New CEO Mitchell Breathing Life in IPC

The early feedback is that new IPC CEO John Mitchell has brought a much-needed breath of fresh air to an organization that had lost its drive and character after 11 years under the previous regime.

Among the early changes include a recognition that IPC has become out of touch with many segments of its membership. Designers were so disenchanted, a group of the Designers Council leaders were preparing to bolt the organization altogether. Fabricators’ antipathy toward IPC is well-documented and may even run deeper, as many smaller and private shops have long since labeled IPC as disinterested in their concerns. Even some assembly equipment suppliers have shared concerns over the standards process and perceived biases toward certain groups.

Much of that is turning around under Mitchell. He has moved quickly to make the rounds of various constituents, and in a departure from his predecessor, has not relied on staff to vet member opinions. He has begun to shed some of the entrenched “lifers” who had alienated too much of the membership to continue in their roles. And he has made clear, according to sources, that the staff focus going forward needs to be on the members, which is a long overdue switch from a decade of “Is It Good for the IPC?”*

Further, he is repositioning the organization to better reflect the way the industry is structured. One new division is simply called Member Success, which he describes as a group of functions (membership, member support, events and industry councils and market research) “focused on helping our members be more successful and taking an active role in helping them more fully benefit from their IPC membership.” Most of these areas had grown stagnant to the point of calcification. One of the problems many had identified with IPC is that it existed as much (or more) to ensure its own success but had lost its vision on how to improve members’ profitability. Recognizing that the onus needs to be on IPC to help its members (and not the other way around) is a long overdue and welcome shot in the arm.

Dave Torp, whom many feel is a talented but marginalized asset, is now clearly in charge of the technology and training programs, a role where his background in engineering at Rockwell Collins and sales and marketing at Kester will truly help him excel.

There is a renewed interest in Public Policy, which will in the future coordinate with Brussels and Beijing (and perhaps other key spots). IPC plans hire a new vice president for this space, a sign that it needs fresh input and energy if it plans on making a difference with the legislative branch.

Mitchell seems highly motivated to invest in IPC’s international operations, a space where the trade group’s board had been critical of the previous president for moving at a glacial pace. To that end, IPC is casting about for a president of its China organization, a smart move and a tacit nod that in Asia, titles mean something, and the approach of using a middle manager with no real authority was not working. It says here that if vice president Dave Bergman stays on, he should move to Shanghai, where his experience at IPC (30 years) could better be put to use.

One very smart move was to create a Special Projects function, which allows IPC to look at new or short-term initiatives without distracting staff from the core functions.” We see this as wise because new projects often either sap all the attention and resources from important but functioning efforts, thus potentially leaving those programs to wither, or vice versa, attending to existing programs can act as a excuse for letting new efforts simply dangle. Mitchell has brought on a former colleague named Ed Trackman to run this area.

IPC holds a critical place in the electronics supply chain, but that spot had slowly been eroding over the years. It’s early, and the proof will be in the results, but based on several conversations with IPC members who are much happier today than I’ve seen them in years, Mitchell appears the right person for the job.

*With apologies to Office Space.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( 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

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