Joining Forces: SMTA and the SMART Group in Europe
I was happy to sit down with SMTA Executive Director Tanya Martin at SMTAI recently, to discuss current events within the association, and some interesting news about an upcoming merger. Also joining the discussion was Keith Bryant, Global Director of Sales for YXLON International and Chairman of the SMART Group.
Patty Goldman: Well, Tanya, SMTA International is one heck of an event this year, isn't it?
Tanya Martin: Indeed, this is one of our best years in terms of attendee registration for the technical sessions in the conference as well as on the expo floor. We are happy to say that we expanded the show floor to accommodate the growing amount of equipment being showcased as well as additional booth space. It's been an exciting year.
Goldman: And the conference rooms seem to be pretty much filled plus there were five technical tracks on some of the days.
Martin: It's fantastic to be facilitating the sharing of research and solutions between so many people. We are seeing increased attendance in the technical sessions, some sitting shoulder to shoulder. SMTAI officially starts on Sunday each year. This year we had 20 workshops that offered a variety of topics for different experience levels. Monday hosts our popular Technical Innovations and Harsh Environments programs as well as our expanding Women’s Leadership Program. Tuesday and Wednesday have five full technical tracks running concurrently. We will close the conference with our largest Thursday program ever that includes four concurrent tracks with two consortium sessions.
Goldman: I understand you have some news you would like to share. What’s happening?
Martin: We have some new initiatives that we are putting into place. The Board of Directors, Headquarters, and our chapter leaders have really come together to focus on more strategic engagement. We are really trying to attract and include younger professionals, the future leaders of our industry, as well as students, both individually and those in SMTA student chapters. You also may have noticed this past year that we changed our tagline to "A Global Association Working on a Local Level." We are really trying to emphasize this and put actions to it. It's our local chapters that are going out and expanding the mission to the professionals in their area. We understand that people don't always have the time, company approval or travel budgets to attend the bigger conferences, like SMTA International, and need resources and training brought to them.
Goldman: You always had chapters around the world, right?
Martin: Correct. Not only are we exploring additional chapter growth globally, we are putting more focus into finding new ways for existing chapters to increase their reach—paying attention to the specific needs in each region and addressing the different technical disciplines that are local to each area.
Goldman: That's all good news. Is there more?
Martin: We were excited to announce in early September that the SMART Group will be merging into SMTA to create SMTA Europe. SMART has been serving the UK/European market since the mid-1980s and running successfully under the leadership of Keith Bryant and Bob Willis. We are delighted to increase our presence throughout Europe and serve the local electronics manufacturing market through the SMTA mission.
Goldman: What is the SMART Group?
Martin: SMART Group is an organization very similar to SMTA and actually started at around the same time as SMTA. We are aligned in our values and mission to bring educational opportunities to the local community and sharing of technical knowledge.
Goldman: They are a European organization then?
Martin: Yes, so new and renewing members will become the charter members of SMTA Europe.
Goldman: That's very nice. Will you now have a division called SMTA Europe?
Martin: There is not necessarily a separate operating division. SMTA Europe will be managed out of our headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. We look forward to welcoming the current SMART Group members, as well as connecting our existing European SMTA members to the new group. We are fortunate that some of the SMART Group leadership team will be staying involved to ensure a smooth transition and to continue to host events. This exciting connection comes a few months after our first co-organized event earlier this year where our two associations co-organized a conference in Amsterdam addressing contamination, cleaning and coating. We enjoyed working together and it just seemed to make sense to combine efforts and resources to improve the benefits, offerings and reach.
We are in the middle of planning another conference and expo in Amsterdam for April of 2018 that will be branded under SMTA Europe titled, “Electronics in Harsh Environments.” We are excited to broaden the previous focus and bring in other aspects to manufacturing reliable hardware for use in power electronics and extreme/industrial environments.
Goldman: This is all good news.
Martin: Yes, we’re looking forward to continuing to assist and connect professionals in more parts of the world. As you know, I’m a big fan of collaboration. We are also working with other organizations that are addressing emerging technologies and spaces that SMTA is excited to get involved in. It’s important to be sure that we are acknowledging hot topics, innovative products and technologies and helping manufacturers create best practices and assembly methods. We hope individuals and companies consider the SMTA as a resource for knowledge and appreciate the power of a vast, professional network.
