APEX Panel: Lessons Learned in Times of Crisis

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During a crisis, communication among employees, customers and suppliers is key to keeping business operations running as smoothly as possible.

This consensus came from a panel moderated by Mark Wolfe in the EMS portion of the Managers Forum on Monday, March 6, during the virtual IPC APEX EXPO 2021. Panelists were asked to speak about lessons learned during the pandemic and how it affected their business and employees.

The panel consisted of:

Dave Patterson of Cirtronics, Katherine Ducharme of General Dynamics, Barb Jorgensen of AsperCore, Jonathan Rowntree of Rogers Corp, and Brad Bourne of FTG Group. Each panelist provided their perspective during the pandemic before beginning a general discussion and answering questions.

Patterson, for example, stated that frequent communication during a crisis is critical. He said it’s important to identify one trusted source for guidance, have an in-depth, specific contingency plan, and don’t go it alone; reach out to trusted peer groups.

Ducharme emphasized really knowing your supply base and having strong relationships with customers. The biggest adversity, she said, was addressing industry changes that were occurring at the same time as the pandemic.

Jorgensen provided a perspective from two companies, one global and one regional, and how the pandemic affected their business both positively and negatively. Having thousands of suppliers, for example, was beneficial, but when many of those suppliers are in China, which was the first to be impacted by the pandemic, it created new challenges.

In his presentation, Rowntree said it’s important to have organizational agility. This concept allowed Rogers to respond better to conflicting demands while protecting the health and safety of their employees. They built teams to address specific concerns.

Finally, Bourne spoke about the drop in demand during the early months of the pandemic, and how his company responded to suppliers and customers. They pivoted to new market, but remained within the defense sector.

In a separate question about future trends, Bourne believes there will still be uncertainty in the electronics industry, citing a cyber attack against his company in 2019 as a very real and continuing threat.

Jorgensen emphasized greater visibility in the supply chain, not with just your suppliers, but with their suppliers as well. Ducharme agreed that supply chain risk management must continue to be a focus.

Finally, others concluded that while the work-at-home model is feasible, there’s something lost when teams are unable to meet together in person.

“I’m tired of Zoom meetings,” Bourne said, “but there is no choice.”

Figure 1: Moderator Mark Wolfe (top left), was joined (clockwise from top center) by panelists Dave Patterson, Katherine Ducharme, Brad Bourne, Jonathan Rowntree, and Barb Jorgensen.



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