X-Rayted Files: 2022's Word of the Year is... Resilience

On balance, this last year goes down as a pretty good one. While we are not as far along in putting the pandemic behind us as we might have hoped, the progress is promising. The economic recovery has been remarkable, despite persistent supply chain woes and (transitory?) inflationary pressures. With consumer demand high, and signs of relief regarding the supply chain, the coming year, and its prospect of a return to “normal” will likely offer substantial opportunities, though we must also be mindful of risks. 

There is much talk, as well as hope, of a return to normal, or a “new normal.” I’ve thought out loud and written in this column about our “next normal.” It’s true that a new/next normal, or for some a return to normal, is different for each of us. It’s also true that whichever normal you imagine, it is yours to define.  Leaders at all levels are constantly challenged to vigorously pursue opportunity while evaluating risk and potential for disruption. For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying challenges represented disruptions that we just hadn’t imagined. Now that we have experienced it, and can imagine history repeating itself, what we do to address such risk, in itself, represents an opportunity. 

cardoso_2022_hero.jpgThat’s a long way of saying that, essentially, I think the best opportunity of 2022 is in incorporating the lessons of the last two years by focusing on building resiliency within our organizations. Doing so can generate powerful competitive advantage when the next disruption rears its ugly head. I’d also argue that ignoring this opportunity is, in and of itself, a real risk. While there is always pressure to optimize operations and minimize cost, going forward the most robust organizations will balance those pressures with efforts to build resilience in the face of disruption. If we return to a normal of chasing the lowest cost suppliers, just-in-time inventories, extended global supply chains, and the leanest of lean manufacturing, we risk letting a real opportunity pass us by. In competition with enterprises who do invest in resiliency, some risk finding themselves at a distinct disadvantage in the face of future hurdles. 

Resiliency starts with using our imaginations to contemplate risks. While we might not have imagined the pandemic and the obstacles it presented, we certainly can now. While it is front of mind as we consider coming risk, there are many others that may present similar challenges. Impacts of a changing climate, labor shortages, and skills gap (presently front of mind for many of us), and shifting geopolitical sands just scratch the surface of potential culprits for major disruptions. I’ve tasked all my teams with putting on their thinking caps and identifying potential disruptions, their associated risk in areas such as supply, labor, and operations. We then look at ways we can, for example, more strategically manage our inventories, adapt cross functional teams in the event of staffing disruptions, and seek opportunities to shorten our supply chain. Of course, it’s a challenge to strike a balance between building resiliency and managing costs, but I’m convinced it is more than worth the effort. 

Building resiliency for ourselves isn’t the only opportunity, as there may be real competitive advantages in finding ways that we can improve resiliency for our customers. Those of us who are suppliers will do well to emphasize ways in which we help our customers build resiliency. Perhaps we don’t offer the lowest cost solution, but clients can benefit from our proximity. It may be that clients value more accessible and dependable domestic service and support. In fact, it may be fair to say that your plans for resiliency can also be a benefit to customers who depend on you, and should be promoted as such. 

Getting Creative
Finally, resiliency isn’t just about a bunch of Xs and Os; it’s fundamentally about creativity. At the risk of self-promotion, I want to share two examples. Among the major disruptions during the pandemic was the absence of trade shows, and the opportunities they offer to connect with new prospects as well as reconnecting with peers. We strapped on our thinking caps to tackle both, and I’d argue that what we came up with addresses the challenges and contributes to our overall resiliency as an organization.  First, we converted a Sprinter van to be mobile demo lab and have been traveling the country meeting prospects where they are. In addition, to maintain cherished relationships and create some new ones, we started our series of fireside chats, which have been both fun and educational for us, and we hope for our audience. 

Investing in resiliency can be a difficult value proposition, but it represents an important opportunity moving forward. For those who undertake it, imagining, identifying, and mitigating risk will represent a genuine competitive advantage during the next major disruption. Those who long for and seek a return to business as usual may realize some short-term gains but those will likely be forfeit to any substantial speedbumps. I suppose if you believe that the pandemic represents a once in a lifetime event, the later approach may be the wiser. I, like many, believe otherwise.  

Dr. Bill Cardoso is CEO of Creative Electron. 

