Everyone Wants Change: Who Wants to Lead the Way?

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Nolan Johnson recently met with Alun Morgan, technology ambassador at Ventec, and Ventec COO Mark Goodwin to discusses the industry’s determination to cling to outdated processes and standards, and some potential consequences. To maintain efficiency and keep pace with the market’s newest entries in Asia, Alun and Mark believe that legacy companies in the West must be open to challenging conversations that will require questioning old practices and revising those practices toward sustainability.

As Alun points out, everyone says they want change, but no one wants to lead the way.

Nolan Johnson: Would you say that there’s an opportunity for innovation right now? Your options are to either stay inside old niches with low margins, or to start looking for new ways to do things. In another conversation, for example, you alluded to thermal management coatings as potential replacements for heat sinks. What other ways can you see this done differently?

Mark Goodwin: I don’t have a clear answer to that, but I think we will start seeing management of scarce resources enter the supply chain discussion. People need to consider what they truly need for the performance they’re looking for; there is no doubt in my mind there’s a huge amount of unnecessary over-engineering happening. For example, you must start considering the scope for using a half-ounce copper foil when you’re currently using one ounce, or one ounce where you’re using two-ounce—those are the shifts in scope we need to be anticipating.

Alun Morgan: That’s right. This is an opportunity to return to the point we’ve made before. It’s critical to understand the end use. You need a clear understanding of both what the customers need and what they really want, then you need to link it all together. Mark, you and I have spent our careers with companies who often don’t share information with us, which makes it impossible to offer them anything substantial; on the other hand, when companies share information with us, we can get them access to a fantastic supply chain offering.

Goodwin: Yes, and we’ve done lots of business over many years. By way of example, let’s talk about an issue that’s been a bugbear of ours for years. Why is laminate 1.6 mm thick? It’s a waste of glass fabric and of resin. In the old days, it had to be 1.6 mm because it needed to fit into an edge connector. When was the last time you saw an edge connector? Why is it still 1.6 mm thick? A double-sided plated through-hole board of 1.0 mm is rigid enough to support the components. Why not take out two, three, even four pieces of glass fabric?

Morgan: It comes to the need. What is the requirement? The user doesn’t always know what he needs or what he can get away with. He just says, “Well, it’s always been that way.” You see this mindset all the time in so many different industries. The first step in designing a solution for someone is understanding what they need. Don’t ask them what they need—most of the time, they don’t know. They really don’t, so you must ask the right questions.

My son’s involved in UX—user experience—and so much of that is relevant here. He walks through that process with users. He calls it a “design safari”—pretend you’re going on a safari where you must stop at each new thing, think it through, and ask, “Why do we do that?” Until you’ve done that, you don’t know what the customer needs, and they don’t know either. You must go through each stage. Once you’ve identified the real need, you can develop an efficient method to deliver that need.

We’ve seen so much waste in pursuing this, haven’t we, Mark? On a few occasions, we’ve nailed it down and saved huge amounts of resources. If you can get everyone to be open and have that discussion, get them to genuinely share with you, you can make big gains.

Goodwin: There must be a willingness and openness to move forward, but all too often we’ve discovered there are too many closed minds in this business.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the January 2023 issue of Design007, click here.


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