We are all in this together.

More than at any other time in our industry’s history, we must stick together. I have been around a long time and my family has been manufacturing PCBs since the 50’s when taped artwork and mechanical routing with steel routing dies was commonplace. We even still have punch presses at my new facility and vast production capacity.

For many years, almost seven decades to be exact, we (PCB shops) have made very little effort to work together. Our attitude in this industry has been very territorial/adversarial, as in, “we have met the enemy and it is the other board shops.”

There was a time in the early 50’s when shops made an attempt to work together and formed a “non-perfect union”, appropriately called the Institute of Printed Circuits (yes, that’s what IPC really stands for). In recent years we have seen IPC change names, add new dues structures and steadily diminish the importance of printed circuit board fabricators within the organization.

Obviously, our stab at creating our own organization was short lived as our vendors, customers, OEMs and CEMs took over the organization, marginalizing us to the lower more subservient tiers.

After NAFTA was passed to open up the trade borders with our North American neighbors to the north and south, the large OEMs, not happy with what Mexico had to offer, interpreted this agreement as an open ticket to Asia. They flew there with suitcases full of our technology to teach the Chinese how to build our boards at ridiculously low labor rates, paired with medieval environmental laws, evoking the most flagrant hypocritical purchasing double standards known to man.

And all of this with the encouragement of the IPC, who helped them using American government funds to translate their specs (which were developed and written by employees of American companies, free of charge) into Mandarin.

Now I am calling on all of us to come to a common understanding, finding ways to work together. We all must start small. I have been reaching out to my local PCB neighbors in the past year with some success, trading ideas and capitalizing on our unified strength, with the intention of continuing this cooperative work.

What do you think? Are you ready to start over? Are you ready join forces in a good and cooperative partnerships with your North American PCB fab neighbors?

Think about it…there is so much to gain and so little to lose…won’t you join me?