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2021

X-Rayted Files: 2022's Word of the Year is... Resilience

12-29-2021

On balance, this last year goes down as a pretty good one. While we are not as far along in putting the pandemic behind us as we might have hoped, the progress is promising. The economic recovery has been remarkable, despite persistent supply chain woes and (transitory?) inflationary pressures. With consumer demand high, and signs of relief regarding the supply chain, the coming year and its prospect of a return to “normal” will likely offer substantial opportunities, though we must also be mindful of risks.

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X-Rayted Files: Three or More Intriguing Thoughts on Reshoring

11-29-2021

The ground beneath us is always shifting, and while the term “unprecedented” can be somewhat overused, it does seem to be a little tougher to keep our balance these days. For almost every economic disruption, there emerges some argument for how reshoring can mitigate it. This time around, though, there’s a bit of a tug-o-war between the disruptions that are shaping the manufacturing landscape and the broader economy. I’m no economist, but as a dyed in the wool entrepreneur I’d like to share three thoughts about the future of manufacturing with a focus on reshoring, the talent pool, and the joy of making things.

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The X-Rayted Files: Was CS Model 101 Built on Industry 4.0?

10-27-2021

While smart devices like sleep trackers that monitor the quality of our ZZs are exciting to some, for others it induces the fear of becoming subject to robot overlords. Regardless, the age of IoT is upon us, and as manufacturers, IoT is just one facet of the broader Industry 4.0.

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X-Rayted Files: Radiation’s Effects on Electronic Components

09-22-2021

Whether it’s from naturally occurring sources or induced by modern human ingenuity, electronic components, like everything else, are subject to regular exposure to radiation. It is vital to understand the various sources of radiation exposure as well as their likely effects on today’s microelectronics and the devices they make possible.

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X-Rayted Files: Semiconductor Shortage—Avoiding Counterfeit Components

08-11-2021

From bicycles to sundries, from consumer electronics to automobiles, shortages and supply chain issues have hampered an otherwise strong economic recovery much of the world emerge from the pandemic. Among these challenges, none has received more media attention than the semiconductor shortage.

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X-Rayted Files: Tales from the Files of Lithium-ion Batteries

06-23-2021

Lithium-ion batteries have, in part, enabled the continued miniaturization of the devices we love. They have also played an important role in making practical electric cars a reality. But like other approaches high density energy storage, they do present risks.

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X-Rayted Files: Genius, Evil, or Evil Genius?

05-20-2021

Apple dominates its market in many ways. Is this genius for the consumer, or does it effectively rule out any competition? Columnist Bill Cardoso debates its merits—and disadvantages for other players.

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X-Rayted Files: Crafting Our ‘Next Normal’

04-20-2021

As profound an experience as it has been to lead an enterprise through the pandemic, what’s to come may make every bit as much of an impression. So many things that we took for granted as practices and behaviors etched in stone, were interrupted, suspended, or eliminated entirely. As we exit the tunnel into the light of the post-pandemic, we will be challenged collectively in crafting the next normal.

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X-Rayted Files: The Bright Side of the Chip Shortage

03-17-2021

In his previous column, “The Dark Side of the Chip Shortage: Counterfeits,” Bill addressed one of unanticipated outcome of the crisis: the shortage of electronic components and predictable wave of counterfeit components likely to flood the market. Combating that tsunami of fakes may also accelerate the adoption of advanced techniques for detecting counterfeit components.

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X-Rayted Files: The Dark Side of the Chip Shortage—Counterfeits

02-17-2021

It’s February 2021, and as the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, another problem plagues the global economy: the electronic component shortage. What some economists have deemed to be a decade of immense prosperity and growth, the “roaring ‘20s” started with a hiccup.

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2020

X-Rayted Files: Solving for the Limits of Human Visual Inspection

12-16-2020

Because a key element of quality control in manufacturing is still good old-fashioned visual inspection, it’s important to understand the ability of operators to sustain their focus and what we can do to support their success. And while the fallibility of human inspection presents challenges, Dr. Bill Cardoso details how there are many ways to address shortcomings.

