Defying the Downturn

Circuit World

ISSN: 0305-6120

Article publication date: 1 December 2003




Coultard, F. (2003), "Defying the Downturn", Circuit World, Vol. 29 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

"Defying the Downturn"

"Defying the Downturn"

Keywords: Intellect, Electronics manufacturing

The electronics manufacturing sector in the UK has in my lifetime served its customer base and the wider industry extremely well. About that there is no doubt. My particular involvement in our industry as you know has been with the pcb side, their suppliers and the OEM's. However there has been huge reliance on the contract manufacturers, the bedrock of the assembled boards and kit. We are all of course dependent on each other.

With the diminution of the total market size in the UK it seems appropriate to emphasise the need for all to work together, when mutually appropriate, with more cooperation. There is always common ground to explore even with the backcloth of a highly competitive environment.

There are perhaps 200 EMS companies in the UK with also about 120 Fabricators. If there ever was a time for the need to weld together in the face of competition from outside then this is it! It is possible to arrange almost any event, which is suitable to encourage this type of cooperation. Please advise me in the office of your ideas. Some are doing so already.

The Bank of England has just seen fit to keep interest rates the same so that is what we are saddled with but the Times on May 8th signalled the beginning of the end of the Bear Market on the Stock Exchange. According to Michael Hughes, chief investment officer at Baring Asset Management we are past the worst and can expect to see a great deal of volatility around a gently rising trend. Let's hope he is correct. Even Marconi the troubled telecommunications equipment maker predicted it would be back in profit after it completes its financial rescue plan later this month. There is also the reference this week at the continuing decline of the £ against the currencies of most of its trading partners - an ideal time for exporting then.

For the UK, the vacillating continues about the despite New Labour's boast of a "prepare and decide" policy on coming to power but that is politics. They may be right of course. Who am I to know? It is unsettling though and many of our fraternity are of course already dealing in euros.

I am convinced that our electronics manufacturing sector in the UK has a bright future. Managing long supply chains from afar is a tricky and risky strategy. A mix of outsourcing to places nearer to hand in say central Europe coupled with local manufacturing of high tech, specialist work is a sound strategy. Intellect are discussing with the DTI right now the formation of an Initiative Growth Team (IGT) for the Electronics Industry in the UK. These are already established for the Aerospace and Automotive Industries. Such a team would of course include the important topic of design in its remit.

The PCIF retains its identity and the programme continues. The regular quarterly group meetings are popular and recently on April 15th we had a Senior Executive Forum, which had a useful agenda seeming to please most. The session in the pub afterwards certainly did too! The EDRG with their well-earned independence arrange their own events and shortly have a full, excellent agenda for their next Regional Seminar at the Alba Centre in Livingston in Scotland. The ICT had a superb seminar in Arundel on April 9th entitled "Optoelectronics and PCB Connections" with presentations by Alun Morgan of Isola Werke AG and James Vincent of Bookham Technologies. The ICT have their Annual Symposium on June 4th in the Midlands, which includes a tour of a pcb plant by courtesy of the Invotec Group; we are very grateful for this cooperation.

Intellect ran a well-attended Technology Briefing entitled "Technology Tracking in the Interconnection Market", which was chaired by Philip Hargrave of Nortel Networks in March. A really great list of papers, which covered Optoelectronics and Nanotechnology amongst other topics.

Anthony Parish, the retiring Director General of Intellect had a special dinner to mark the occasion at "The Connaught" on April 23rd and I was privileged to be invited. He will retain his connection for at least a year by his holding of the Presidency of EICTA.

The Environmental Group charges on with all its energy, excellence and enthusiasm. There are five grant-funded projects in progress and there was a spectacularly attended event at the Motor Cycle Museum in Birmingham on April 8th.

Incidentally all information about these events and papers is on the web.

Claire Yarrow, amongst millions of other tasks, manages our web-site with great efficiency and calm. To many of course Claire is the PCIF and rightly so! Claire regularly produces and is editor of the monthly "Short Circuit" and the twice-yearly "Circuit Review". Both of these are extremely popular. Without her involvement in all of our activities we would grind to a halt and swiftly! Claire recently received Kirsty from the EIPC for a day to show them how we conduct our activities; this is by way of cooperation.

We are planning the next phase of events right now with more quarterly group meetings another SEF, further ICT seminars and the EDRG will produce more regional seminars. There is also our Annual Conference on October 15th. Further Briefings of a Business and Technical nature are also on the drawing-board!

Please consult the Intellect web-site for the long list of the wider Intellect activities which are open to all PCIF Corporate members.

Frank CoultardIntellect

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