IPC’s Phil Carmichael on Asia, New Standards, and the Future


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At the very busy IPC APEX EXPO in Las Vegas recently, IPC’s head of operations for Asia, Phil Carmichael, spent a few minutes in the I-Connect007 booth with me and Stephen Las Marias, managing editor of SMT Magazine, discussing all things Chinese. Among the topics we covered were the association’s current role in Asia, and the new corporate social responsibility standard currently being developed, something IPC is very excited about.

Barry Matties: Phil, thank you for taking time out to speak with us. Why don’t you give us an update about what IPC is doing these days in Asia?

Phil Carmichael: First of all, Barry, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. I always appreciate talking to I-Connect007, which gets the important news to the people that matter.

Matties: Thank you.

Carmichael: We're continuing our growth trend in the People’s Republic of China. We've brought in membership, in a five-year period, from a little over 200 to around 700 members. Clearly we're offering some value to our members otherwise we wouldn't be gaining members. Our offerings are a little bit different there than in the U.S. The certification and training to maintain consistency and quality is actually done by our own staff. We have our Ph.D. level training staff—some of the best in the country. One of the things our members really appreciate is the fact that we offer, at a very competitive price, really good training programs, both on our standards and some other programs as well.

One of the new programs that we have just brought out is what we call the operator entry level program, developed specifically for China from IPC worldwide content. If you think about China, there's a lot of volatility in the manufacturing workforce. People come to work, they work until Chinese New Year, they go home and 70% of them come back. You have a pretty good churn in the employee workforce.

We offer a special program that's about a day and a half long and it's basics of how to be an operator in the electronics industry based off of all of our standards. It's also presented as a face-to-face program, but with DVD takeaways, so that people can go back and learn things. It's extremely competitively priced. A couple of companies now have adopted it as part of their employee onboarding. That's another thing that we do a little differently in China than we do elsewhere in the IPC world. We continue to grow in China faster than the economy.

Matties: Is the training really the impetus and the foundation behind that?

Carmichael: There is a value proposition in China. If your company becomes an IPC member, the price to become an IPC member in China is exactly the same as it is here in the U.S. The value proposition is a little bit different. We offer a free seat at a training program, we offer free downloads, and we offer some stuff in Chinese that you can't get elsewhere, such as white papers, discounts at shows, etc. The package of actually tangible benefits is about 4x the price of your membership. It's that value proposition that's a little bit different that's attractive to our members.

We spoke earlier about a new standard and a new type of standard that we're developing in China, which was initiated in China by some Chinese major corporates. It's the IPC-1401, which is a corporate social responsibility standard. It's not how to put together a multi-layer, rigid, PCB. It’s how to actually document compliance with specific requirements for corporate and social responsibility that are being dictated out of the EU.

One of our major partners, Huawei, has about 40% of its business in EU. The EU is asking for not just Huawei, but their second- and third-tier suppliers to actually show that they're corporately and socially responsible, including things like conflict minerals compliant and things like that. When you think about a medium-sized business with a $50 million U.S. turnover, who makes boards and sells it off to an ems who then sells them off to Huawei, this guy does not have a clear understanding of how to comply with EU compliance regulations.

So 1401 is actually a kind of a handbook including down to the form level so that a guy can go through this book, fill out the forms properly, and be able to show that he has compliance with all the latest CSR requirements in Europe. This came from China—not the EU and not the U.S. It was Chinese corporates who wanted to do this, both from their commitment to social responsibility, but also to help the supply chain. It’s a pretty interesting twist for IPC.

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