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X-Rayted Files: iPhone Transparency—A Window Into SMT

11-17-2020

Though we don’t do them just for fun, teardowns are fun, but they have also taught us more than we could have imagined. Modern teardowns provide critical insights into the nature and construction of these devices. As an example, Dr. Bill Cardoso details the history of the iPhone as told through X-ray.

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X-Rayted Files: A Century of X-Rays in the Automotive Industry, Part 2

10-28-2020

As one of the main users of X-ray inspection, the automotive industry has been one of the main drivers for the development of higher power and higher resolution X-ray imaging systems. Dr. Bill Cardoso continues with Part 2 of this column series.

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X-Rayted Files: A Century of X-Rays in the Automotive Industry, Part 1

09-29-2020

If you have read any of Bill Cardoso's previous columns, you know that he is passionate about X-rays, cars, and electronics. In this column series, he talks about some of his idols, including Curie, Roentgen, Marconi, Galvin, and Ford.

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X-Rayted Files: Is Quality Really Priceless?

08-19-2020

In a day and age when we can learn virtually anything online, manufacturers still manage to be opaque about pricing, especially when it comes to specialty equipment. Some may say, “Quality is priceless,” but Bill Cardoso explains how it isn't.

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X-Rayted Files: Marching Toward 2021, 20 Miles at a Time

07-29-2020

We’re only at the halfway mark, and 2020 has been a real challenge. Our best-laid plans have been cast in doubt by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this transformational time, Dr. Bill Cardoso looks back a century for a bit of inspiration from Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

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X-Rayted Files: E-Commerce Boom Fraught With Risk—X-Rays to the Rescue

06-17-2020

It’s not news that online sales are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. However, with increased sales comes the increased risk of return fraud and abuse. Dr. Bill Cardoso explains how X-ray can help detect dummy and counterfeit merchandise.

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X-Rayted Files: Why Do We Break Stuff? Intelligence From Teardowns

05-20-2020

The impulse to break a new gadget to "see what's inside" and to “learn how it works” is often the first sign someone will become an engineer. We’ve learned a lot in over a decade of teardowns, which have helped us to understand how the SMT industry has changed over these years. Bill Cardoso investigates.

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X-Rayted Inspection: Manufacturing in the Eye of a Pandemic

04-08-2020

Dr. Bill Cardoso usually writes about X-ray inspection, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and how it all connects to Industry 4.0. This month, however, he shifts gears and shares some of the things Creative Electron has been doing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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X-rayted Files: X-ray and AI—A Match Made In Heaven, Part 2

03-18-2020

In Part 1, Dr. Bill Cardoso covered the basics of the relationship between X-ray inspection and artificial intelligence (AI). In Part 2, Cardoso takes a step forward to cover some of the practical ways we use AI to improve the efficiency of our X-ray inspections.

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2019

X-Rayted Files: Will Radiation Damage My Electronic Component?

12-17-2019

Before I start talking about radiation damage on electronic components, let me warn you: if you are looking for a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question, "Will radiation damage my electronic component?" stop reading now. Things will get complicated. You may feel like I did not answer the question at all, and you would be correct. There are whole conferences dedicated to this question (check IEEE’s Nuclear and Space Radiation Effects Conference), so the goal of this column is to give you some background to guide you to the right answer for your specific situation. Ultimately, the best way is to ask an expert.

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X-Rayted Files: The Currency of Technology

11-11-2019

In the ever-moving tide of technology, the need to innovate requires a constant shift in vision, and this need has never been more evident than in PCB manufacturing. In fact, innovation has become so valuable that PCBs are quickly becoming the currency of technology. Dr. Bill Cardoso explains.

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X-Rayted Files: The Risk of Installing Counterfeit Parts

10-02-2019

In high-tech manufacturing, the use of sub-standard components can be catastrophic. There is no greater need for quality control than in PCBs, as they are only as good as the components installed on them; therein lies the problem. Some components shipped to manufacturers are counterfeit!

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X-Rayted Files: Just Because You Can't See the Problem Doesn't Mean It's Not There!

08-20-2019

In this new column, Dr. Bill Cardoso will cover everything related to X-rays from cool historical facts to the latest in technological advancements, starting with the discovery of X-rays in 1895.

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