Nancy Jaster Brings Manufacturing, Design Background to Designers Council


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Nancy Jaster was recently named the head of the IPC Designers Council. At the recent AltiumLive 2017 event, I spoke with Nancy about her unique background in both design and manufacturing, and how she hopes to use that experience and mindset to revitalize the Designers Council going forward, particularly with the International and student chapters. We also discussed her plans to bring more young people, particularly women, into the industry.


Barry Matties:
I understand you've recently taken over leadership of the IPC Designers Council.

Nancy Jaster: Yes. I've been with IPC for three years, and in February of this year I took over ownership of the Designers Council.

Matties: In that time though, you’ve probably had a lot of time to formulate some concepts and ideas. First, before we go into that, why don't you just tell us a little bit about the Designers Council, and what the role is that you're seeing?

Jaster: To me, the Designers Council’s role is to help the design community, to be there as a resource for learning new things, as well as getting the answers to questions. In addition, we do have our TechNet forum, so if you've got a question, you can go online and ask that question, and be connected to other designers to maybe get an answer to your question. So that's important.

But I think from IPC's perspective, the Designers Council is important so that we have an environment to help support the folks who do CID and CID+ training. But also, to support other people who are involved in design. To help them stay connected, get an education, learn about the latest and greatest techniques, and to have that network that they can build relationships and get to know each other, and have people to ask and learn from. I think mentorship is extremely important, and participation in the IPC Designers Council provides those options

altiumlive san diego robot group.JPGMatties: You're here at AltiumLive. What's your purpose for being here?

Jaster: I’m here to support the designers. I still want to learn, so I'm very interested in learning about Altium and what Altium can do. I'm here for myself to learn, but I'm also here to help and support the Designers Council, and to talk to individuals. I've talked to a number of people about our CID and CID+ training program. I've talked to a number of people about our Emerging Engineers program. The other thing I'm trying to do is learn what IPC can do for the design community.

I'm relatively new to this, but I've heard multiple times that IPC APEX EXPO doesn't have a lot for designers, or it's really not design-focused. I want to understand why people think that, and what we, IPC, can do to help support the design community.  I'm very passionate about getting more designers engaged in IPC. Because I think they can learn so much from participating on our standards committees, being part of that, and I think we can provide them education. This is a great forum, but there's so much that we need to teach, and school only teaches so much, so we need to take it to the next level in how best to learn from your peers and from experts in the field.

Matties: Coming into this position, you're not just a manager, but you're coming in as somebody with real-world manufacturing and electronics experience, right? Just tell us a little bit about your background.

Jaster: I have a background in manufacturing and design, yes. I got my engineering degree a long, long time ago. I won't say the year.

Matties: You wear it well.

Jaster: Thank you. I'm one of the unique people who have both manufacturing and design experience. I was lucky enough to go to work for Western Electric when it was still part of the AT&T umbrella. So I started on the manufacturing side, worked in capacitor manufacturing, then did auditing, then product engineering in an assembly and board shop. Through the name changes, I then worked for Bell Labs, working with our developers, and produced a hardware methodology workshop. Understanding the process and getting everybody to one common design process, one common library, implementing one tool across the whole corporation and getting to one common part numbering system. A lot of things happened on the corporate side, at an Alcatel-Lucent level, to try to improve our margins so that we could design anywhere, manufacture anywhere.

When we decided to outsource our factories, I was responsible for working with our contract manufacturers and I learned a lot about the differences between going external and staying internal, because we didn't necessarily talk the same language. And so, I had to help our design community understand “Okay this is what they mean and this is what they need when we talk about a bill of material,” because we weren't necessarily sending them everything they needed because we were so intertwined for so many years. It was new to us. So, I worked through that.

Matties: So you really brought some process and structure to your area?

Jaster: Yes. A lot of process improvement and a lot of common process. When Alcatel bought Lucent, our product margins were incredible. We actually were able to reduce our costs because we now shared an inventory across the whole corporation, so we didn't strand inventory in one location. Designers don't necessarily think about that, but that's important for the design community.

Matties: We have all the acronyms in design, DFM, so on. For me, it's DFP, design for profitability, and that's what you're talking about right here. Smart design can drive profitability. Smart systems and structure drives profitability, and profitability begins at the beginning, not at the end.

Jaster: Correct. You've got to start thinking a bit early, up front. We had a way of talking about it: the “whats vs. the hows.” The whats, there were some areas where we wanted a lot of commonality. We wanted all of Lucent to use one component library because that would allow to reuse those parts, and even reuse circuits. But how you implement that, we allowed the designers to do what they wanted to do, and use their creativity to do that in the design.

Matties: But the process they followed.

Jaster: Right. So, there were certain areas where we would say, "We really want it the same." And in other areas where we said, "blue sky," and it really helped improve Lucent.

Matties: What was the morale of the designers under this new change? I would think that it was a much happier place for them to be in.

Jaster: Well, nobody likes change.

Matties: But once you're in it, and you're following the structure and the process, and you're seeing the results...

Jaster: They were happy. I believe they were happier, because they didn't have to worry about certain things, because certain things were now taken care of by the process.

Matties: Rather than reinventing it every time, and it sounds like that's what you went into, was a lot of reinvention with part numbers, tools. You standardized it?

Jaster: We standardized it, yes. It seems silly, but the number of screws we used to use was ridiculous, and part of it was because our designers didn't necessarily have a database that made it easy for them to find the right screw. So, we put it down to a small number and said, "Hey, these are the screws that you want to use. If you need a Philips head at this length, this is the part number you use." Then it made life easier for them. They only had to choose one; they didn't have to go search and come up with a new part number or specify something new or different, because it was already in the library.

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