The Worth of a Professional Packaging Society
BY PHIL ZULUETA
Your competitor offers a new plastic-packaged assembly that can replace one of your main income-producing products at a price slightly higher than yours. You learn that this product has better performance than yours at high frequencies — something that your customer has been interested in for several months, but has tolerated because of the long-term relationship between your companies. Your customer is willing to work with you, but only if you can be competitive within a few months. They don't mind paying a slightly higher price in the short term, as long as the performance at higher frequencies is improved. Demand for the assembly will increase in the near future, so they know that price will come down.
A few months ago, your design team prototyped a significantly better circuit at high frequency, but was concerned about its sensitivity to moisture with your non-hermetic polyimide packaging. Also, your marketing team learns that the competitor is using a circuit with components similar to your current design, but they are packaging it with something called LCP. You wonder if LCP could make the difference in moisture sensitivity at higher frequency and think that if the "new" circuit can be packaged more reliably in high volume, your company could eliminate competitive threats for a while. Management subsequently assigned you, the electronics packaging technologist, to improve your packaging reliability at higher frequencies so that the new circuit can be adopted and retain the business with your customer. The task needs to be solved quickly and with a high degree of success. Would it make sense to use this LCP with the new circuit design? Does it offer reliable, high-volume potential? Can the same processes used for polyimide packaging be adapted for LCP? How mature is this LCP technology, and what are the risks of moving in this direction? What is LCP?
Another situation may go something like this: You are the strategic advisor assigned to support your company's president in long-term business development for electronics assembly. He informs you that there will be an increase in the budget for the next few years to enhance your company's manufacturing capabilities. He will look to you for recommendations for infrastructure enhancement by the beginning of the fiscal year. Before then, he wants to see a comprehensive plan with backup information that supports your recommendations.
You suddenly realize that you are being asked to make decisions regarding allocation of resources for future business, but you may not have all the information to begin to structure any recommendations. What credible business trend data is available to help forecast manufacturing needs? What kind of equipment and personnel training will be needed? Internet research is one method of securing only some of this information. It would be better, though, to have interactive dialogue with people involved with the latest information on the market and technology trends in the industry. Better still, it would be helpful to meet and collaborate with other executives and business-decision makers of supplier and peer companies.
These are examples of situations where informed connection and collaboration with technical or business peers could help solve your problems. Professional electronic packaging societies exist to disseminate professional information that benefits their members. They offer technical information in a variety of formats that include publications, professional development courses, advanced technology workshops, topical workshops, symposiums and conferences. The different formats vary in content and quality, depending on the focus and composition of their membership. The professional societies also vary in membership size and some are more globally established than others. This can have an impact on the variation and mix of technologies offered and may affect your personal or company interests. Some societies offer programs that focus on the business side of technology and provide a tremendously strong complement to the technical events, yet are dedicated to the business interests of corporate members.
Over the last few years, most (perhaps all) professional societies involved in assembly, materials or electronics/optoelectronics packaging have experienced a decline in membership. Most of this has been a result of economic trends in the industry, while some of it is from shifting manufacturing environments. Regardless, it has been said that innovations and scaling of parts and packaging technologies drive the electronics industry. The plethora of wireless, handheld, automotive, etc. electronic technologies attest to this.
Professional societies offer a vehicle to enhance the careers of their members, whether in the form of presenting technical or business information, receiving this information or being involved in leadership. But know this: the value of your membership in a professional packaging society is directly proportional to your involvement. Please stay involved!
PHIL ZULUETA, president of the International Microelectronics and Packaging Society (IMAPS), may be contacted at IMAPS Headquarters, 611 2nd Street, NE Washington, DC 20002; phone: (202) 548-4001; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.