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During Altium Live 2019, I spoke with Kirsten Smit-Westenberg, executive director of EIPC, who is planning the EIPC winter conference which is set for February 2020 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Kirsten discusses the conference topics, which are based around the needs of the next-generation electronic devices, and changes in fabrication solutions for PCBs, PCBAs, materials, and technologies.
Andy Shaughnessy: Nice to meet you, Kirsten. For anybody who’s not familiar with EIPC, tell us a little bit about your background and what you do for EIPC.
Kirsten Smit-Westenberg: I’ve been with the EIPC for 18 years now. I started as an EIPC event manager organizing networking events, and now I am the executive director. At EIPC, we organize networking events where we bring the whole supply chain together, from manufacturers to OEMs, suppliers, and designers. We have a membership base throughout Europe, and also a little bit outside of Europe. European companies can become a member of EIPC and get a lot of benefits, such as attending conferences, getting statistics, going to training and technical workshops—all these things that we’re trying to do for the industry. It’s a nonprofit organization, so it’s important for us that we organize things that the industry needs. We try to organize something that the industry is looking for. That’s important for us.
Shaughnessy: You mentioned statistics. Tell us more about that.
Smit-Westenberg: Statistics are not the biggest thing that we do, but we provide information for the World Electronic Circuits Council (WECC) report, including involvement from IPC, EIPC from Europe, and a number of Asian organizations, such as the CPCA, JPCA, KPCA, TPCA, etc. We provide data from the U.S., Europe, and Asia in a report every year for the industry.
Shaughnessy: And the WECC meets at the CPCA Show in Shanghai each year?
Smit-Westenberg: Correct. The WECC meets at every exhibition organized by each WECC member, including CPCA, HKPCA, IPCA, IPC APEX EXPO, JPCA, KPCA, and TPCA. At the TPCA Show, our chairman, Alan Morgan, represents the EIPC, so all these global organizations meet, and they represent their own region within the world.
Shaughnessy: What’s new at EIPC? What’s your next event?
Smit-Westenberg: Our next event is the EIPC Winter Conference. It will be held February 13–14, 2020, in Rotterdam, Netherlands. We’re inviting speakers from Europe to present various topics and collecting abstracts and papers too. Information on all of that and registering for the conference is on the EIPC’s website right now.
Our slogan for the conference is the “Needs for Next-generation Electronic Devices,” and “Changes in Fabrication Solutions for PCBs, PCBAs, Materials, and Technologies.” There will be a keynote session with trends, business outlook, and reliability and traceability requirements by application. We cover new emerging technologies, equipment evolutions, and roadmapping for 2020 and beyond.
We also divide our two-day conference into about five sessions, each with their topic; we bring a few speakers together, and they form this session. At the end, we have a panel discussion where all the audience can ask questions, and the speakers will provide answers.
Every time we organize a conference, both summer and winter, we try to combine it with a site visit or something else interesting. This time, we will visit the Hutchison Ports ECT in Rotterdam. Then, we’ll have dinner after that in Sparta’s famous football stadium called The Castle. It will be a full program.
Shaughnessy: EIPC does some nice events. Our technical editor Pete Starkey covers a lot of these, and I remember he wrote about EIPC providing dinner in a castle once.
Smit-Westenberg: Yes, it is always very nice to bring the people together. Nearly the whole group stays the entire day, including for dinner. We keep everyone together, which is nice because a lot of networking takes place at these events. Of course, networking also happens during breaks in the conference, but when you do a social program and have a nice dinner, business gets done there too.
Shaughnessy: Are you involved in any standards?
Smit-Westenberg: We’re on committees, but we don’t write or sell standards. EIPC has some representation in IEC standard committees and IPC committee groups.
Shaughnessy: It’s an organization existing to help members.
Smit-Westenberg: Exactly. Everything we do is for the industry, by the industry. As I said before, we try to organize what the industry needs. We need our members and potential members to get involved and tell us what they would like the EIPC to have their conferences about, or what the next workshop should be about, because they know what’s going on in the industry, such as what’s hot and what’s not. If they tell us this is something that we’re working on or is a challenge, then we try to build something around that because they know what’s going on.
Shaughnessy: In 18 years, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry or your piece of it on the European side? You started at a difficult time in the industry.
Smit-Westenberg: It was a very challenging time. A lot has changed, but also a lot hasn’t because there’s a very strong group of people that attend our EIPC events. About 60% come to every event and 40% are new or visit once every year or two. But the challenge is to find a program that is interesting enough to bring that consistent 60% and the new 40%; we need to reinvent the program for every event. However, a lot has changed in the electronics industry in the last 20 years.
Shaughnessy: How many member companies do you have now?
Smit-Westenberg: About 120. Most of them are within Europe, and maybe about 10 are from outside of Europe.
Shaughnessy: But they have an interest in the European market.
Smit-Westenberg: Correct. Or they have a facility in Europe or sell in Europe.
Shaughnessy: People love to complain in our industry, but I’ve never heard anything bad about EIPC.
Smit-Westenberg: Then we’re probably doing something right! There are people who think things can be done better, and that’s fine because we want to improve, so we always have a questionnaire after our events. And the bigger you get, the more people you get at your events, and the more people you get that might not be happy about little things, but as long they’re little things, then we’re not too worried.
Shaughnessy: It sounds like you have a fun job. What were you doing before this?
Smit-Westenberg: I worked at the Maastricht Exhibition and Conference Centre in the south of the Netherlands, a location where the EIPC held one of their exhibitions back 20 years ago. I was working for the venue that rented out the halls to EIPC to have their exhibition in, and I stepped over to organizing the events that normally take place in these halls. It’s good because I’ve seen both sides.
Shaughnessy: It’s easier to herd the cats when you’ve been on both sides of the desk.
Smit-Westenberg: It helps.
Shaughnessy: That’s very cool. Where do you live?
Smit-Westenberg: Near Maastricht in the Netherlands. We have an external office because I need some people to help me with the events, prepare for the conferences, etc.
Shaughnessy: Is there anything else you’re working on for the EIPC in the near future?
Smit-Westenberg: Growing our membership, and I would like our members to be more active in getting us information on what they would like the events to be about because that would make our work better. We like to have a lot of members, but we especially like active members because they represent the industry, and the industry can benefit from that.
Shaughnessy: Overall, it sounds like you’re doing a great job with it.
Smit-Westenberg: We’re doing our best, and we’re pleased that we’ve seen an increase in event attendance from 80–100 two years ago to 100–150 today; that’s a good group for networking. It proves that we’re still providing programs that interest people. We also had our 50th anniversary in 2018, so we have been doing this for some time.
Shaughnessy: That’s great. Thanks for speaking with us today, Kirsten.
Smit-Westenberg: Thank you, Andy.