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Interview with John Mitchell on his first four years at IPC

By Philip Stoten

Jun 06, 2016

Following his anniversary as President and CEO I spoke to John Mitchell to get his view on his first four years in charge and his plans for the future.

EMSNow:  John, congratulations on your four-year anniversary at IPC.  When you started four years ago, what were the key goals you set out to achieve?

Working with the IPC Board of Directors at the beginning of my tenure four years ago, we began by being clear that we wanted to continue to provide the good services that IPC had been providing for more than half a century.  The areas where we wanted to focus on included broadening IPC's globalization (ensure IPC standards and benefits are available and used wherever the electronics industry is found), enhancing the value and benefits IPC provides to its membership and the industry as well as strengthening our global advocacy influence as this can and does significantly impact the businesses of our members.

EMSNow:  How has progress been towards those goals and what has impressed or frustrated you in driving towards those goals?

  We have been doing exactly the things that we identified.  The IPC Board has been very helpful and engaged in each of these areas.  My executive team has been incredible in mobilizing on each of these areas with their respective teams and the membership.  The only frustration I might express is that I tend to like to grow and influence quickly...  I wish we could have achieved what we have in less time, so that the membership might enjoy the enhanced benefits sooner.

EMSNow:  In that time the IPC has really grown its international presence, how important is that for a trade association in the current market?

I can't speak for trade associations in general, but for the electronics industry association that IPC is...  it is imperative.  Our members, whether OEMs, EMS, suppliers, PCB, or design companies, all have to plan and do business in a global landscape.  With IPC opening an office in Brussels, Belgium,  strengthening its presence in Asia, and reaching out to our members in the Americas, we provide insights to changing conditions, opportunities, and methodologies that are indispensable to companies around the world.

EMSNow:  As you look forward to the next four years, what are your plans and hopes for IPC?

Last year we clarified our four Aspirational Goals with the Board.  These goals are: Standards, Education, Advocacy and Solutions.  By 2020, IPC plans to deliver improvements in STANDARDS (we have been listening to our members comments and studying other organizations); we will have more EDUCATION offerings by both continuing our partnerships with Certification Centers and also offering other educational offerings that will help provide more trained individuals to the workforce, save on training costs to members, and strengthen the impact with young and up-and-coming engineers and technicians.  Our ADVOCACY efforts will be more global than ever and we look to provide tools that will save time and money for our members in understanding compliance and regulatory issues.  And finally, we look to provide SOLUTIONS to existing small and big industry challenges.

EMSNow:  You work with what looks like a great team at IPC, how is it to work with so many respected industry professionals?

This is what I live for.  When I interviewed for this position, the Board asked how I could be successful.  The answer I shared with them was that I would surround myself with a great team and would let them succeed.  While I like to understand the business from top to bottom, I love it when my executive team moves together to achieve IPC's goals.  I have an All-Star team and they are delivering like the All-Stars that they are!

EMSNow:  You must have learned a lot about the electronics manufacturing industry over the last four year, any surprises along the way?

Surprises?  Well, having worked in the electronics industry for nearly two decades...  not really too many new things since coming to IPC.  The challenges that I think are the greatest for our members are largely around unpredictability.  Many of our members have large capital investments they need to make, and with changes that occur whether in technology, geography, regulations, or what have you, it is tough to be nimble with the capital investments many have.  The main surprise that I have is how some companies still don't see the fiscal and competitive advantages of collaboration.  Perhaps they met with failure in the past...  perhaps they are just new to the industry.  But when I speak with those who have continued to thrive, they always mention the benefits of networking with those not in their company that they meet at IPC events and forums as having tremendous value.  Some have cited examples where a hallway conversation has saved their company hundreds of thousands of dollars and months of time.  More collaboration on the right things helps the industry reduce wasted effort in non-competitive areas - IPC is striving to deliver those kinds of advantages.

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