Strategic Planning. Training. Market Positioning.

My Circuits Assembly article this month looks at the concepts of branding, marketing and selling. Like my recent Leader vs. Manager post, this is another area where words are used interchangeably to refer to very different concepts. Branding, Marketing and Selling looks at the ways these concepts interrelate and specific ways that electronics manufacturing services (EMS) providers can capitalize on well thought out strategy in these areas. Read the full article here.

I’ve started blogging for the Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) at James Madison University and have attached my first post focused on situational management styles and the differences between a leader and a manager. I’ll be doing posts quarterly. ICPM has a Certified Manager program aligned with the National Management Association (NMA). Their blog is composed of contributions from CMs on a range of management topics and should be continually updating with new material.

Manufacturing Matters

Recently, I watched my local City Council lecture a manufacturer looking to relocate about the fact that they didn’t feel his wages were high enough to receive incentives and it really got me thinking about how detrimental the current political grandstanding around wages is. Part of that reason is that we’ve been focused on becoming a service economy so long that many of our politicians simply don’t understand how transformational manufacturing jobs can be. A manufacturer paid for my Master’s degree back when I made $5/hour in my first job of out college–that was a great tradeoff that has paid dividends my entire career. In virtually every manufacturer I’ve worked for, I’ve watched other people increase their skills and earning power through the training, tuition refund programs and career advancement opportunities. I focused my Circuits Assembly article in April on that topic. Feel to send copies to any elected officials that you feel are in need of enlightenment about the contributions your companies make to our society as a whole.

I’ll be out at the 5-Star S.T.E.M. Competition at Ft. Bliss, Sat. March 21st with a table talking up manufacturing engineering career options. The event is focused on Middle and High School students. Officials from Ft. Bliss will be judging their science projects. I’ve had a lot of support from SMTA and IPC. A couple of clients are allowing me to use photos of their manufacturing operations in a slide presentation and a local client has loaned PCBAs. Marie Cole over at IBM was very helpful suggesting a list of resources that both younger students and college-bound kids should consider. The one tip she had that I thought was particularly brilliant was to suggest that as part of college tours, that kids stop by the Career Center and see what internship or co-op/work study programs were being offered by employers through that center and factor that into their college choice plans.

Why support an event like this? The big reason that if kids aren’t exposed to manufacturing as a career path, they probably aren’t going to think about it and there are engineering shortages. And, I want to give a little back to an industry that paid for my Master’s degree and has kept relatively nice roofs over my head for the last three decades. To me, manufacturing is an economic engine that provides jobs that help people grow skills. I don’t see the same breadth of opportunities for growth present in the service sector. I think Henry Ford had it right when he pointed out that he was paying good wages to his factory workers because he could afford to build more cars than the rich could buy and he wanted to help create a middle class that would consume his company’s products. I’ll blog more about the resource links I share at the event and the feedback I get from the kids. Bottom line, if there are S.T.E.M events in your area, consider sharing a presentation about careers in manufacturing. The best way to attract the next generation of engineers is to talk about manufacturing when they are still thinking about what they want to do in life.

IPC APEX Expo

I’ll be teaching part of the EMS Program Management Essentials course Feb. 23 and 25, and attending meetings in between, at IPC APEX Expo. Learn more about IPC’s EMS Program Management Certification Program here. It’s a great way to learn new things about the most difficult job in the EMS industry.

There is no question the electronics manufacturing services industry is evolving. One aspect of that evolution is actually hurting the industry, however. As outsourcing has become more commonplace, its salespeople have become less technically competent. At the same time, as outsourcing “experts” at OEMs have retired, they have been replaced by less-experienced personnel. The result is a commodity sale focused on price.

My February Circuits Assembly column looks at ways to change that dynamic.

Medical Product Outsourcing just published a good article on EMS trends in the medical sector. Yes, I’m quoted, but more importantly Managing Editor Michael Barbella did a great job of looking at some interesting product trends.

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