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In 2020 we saw the emergence of COVID-19 and the country, as well as the world, grind to a halt. Everything from gyms to shopping malls, restaurants and bars, closed until further notice. Anything not deemed essential was boarded up and the implementation of worldwide lockdowns of some variation were in effect to mitigate the spread of the virus, finding ourselves unwillingly caught in the middle of a pandemic.
This virus has not been discriminatory and has reached every corner of every industry in some form or fashion and the electronics industry has not gotten away unscathed. From workforce reduction to supply chain constraints, networking events to tradeshows, and everything in between, the industry has had to adjust to the current world climate.
IPC, The Global Association for Electronics Manufacturing, which hosts the largest electronics manufacturing tradeshow every year, Electronics Assembly Process Exhibition and Conference or better known as APEX, had some serious decisions to make for the show that originally was planned at the Conference Center in San Diego, CA. This conference brings electronics manufacturing companies and vendors from all over the globe to one central location for a week to educate, exhibit and network. IPC, understanding the complications presented by the pandemic and the importance and popularity of the show for the industry, was put in a position to pivot from the traditional in-person model. Which they knocked out of the park!
As a participant in the Emerging Engineers Program; a mentorship program which matches up-and-coming engineers with engineers who have made significant contribution to the industry and/or have graduated from the program themselves, I had the opportunity to be included in the APEX 2021 Virtual Expo this year. I came into it having no expectations, but certainly with a curious eye, as this was the first time APEX was conducted virtually.
From the opening keynote speech featuring IPC’s President and CEO, John Mitchell, where he addresses many hot topics such as; Factory of the Future (Factory 4.0/CFX), enabling a sustainable electronics manufacturing eco-system, the advent of new roles in the manufacturing space and the need to close the skills gap required to fill those roles, to the technical conference sessions, professional development courses, closing remarks and everything in between, the first virtual show was a major success!
One of the perks of being involved in the Emerging Engineers Program is having an all-access pass to be able to attend as many of the committee meetings, technical conference sessions and professional development courses as possible given schedule availability. (See my schedule at the bottom of this post.) Such was the case in years’ past when APEX was in-person, but when you factored in the meetings, visiting exhibits, networking and the time it takes to get from point A to point B in the conference center to attend the courses, it was difficult to be able to maximize the schedule. IPC was forward thinking in its approach this year and scheduled all the committee meetings outside of APEX week, which allowed anyone who had an all-access pass to truly maximize their attendance to the courses and sessions at their discretion. The presenters were timely, well prepared and very engaging. It was evident that a lot of thought and time was put into the content to ensure the attendees truly walked away feeling like a) they gathered a significant amount of updated, applicable information and b) was worth the price of admission. I know I certainly did!
What impressed me most about this years’ conference was IPC made all the technical session and professional development course materials available to access and download for a duration of time after the conference concluded, even for those who did not attend the conference. This is a major benefit for smaller companies who may not have the capital to send an entire team and would instead have to rely on one individual to attend, retain and relay what they had learned to their peers.
It is my hope that in the future IPC adopts a hybrid model approach to APEX. There is certainly something to be said about face-to-face interaction, learning and networking. I don’t believe these should be eliminated in their entirety. Especially for the younger demographic who have been raised behind a computer screen naturally, with the progression of technology. To get out of your comfort zone, shake hands and have conversations will always be a major conduit to growing your knowledge base as well as your network. However, opening the virtual platform allows for an entire demographic of technologists, new and old, to be exposed to all of the benefits that attending an in-person APEX conference provides, if they are not fortunate enough to attend the in-person conference.
Congrats to IPC for an amazing job at putting on a great conference and I look forward to what is in store for next year in Sunny San Diego!
We appreciate your interest in ACDi and look forward to discussing your electronics manufacturing requirements in greater detail. Please visit our complimentary consultation page, or feel free to reach out direct to me to schedule a no-obligation consultation via video conference at your convenience.
Manager of Design Services, ACDi