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On November 3, I had the pleasure of attending the LA/OC SMTA Tech Expo in Long Beach, California, and meet with chapter President Kathy Palumbo and Vice President Scott Penin, to learn more about this annual event and the chapter’s ongoing activities.
Judy Warner: Kathy, before we get ahead of ourselves, tell us about your company, please.
Kathy Palumbo: Our company is Production Analysis and Learning Services. We're an engineering service provider.
Warner: And you are currently the acting president for the local SMTA chapter, correct?
Palumbo: Yep. I'm here with Scott Penin, our vice president for the local chapter. Scott and I have been part of our LA/OC SMTA board since 2002. He actually joined the board a few years prior to that, so he's been on the board even longer. We trade spots back and forth between president and vice president. I'll be president until the end of 2017 and then he's going to step up and take on the job as president.
Warner: Scott, tell us about the company that you're with and how you got involved with this event and the local SMTA chapter.
Scott Penin: The company that I work for is called Paradigm Contract Manufacturing. We're a CM out of Garden Grove, California. I found out about SMTA basically just through Society of Manufacturing Engineers, or SME. A lot of people that went to SME also went to SMTA, but since SMTA was a newer technology, a lot of people transferred over and did not renew both. That's how I found out about it.
Warner: How long have you been involved with the leadership of this chapter?
Penin: I've been a member since 1996, but I’ve been on the board since 2001. I kept going against Atul, who kept beating me out for vice president of technical until he decided to retire [laughs], and that's when I finally got in.
Warner: At least it wasn’t one of those situations where they told you, “Oh, you went to the bathroom? We voted you to be vice president while you were gone.”
Penin: We've actually done that to somebody [laughs].
Palumbo: We did that to Ron Gonzalez, who's our treasurer. I elected him.
Warner: That’s true friendship right there! This is my first time attending the SMTA Tech Expo here in Long Beach and I've been very impressed. You've a room full of table top exhibitors in the hall next to us. Tell us about how many exhibitors are here today.
Palumbo: We have 43 exhibitors and we sold 46 tables this year. In the past, when the economy was better, we sold as many as 56 tables. We're trying to grow the attendance level and the number of tables, but our attendance has been pretty good. We had 140 preregistered and about 85–90% of them show up, which is great attendance for a little show like this.
Warner: Right, and in a niche, regional market.
Palumbo: For $375 for a table, you get a targeted audience. I usually walk away from this show with at least five to eight leads and every one of them pans out into a customer that I still have today.
Penin: Also, the SMTA is the one that sets the price. As far as Southern California with the Orange County shows in and out and with the Del Mar show, this is the least expensive show of any of them.
Warner: Far and away. The Del Mar show is around $1,000 and that's very low cost, comparatively. So it's absolutely the most affordable.
Penin: If you're a member of SMTA and you pre-sign, it's $375. It's a really good deal.
Warner: The exhibitors that you have here are showing a variety of offerings. Some are soldering equipment, pick-and-place equipment, services, reps, etc., but there's a very good smattering of representation out there. You also have some technical sessions. Kathy, can you tell us a little bit about who's presenting and on what topics?
Palumbo: Sure. Our first technical session was actually "Ask the Experts." It was a cleaning panel lead by Barbara Kanegsberg who is known as “The Cleaning Lady.” She's an expert in the cleaning industry and she put the panel together. I thought it was a very good session. It actually ran longer than the half hour that was allotted for it because there were so many questions. It was well attended.
Warner: I had a chance to talk to her and she said it kept going for so long she was afraid no one was going to get to eat. She was actually chasing them out of the room by the time it was over. That's good though; it means there was very good engagement.
Palumbo: Cleaning is always a hot topic.
Penin: It is. You would think it would be pretty standard by now.
Palumbo: What I find is that people want a build with no clean because they want an L0 rated flux, but then they have to clean it anyway.
Penin: Because the customer is looking at it from a cosmetic standpoint only.
Palumbo: From a cosmetic standpoint, and even from a functionality standpoint, if you leave that residue behind it can cause functionality issues like current leakage. Even from that standpoint, people want to clean it anyway. I think that's why it's such a popular topic.
Our next session was on IoT and wearables, which was presented by Dr. Bill Cardoso. That was very well attended and very interesting. He had an Apple watch teardown and he went into why Apple took the audio jack out of their phone, and it was a very interesting presentation.
The last presentation is by Julie Ellis of TTM. I know Julie because she went through one of my certified IPC trainer classes for the IPC-610. She's very knowledgeable on the PCB side and she knows enough to be dangerous now on the circuit board assembly side. She does a really fantastic job on presenting. She can rattle off drill bit sizes left and right and hole sizes and aspect ratios. If you have a specific technical question she can answer that right off the top of her head.
Warner: She is very good. I've heard her talk at the IPC Designers Council and her talks are always fabulous. I always want to rip off her slides [laughs].
Palumbo: That's why I convinced her to come and present for us.
Warner: You just mentioned your involvement with IPC. Tell us what you do with them.
Palumbo: Yes, I got involved with the IPC Designers Council back in 2003. Paul Fleming, who was a CID-certified IPC designer with Mentor Graphics, got in touch with me and asked me if I could help him out with that association. They had money and checks that they hadn't been able to deposit because they couldn't figure out how to become incorporated. Joe, my partner, and I went through all the paperwork and got them incorporated as a 501(c)(3), so I do the treasury work for them. I also handle all the bookkeeping and take care of all their website stuff and do any of the website updates. Scott McCurdy took over when Paul had to move to Arizona around 2005, and he's been the president ever since. He pretty much finds the speakers and the location. Terry Kleekamp is our secretary, and she helps with putting invites together and tracking the reservations and then I do all the website and bookkeeping.
Warner: What I really appreciate and enjoyed about this expo is that it's the local market and there's a lot of long-standing relationships here. As I was talking to the exhibitors everyone says they always walk out of here with a few leads, but what's important to them is they get to see their local customers and have that face-to-face networking opportunity. It is impossible to ascribe a measurable ROI to that, but it's so clear that just us getting together and having these kinds of conversations is very beneficial.
Penin: It is, and one thing that we didn't mention is that as long as we've been putting this on, especially here, there’s been free parking, free technical sessions, a free lunch, and there's a continental breakfast for the exhibitors that's free. So it doesn't cost anybody a penny to show up.