Why the EMS Leadership Summit Matters

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When I first entered the electronic manufacturing services (EMS) industry in 1989, I had some engineering experience, but zero knowledge as to how to manufacture anything. At that point, I didn’t realize how little I understood about the real, yet alone subtle differences between an EMS company and OEMs. A colleague of mine suggested I contact IPC to see what resources they had available. The recommendation: Join an upcoming meeting of senior EMS industry leaders, known as the EMS Management Council. I attended my first EMS management meeting that year and started participating on the EMS Council Steering Committee shortly after. That initial experience has drawn me back yearly for over three decades.

wolfe_pullquote.jpgThe content has always been relevant, but relationships are one of the primary reasons I keep returning. I always look forward to the round table conversations with my peers as a great opportunity to hear from others who may be facing the same challenges, but often approaching them in ways that I can learn from. From an industry perspective, these meetings spurred important projects like Program Management Certifications and an EMS Industry Services agreement that is still used today, not to mention being the genesis of renaming the industry from contract manufacturing to electronic manufacturing services more than 30 years ago.

These foundational goals have remained for the time I have participated: provide relevant content, leave ample time to start and grow relationships, learn from peers, and help influence the industry.

This past year in San Diego (held during IPC APEX EXPO) was no exception. We certainly discussed very relevant content: sustainability, the economy, today and tomorrow’s supply chain, cybersecurity, workforce training, continuous improvement in the factory, and more.

To foster relationships and learning from peers, we had more than three hours of an agenda dedicated to round tables and member-to-member conversations, not to mention a participant-only dinner that evening.

To garner more influence in the industry, not only did we have a meeting with more than a dozen IPC leaders who shape future content and programs, we left with several new ideas regarding how to better serve the industry as a result. When we were done, 96% of surveyed attendees indicated that they planned to attend next year and 100% agreed they would refer the event to a colleague.

One subtle, but very important change over the past few years has been encouraging executives to invite their future leaders to attend as well. The meeting has traditionally been limited to senior executives, but we felt that with so much demand for talent at all levels of the industry, this event could be a great development opportunity for high-potential managers to benefit from the experience. We knew that the opportunity to listen first-hand to the conversations between current CEOs and senior executives as they discuss today’s hot topics was a great way to learn and gain insight into their future roles. We have had several companies use this opportunity over the past few years and the feedback has been excellent. We don’t feel it has detracted from the foundational goals and we will continue to promote this event as a development opportunity for a broader group of attendees.

We certainly welcome any size EMS company to participate. We saw companies attending that range from a few million dollars of annual revenue to over $1 billion. That said, the meeting is typically 90% attended by EMS companies that are at $100 million and below.

One of the more recent off-shoots of the EMS Leadership Summit has been the emergence of regional meetings. There is a group in the Northeast that has been meeting for many years as a complement to the annual IPC event. IPC has been working with several companies over the past year to help them form additional virtual and face-to-face events that are much more regionally focused and can complement the annual meeting.

Overall, I have always enjoyed the attitude of the attendees, who understand that with the ongoing combination of growth and challenges in the electronics industry, there is more than enough opportunity for everyone over the long term. The attendees come really wanting to both learn and share with one another. It is rare that participants receive without giving insight and there is a very appropriate level of “coopetition,” which makes it a unique opportunity.

Mark Wolfe is a former director of supply management/VP of supply management and strategic partnering at John Deere, and now runs a consulting company, and is a consultant for IPC.

This article originally appears in the April 2023 issue of SMT007 Magazine.


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