Early Thoughts on the Mitchell Administration

The hiring of John Mitchell as IPC’s new president comes as a breath of fresh air to those of us who had long tired of the antics of the previous regime.

Mitchell, the fourth person to run the 55-year-old organization, is the first with electronics industry experience, having spent a combined 16 years at Bose and Alpine Electronics.

As Bill Bader and Jim McElroy at iNEMI have proved, when it comes to running a not-for-profit volunteer organization in this industry, experience counts. The supply chain and regional differences are far too complex and the technology too intense for a greenhorn, especially one who isn’t willing to do their homework.

We envision — and hope — for a return to the days when member input is sought and valued. More than that, however, we are eager to see the occupant of that important position have a vision and tenacity that goes beyond avenging imagined personal wrongs.

Mitchell has his work cut out for himself. The industry is fractured, physically and emotionally. He will have to learn to lead without alienating, something his predecessor never accomplished. He will have to mend fences with the North American board fabricators, on whose shoulders IPC was built but were later ignored or cast out as the organization moved into the more lucrative assembly market. He will need to understand that the suppliers are generally looking to protect declining margins, and yet much of the technological know-how has migrated to that side of the industry, so he will need to convince them it is in their best interest to continue to support IPC’s technical programs, not just the exhibitions. He will need to navigate the treacherous China-US relations, in which the occasionally nasty spells of provincialism and finger-pointing from both sides mask an underlying dual-relationship that neither party can live without. He will have to right an internal culture that has grown distant from its membership. And he will have to do so while determining whether the four (!) vice presidents who applied for the job — two of whom have now been rejected multiple times — are up to the task of working with the man whom the IPC board considered a superior leader.

Based on Mitchell’s resume and conversations with IPC board members, he is the right person for the job. He is first and foremost an engineer. He has a deep business background that belies his age (he graduated college in 1991). He has worked at a high level for a major supplier of consumer electronics, giving him insight into branding and the supply chain intricacies that his predecessors either never had to deal with or were unable to master. We look forward to the next chapter in the continuing story of IPC.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (pcea.net). He previously was 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 spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 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