Technical Conference—Balancing Conventional and Disruptive Technologies


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As I have reminded myself throughout this global pandemic, it’s not what happens to you that’s most important, rather it’s how you react to a situation that matters most. I was reminded of this again when we learned last year that IPC APEX EXPO 2021 would need to be delivered virtually due to ongoing COVID-19 safety requirements. I remember at the time wondering how this would be possible? How could we create a virtual event that would be valuable to attendees when so much emphasis is placed on sharing and meeting face to face? It was something our team had never done before. It felt like an enormous challenge, to say the least. After seeing other industry associations take their conferences online, it was now IPC’s turn to tackle a fully virtual technical conference. After some time to think about the best path forward, the choice was clear—we had to build the strongest technical conference we could, offering content that mattered most to attendees during this time of unprecedented change.

Now that the show has ended, here are some of my thoughts and observations from the experience. IPC APEX EXPO 2021 was built from the ground up and was intended to be future-focused while continuing to drive the industry forward. We built a strong five-day program consisting of three technical tracks with more than 70 presentations, 29 professional development courses, and three keynote speakers. Virtual delivery of the event consisted of recorded presentations to ensure a successful delivery of content and live Q&A sessions. We chose to use recorded content not only for seamless delivery, but also because IPC APEX EXPO 2021 was designed to be portable, available to attendees for 90-days post show, March 15 through June 13.

It is clear that the electronics manufacturing industry is officially in the early stages of Industry 4.0. Our industry is now beginning to move beyond awareness into actual implementation of new technology adoption and new ways of working, requiring next-generation technologists with next-generation skills. We saw this during the call for participation and throughout the event, with a significantly large number of Factory of the Future abstracts submitted—which enabled us to create a full 24-presentation track spanning smart manufacturing advancements, data analytics, cybersecurity, powering IoT, 5G, and digital twin. I was particularly interested to listen to industry leaders from Europe showcasing how far along they are in their digital transformation journey, estimated to be five to eight years ahead of the rest of the industry. The key message for me here is that companies need to pay serious attention to Industry 4.0 first movers to remain competitive. They need to begin preparing their own strategies and modernization implementation plans if they have not done so already. Failing to act now risks being left behind and limits a company’s competitiveness, agility, and resiliency moving forward.

I thought the three keynotes given by IPC President and CEO John Mitchell, Industry Week Editor-in-Chief Travis Hessman, and IPC Chief Economist Shawn DuBravac, were spot on. They all spoke to the fact that the way products are conceived, designed, manufactured, and used is changing rapidly. While the keynotes had different focus areas, I noted an important similarity—they all underscored the need for increased industry collaboration to help bring the factory and supply chain of the future to life. No one single company or subset group of companies can do this all on their own. It will take the larger electronics manufacturing ecosystem to work and advance together to unlock the true value of what Industry 4.0 approaches have to offer.

To read this entire article, which appeared in the 2021 edition of Show & Tell Magazine, click here.

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