade barriers and trade Wars. And it was my belief that there has not been a program from top down from companies that have survived and found techniques of getting through this and look into the future to “Factory of the Future”, or asome people say, Factory 4.0. And so I said, well, let’s put together a complete link from top to bottom and bottom to top, starting from the OEM that have survived and done well and have established methods of operating in the new world, as it is and supply chain disruptions all the way down to the suppliers of fabricators, including specialty chemicals, any equipment, paste suppliers and so forth.

    GW:  And so we put this together. I interviewed a lot of people. We put together a committee, my vice chairman is Jack Fisher who once built the IBM, printer facility in Austin and is very active now on high density packaging group. We’ve,  brought people in all the way up and down the line, hopefully to help all of these new young managers and existing managers go forward and deal [00:04:30] with the digital world. As I say, coming up rapidly. In fact, it’s already here and hope to show these people how to enter it, even though they may not have the funding or resources that the big companies have.

    TG: Right. Well, that’s a key point actually. As you know, the big boys pretty much taken care of themselves, but there’s a lot of smaller companies out there that really need that help. You’ve got a really, really impressive lineup here,  of, of people, going across the spectrum. So give us some of the highlights of who’s going to be presenting?

    GW: Well, first we’re going to start off with the vice-president of government relations, Chris Mitchell,  who’s going to bring us up to date with what the future looks like economically, and business-wise for in Washington DC with the new administration after a month or two of changes. We’re going to follow that then with a joint program with the EMS group,  chaired by Mark Wolfe, the Chairman of the Management Group, which will include a panel for talking about how they survived the crisis,  including Jeanie Wade, the vice president operations at Northrop Grumman, and a member of the board of directors of the IPC. Brad Bourne,  president CEO of FTG for in technology fabricated John Rowntree, good vice-president at Rogers, a material supplier and Dave Patterson, Cirtronics, a mid-size or smaller EMS company in the Northeast.

    GW: After that, the component manufacturer from Arrow. This will be followed by one of my favorites, Harold Ahnert, president of Atotech electronics. A lot of people don’t realize that Atotech and metal finishing and in electronic supply of ICs as well as printed circuits is a one plus billion dollar global company with thousands of workers. We are delighted that Harold has agreed to address a group and talking about technical support and product development in a post pandemic world. Now that’s all good, but unless you have a customer to sell all that to, you don’t know what to do with it. So then we’re introducing the president CEO of American Standard Circuits, who has weathered this quite well and has moved very rapidly into the digital world, actually putting out digital handbooks and courses via the internet to his customers, prospects, and suppliers, and is also very active in evaluating a new technology from a number of suppliers, including,  specialty chemicals from metalizing boards for fine lines and so forth.

    GW: After that, we’re going to move up just a bit and look at industry 4.0, the “Factory of the Future”. What do medium-sized companies do, how do they upskill the workers? How do they train their workers? What are they faced with? How does a smaller company deal with AI artificial intelligence? So for that, do we have Norman Weiss from Munich, He’s  a founder of the German industry 4.0 campus, as well as an EMS company. And along with him, Sebastian Schaal is the founder of Luminovo GmbH, which is an AI company, helping smaller EMS companies move into the digital world, how they can train their people and how they can move forward to the digital world. After this, we talked about new production and a change in, what we see coming back to the old days of Vertical Integration and believe it or not, we’re seeing this around the world, not just here. Its partly because of the problems created by the shortages due to the trade disputes and COVID-19, but also because of the rapid change into new technologies, requiring speed to market and additional security. So to speak for design and fabrication of initial things and development of new processes and equipment.

    TG: So who’s vertically integrating, is it OEMs up bringing it back in-house, or is it,  the CEMs  integrating with the PCB fab people and that type of thing?

    GW: Well, depends on how you define OEM and EMS.  we saw a major printed circuit fabrication high-tech installation this year by benchmark in Arizona. Now, what is Benchmark, It’s an ODM, it’s an EMS and It’s one of the big boys. We’ve also seen a number of smaller ones. And then we look at Vicor – we’ll start back at the beginning, Wayland Engineering, which makes parts,  searchlights and ambulances and vehicles for helicopters and so forth.  they integrated backwards, with a printed circuit facility, it was a greenfield site, about five, six years ago. They rebuilt a new factory for more advanced processing, for a flexible circuits for HDI, for buildup circuitries. And they brought in Alex Kapenski for this who said, well, we vertically integrated the fabrication facility, but we should really vertically integrate our equipment suppliers also.

    GW: So they bought AWP in Poland and upgraded their equipment. And,   then from there,  several of their customers came to them, saying we want to vertically integrate. One of those is a major supplier of digital and modular power supplies, globally (Vicor), and another is Tricer Engineering Laboratories. Vicor can be termed an OEM, they’re building a new plant from the ground up in Andover, MA.  Tricer Engineering Laboratories had a need to build from the ground up,  a greenfield facility in Moscow, Idaho, 180,000 square feet and they’ll describe all that. So we see a transition from integrating internally to then vertically integrating to your supply chain. They’re vertically integrating outward to your customers. That’s a very unusual transition, and  we’re going to learn an awful lot from that.

    TG:  Yes, there’s also some evidence of EMS companies bringing in the backend packaging, putting clean rooms into the factories as well. So that’s a growing trend.

    GW:  And, and we also have a couple of senior directors from Northrup Grumman talking about their supply chain management and risk analysis. They will explain to us how they handled the change, what they went through, how they analyzed it,  what steps they took,  how they evaluated the risks. And,  we are going to learn a lot about second sourcing,   rapid movement, better inventory control and so forth. Now, North of Grumman is extremely critical to our national defense and the military in this country too and they could not afford a shut down.

    TG: Yeah, it’s an interesting area that, because there are quite a few red flags at the moment with component shortages and semiconductor shortages in the market. There are also people trying to avoid,  necessarily sourcing from China. Can you talk about that a little bit?

    GW: We have the director of maritime and strategic systems procurement, and the supply chain risk senior manager from general dynamics talking to us about this. And they’re going to talk to us about how they manage their critical supply for critical missions and for daily production; how they analyzed it, what problems they encountered, how they solved them, what they considered important and not. And I think we’re all gonna point to a  new way of managing second source or regional supply chains. And we’re going to see the regional supply chain business really grow all up and down, from component to raw material. And I don’t know exactly what they’re going to say, but the outline and abstracts they send in are fascinating. And I’ve learned a few lessons from those, just reading the abstract.

    TG: It’s interesting because when one of the big, one of the growth industries during COVID has been these, companies that are offering online sourcing systems,  where you can actually see what the availability is in real time,  at the component manufacturersfacility, and be able to,  get real-time costing and real-time  availability as it were. There has been quite a growth in that.

    GW: They’re going to show quite a bit there, I think without the digital twin, other methods of using digital control on AI for controlling inventory, supply chain, where every component is at every moment and so forth.

    TG:  It’s a very rapidly evolving area that also is part of that whole journey is, is to reduce the counterfeits and the issues we’ve had in that as well.  so there’s, there’s a lot happening in that space and with security.

    GW:  And it’s happening around the world. In Germany, the advances there and the government involvement and the military involvement too, with upskilling and training. It’s fascinating.

    TG: Absolutely, Gene it is always a pleasure talking with you. Than you for joining us today.


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