About Mike

Mike Buetow is editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He is also vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversees all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 20 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

The Monster in Munich

Productronica was, as usual, slightly surreal. The enormity of it cannot be overstated. Attendance at the Munich-based event was up 20% from two years ago to 44,000, per exhibition officials, although it’s not clear how many of those visitors were for SemiCon Europa, which colocated  with the biennial show for the first time. Still, for those in the market for new equipment, or just perusing to see the trends, there was more than enough to keep them busy the four full days. For a full report, click here.



Productronica Recap, Day 1

From the floors of the Messe International Fairgrounds in Munich, home to the Productronica, Mike Buetow reports on the biennial trade show and the latest equipment inspecting electronics assemblies. And it is everywhere: There are more than 40 companies offering surface inspection, 28 showing AOI, and another 20 with x-ray machines.

Live, from Productronica!

We will be reporting from the Productronica trade show in Munich next week. For the uninitiated, Productronica is the largest electronics assembly show in the world, filling more than six halls the sizes of aircraft hangers at the Messe Fairgrounds.

Each day, I’ll report what I saw and heard at the show for our new podcast, PCB Chat. Tune in at upmg.podbean.com for the recaps. And for real-time updates, follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/mikebuetow). And if you are headed to the show, feel free to drop me a line at mbuetow@upmediagroup.com or connect with me via LinkedIn.

Safe travels!


PCB Chat Episode 3 – Rick Hartley

For some 50 years, Rick Hartley has been an engineer and designer of printed circuit boards, primarily with BF Goodrich and L3 Avionics. He is now principal of RHartley Enterprises, where he consults with leading companies to resolve noise, signal integrity and EMI problems. Perhaps the most popular speaker in the history of PCB West, Rick recently has been conducting 2-day workshops on controlling signal noise. He talks EMI (“it’s about fields”) and his advice for designers with UPMG’s Mike Buetow.

In Memory of Jim

I can’t think of a better way to remember my good friend Jim Raby than a scholarship in his name. It seems all the more timely now. Thank you, David, Ellen and STI Electronics for setting this up, and congratulations to 2017 recipient Broxton Sanderson.

PCB Chat – Joe Fama

Joe Fama is an expert in electronics manufacturing services with more than 30 years helping OEMs and EMS companies, particularly in southeast Asia. Joe specializes in taking relatively unknown electronics companies and linking them with key OEMs. His career has taken him to Singapore, Malaysia, China, Mexico and the Philippines. He also writes an occasional column. He talks with Mike Buetow about setting up three-way program among a Western OEM and NPI EMS and a Southeast Asian volume EMS that can generate a recurring revenue stream for the US-based EMS.

2 Sides to the Border

Writing in Circuits Assembly this month, our longtime columnist Sue Mucha explains the forces that set the wheels in motion for Foxconn’s much-discussed deal to put a new campus in southeastern Wisconsin.

Some of the impetus starts, oddly enough, in Mexico, where a 2014 change in the status of flat-panel displays made them subject to that nation’s 16% value-added tax. The TV assembly industry crashed. Writes Sue: “In short, tax policy in Mexico appears to have contributed to a changed investment strategy in the TV assembly market. That didn’t just impact TV manufacturers; it also impacted the EMS companies they outsourced to.”

The gate swings both ways, according to a  Reuters report today. The wire service says Amazon, Facebook and Oracle, among others are leading the way south, expanding operations and hiring engineers in Mexico, where the cost of living is lower, access to talent is rising, and US immigration laws (and attitudes) aren’t in play.

Could this be the tip of a coming iceberg?


The Return of PCB Chat

After a hiatus, we have relaunched PCB Chat as a podcast.

Our first guest is Mike Konrad of Aqueous Technologies, who shares his experience with what happens when a contract manufacturer follows its customer’s instructions to the detriment of the product. The outcome: Product failures, blame, drama, and a really big lawsuit.

We apologize in advance for the imperfect audio; we are still getting up to speed on the editing tools. But we think you’ll enjoy this, the first in what will be a regular series of interviews and conversations.

Orders, and Prices, Peaking

Peak manufacturing season is upon us, stretching component and raw material lead times and supplies. Lead times for some passives are now more than a year! We also are hearing price increases are greater than usual, and fabricators are getting notices from raw material suppliers about possible shortages or even allocation.

Moreover, transportation costs tend to get higher this time of year and a new wave of environmental inspections in China have shuttered some factories there.

Supply chain sources indicate these situations will become worse over time this fall.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Fabrinet’s Changing of the Guard

Were you as surprised as I was at Fabrinet’s choice of a new CEO?

During the 17 years of its existence, having been formed in 2000 when ex-Seagate exec Tom Mitchell took on the lease of his former employer’s plan in Chokchai, Thailand, there has been no EMS company so successful over the past two decades. That initial $21 million investment is now worth $1.35 billion in market value, not to mention the consistently most profitable business in the industry.

It would have been conventional, then, had Mitchell chosen longtime No. 2 Harpal Gill to assume the mantle. Dr. Gill has been Fabrinet’s chief operating officer since 2009 and president since 2011.

Instead, Mitchell went outside for Grady Seamus from rival Sanmina, where he headed the  Mechanical Systems division.

Some analysts believe the move foreshadows a coming diversification from fiber optics into non-optical manufacturing. Writes Stifel Nicolaus’s Patrick Newton:

[W]e see Seamus as having extensive leadership experience with both optical manufacturing (background at Lucent; Mechanical Systems Division at Sanmina manufactures the cabinets/chassis/frames/racks/ and storage cabinets integrated with electronic components and sub-systems that optical components are supplied into) and non-optical manufacturing (focus Medical experience at Sanmina). We view this competency in both optical and non-optical manufacturing as likely to be an aid in helping the company move beyond its optical focus to a 50/50 optical/non-optical mix long-term. We emphasize that our recent conversations with Fabrinet’s management highlighted that Fabrinet was targeting its next CEO to have a combination of operational excellence, deep technical expertise, and strength with customers as they will have to be customer facing.

Mitchell set the bar so high, any successor would be challenged to maintain it. Seamus is widely seen as a talented executive. But will he attempt to write Fabrinet’s next chapter with — or without — the team Mitchell put in place?