Goldman: Keith, please tell me a little about your position and what you are up to.
Keith Bryant: I’m chairman of the SMART Group, and have been for nearly 10 years, until the end of December, when we become SMTA Europe. Then, I’ll still be working with Tanya and SMTA HQ to help lead SMTA Europe for the next year or two. I am also the Global Director of electronics sales for YXLON International.
Goldman: Okay, so tell me your impressions of SMTA and the merger here.
Bryant: We've always said that we've been very similar organizations. It's about imparting knowledge, it's about training people, and it’s about holding seminars and workshops to get knowledge out to engineers and technicians, to further the industry.
We've been doing that on one side of the pond and Tanya and SMTA have been doing it on the other side of the pond. We had a joint European conference this year in Amsterdam and I think anyone who had any doubts before then about the synergies of the organizations basically were completely convinced such that, when I put this to my steering committee, it was unanimous that it was the sensible move to make.
Goldman: Now SMTA is truly a global organization working on a local level.
Martin: Yes, we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to begin to serve Europe, in addition to our other chapters in Mexico, India, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Canada and Israel.
Goldman: Was SMART Group strictly Europe?
Bryant: Yes, in fact it was pretty much U.K. We have some members in Europe but the strongest area by far is the U.K.
Goldman: So now you're covering all of Europe.
Bryant: We are going to increase our European footprint very quickly, I'm sure. For something which sounds like quite a big thing, it's going very smoothly and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback. We've had no negative feedback on either side. As everybody says, it's the logical, sensible thing to do.
Goldman: Here in the U.S., a majority of SMTA chapters host an annual local expo and they're scheduled throughout the calendar year. I'm always impressed with that because it's open to everybody and anybody and you have speakers and it seems like a great learning environment, especially for new people. Have you been doing that kind of thing in Europe, or are you going to do it?
Bryant: We've been doing it in the U.K. with SMART Group. We have workshops, we have seminars, we have webinars, and we have at least one event every month and often two events. Depending on where the membership comes from when we get SMTA Europe up and running, we may start organizing events in different countries, but our main event, at least for the first year, is going to be the conference that we have next year in Amsterdam.
Martin: SMTA will continue to promote the launch of SMTA Europe by creating more awareness of the association by collaborating and co-locating with other established events in Europe. For example, SMTA will have a technical program at productronica next month in Munich, Germany. This is an impressive two-day program with speakers from Cisco, Fraunhofer, CEA/Leti, Heraeus, Bosch, iNEMI, etc. We hope you’ll come see us on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon at productronica in Hall A1.
Bryant: In addition to what is currently scheduled, we already have events in the diary for next year through Q1. Once we hear from more volunteers from other countries to join the organization, we’ll begin reviewing the possibilities to create programs and training in Germany, Spain, Italy, etc.
Goldman: There seems to be a lot of benefits to being a part of SMTA. You are all about education for your members.
Martin: Yes, we are an organization that emphasizes relationships, education and disseminating knowledge to help advance the industry.
Our SMTAI keynote speaker from Microsoft, Rune Jensen, had never attended a SMTA event before today. I invited him to our Recognition Dinner the evening before his presentation and he also attended the annual meeting and awards ceremony immediately before he took the stage. As he began his presentation he mentioned how impressed he was with our organization. Rune stated, "It feels like a family," which is really an ongoing sentiment that we hear about SMTA. It was really great that a first-time visitor who spent a very short amount of time with us could feel that connection right away. He mentioned how wonderful it was to see everyone working together and helping each other.
Goldman: Some industries aren't like that.
Martin: It's a special thing to see strangers sit at a table together and begin sharing and laughing, competitors talking about their research and projects in the same session, and different segments of the supply chain working together to create real solutions that truly allows the industry to improve and move forward.
Goldman: That's wonderful. This is all good news.
Bryant: I don't think there's any bad news.
Goldman: Thanks so much to you both for your time.
Martin: Thank you.