Nepcon comes home…
Jun 13, 2003
In the early hours of Thursday morning, as I walked back to my hotel along Brighton's beach, I was reminded that location plays such an important role in the success of any event.In 1968 Nepcon started its life in Brighton, then it was called the National Electronics Packaging Conference. This was a very different time for electronics, it was not a global market and new technologies were emerging and an industry was just developing. The industry has changed immeasurably during the last 25 years but the fundamentals of a good event have not.Events are all about people - they require people to come together with a common interest to make them work. Everyone knows that times are tough in the electronics industry, but we also know that we need to get on and make the most of the business opportunities that are out there. People did come together in Brighton, and as a result of the proximity of the hotels people spent much of their evenings networking and enjoying the nightlife that Brighton has to offer.If events are about location, it is good news to hear that Nepcon is back in Brighton to stay. The event suits the town and the town suits the people who attend the event. I was pleased to here from the Nepcon team that they had booked the venue for next May and the event would not return to the NEC at Birmingham, a venue that lacks the charm of the Brighton Metropole and is more suited to much larger events.It is not just the venue that has changed at Nepcon. The whole event feels different; it feels more like a convention and less like a huge trade show. The excellent programme of presentations, run by the Smart Group, contributed to this, as did change in style of the stands. No longer did the large equipment booths dominate the show with machines buzzing away. This year's event was full of smaller, informative booths, mostly with shell scheme and pop up displays. Perhaps the pressure on marketing budgets of the last two years have taught us something - being there is important, but many of the bells and whistles and excesses of previous shows are not.This time the PCB industry was better represented than in other years. The shake up that has occurred in the UK industry has changed the market and the supply base massively. A shake up that was not just as a result of the slowdown, but also as a result of the acquisition trail blazed by Viasystems in the late nineties. The industry is now dominated by the medium size companies, with turnovers between $10M and $20M, and those were the companies that came to Brighton.The UK industry is close to my heart and it was good to see some first class suppliers at Nepcon, working hard on building a good business in these challenging times. Spemco have been one of the success stories of the UK industry over recent years. They bought Southern Circuits earlier this year, saving many UK jobs and have been able to develop their business in a number of areas including the antenna and microwave market and the inevitable import market. This is in part due to the enthusiasm of the company's Managing and Sales Directors, Steve Driver and Lee Lloyd. Special thanks to Steve, Lee, Patrick, Dave, Nick and Jasbir for a top night out…Also present at the show was Leicester Circuits, who after a tough couple of months, were back in the spotlight, selling their product. Directors, Tony Williams and Dick Hatton were present on the stand along with members of the sales team. Leicester was also able to announce the purchase of a new Emma high speed flying probe test system from Viking Test Services. This is Leicester's second machine of this type. Other PCB suppliers included Lyncolec, Artech, CC Electronics, Litho Circuits and Bartek.The mood of the show was of some realistic optimism. People are now used to the market at this level and there is a growing belief that this is the market that we have to work with and we need to stop speculating about potential recovery and get on with it as it is. I suspect that this is the correct view. In both Europe and the USA there is little probability of the market climbing back up to the levels of 2000 for many years to come. This means that we need to either get our business model right for this market or get out…For those with a thirst for opinion and information Reed had provided Group Seminars on a number of subjects. Some were sponsored by Electronics Weekly and organised by Reed Electronics Group and some excellent Technology Seminars were organised by Bob Willis of the Smart Group and sponsored by EM&T (Electronic Manufacturing and Test).We will be reviewing some of the presentations over the coming days and weeks.All in all, most were pleased with their attendance at Nepcon and will come back. Most, if not all, were pleased to see the event back in Brighton and looking more like the original…Justin Tadman, Group Exhibition Director for Nepcon, was clearly pleased with the event and buoyant about its future. Well done to Justin and his team, and well done to those who had the foresight to take part.