Investment practices follow the same boom/bust cycle of the economy. Must they?
New industries outside electronics may have different products, but share a familiar approach.
Last February, at the same time and place as IPC Apex Expo, maybe you noticed the signs for something called “Traffic & Conversion 2018.” Perhaps it was my age, or perhaps just naivety, but I just assumed the event dealt with roadway equipment used to manage vehicular traffic. Boy was I wrong.
Had I focused on the attendees, I would have immediately noticed that virtually all of them were young and tethered to their iPads. Over their morning coffee at Starbucks, there was no conversation or early morning banter. Instead, everyone was in a trance, staring at their screens. At night, the same youthful attendees held court at the bar, laughing and networking. During a conversation with one, I finally learned what the group was all about. “Traffic & Conversion” was really an annual pilgrimage by data geeks to learn the latest trends, technology and methods employed in the world of “data mining.”
Not everyone is. That’s a mistake.
It hit me while walking through IPC Apex Expo in February. Talking with various colleagues, the famous quote from A Tale of Two Cities kept repeating in my head: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
At every industry meeting I have been to in recent months, the mood has been quite bullish, reflecting the best of times. The HKPCA Expo in Shenzhen was well-attended, and money was being spent – lots of it! Ditto for Apex, where attendance appeared brisk and North American companies were in a buying mood. Discussions revolved around adding capacity, further incorporating higher technology capability, and exciting new customer relationships – all of which overshadowed the news that tariffs and trade restrictions could be in the offing.
Don’t be deceived into thinking your company is running smoothly.
Running a business, I have learned, is full of paradoxes. There are tasks that may be simple but not easy to do. There are tasks that are easy to do but not necessarily simple. And there are tasks that start off looking easy and simple but end up just confusing. Toughest of all, however, is remaining focused on what is critical to success. Focus too often starts off appearing both easy and simple, but then morphs into such chaos that one forgets what they were trying to accomplish in the first place – and why. At such times managers need to remember that no matter the type of initiative (simple, easy, focused, confusing), success boils down to best utilizing the invaluable three Ts: Treasure, Talent, and Time.
Treasure may seem obvious, yet when undertaking a new initiative it is often the most underestimated resource. Yes, everyone knows how to calculate the cost to purchase needed equipment and materials. And it is true those all around you (especially above) will hammer away to make sure every penny is accounted for and every penny of return is realized. What is more often than not underestimated, however, is how much treasure is required to make it through those rainy days caused by anything from a bad month to a lost customer to an economic downturn.
The HKPCA Show revealed just how far robotics for the PCB shop has come.
Industry exhibitions never disappoint, and during the last couple months of 2017 two of the biggest ones took place. Seeing the multitude of options that other parts of the world have in the way of equipment, materials and supplies is always staggering. I am always amazed how many suppliers of drill bits and drilling machines exist – matched only by the number of suppliers of via fill chemistries and paste.
Equally impressive is seeing what’s new. These days the really groundbreaking concepts, equipment and materials seem to be first launched anywhere but in North America, more often than not in Asia. While walking the aisles of the HKPCA Show in December and drooling over the multitude of opportunities to invest the capital dollars I wish I had, on equipment not available back home, I observed some interesting and definitely new equipment that was being described in a decidedly old way as robotics.