‘Seeing’ the Future

Giving credit where credit is due, Pam Gordon and Tech Forecasters are truly pushing the curve when it comes to saving time, money and carbon.

A few weeks back, the TFI founder led a four-hour workshop for some two dozen executives using videoconferencing, and the savings on airfare alone could have paid for a (used) mid-range videoconference system more than two times over. (Gordon today blogs about the experience.)

As a proponent of Skype (although I admit to not using the video feature as much as I could, thanks to the fact that I work primarily at home and my dress code is, well, let’s just say I forgo the traditional suit and tie), I could give Gordon a virtual “high five.”

At Circuits Assembly, we’ve chosen several paths for cutting costs for readers and advertisers (and for keeping me and my wardrobe away from commercial airlines). We offer digital versions of all our magazines (which include certain enhancements and links not possible in print). And Virtual PCB, our trade show for assembly, design and fab, was so successful on its launch last Spring (2,400 registrants, 1,600 attendees and an average 1 hour 45 minutes spent per visit), we’re doing it again in November, this time teaming with SMTA and others to fill out the technical conference.

We strongly support environmentally friendly policies and behavior, and urge our readers to do the same.

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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

One thought on “‘Seeing’ the Future

  1. I wanted to comment about videoconferencing, and share my experiences with it. It certainly CAN be a boon to those of us in the technology fields. But I have seen it also be seriously abused, and perhaps be more of a financial liability than most accountants would like to believe possible. In those cases, the hidden costs of inefficiency and poor, lazy communications might actually surpass the price of an occasional airfare and hotel room.

    In previous lives, I was employed in the aerospace/defense sector, at several different companies, and witnessed in a couple of cases, the use and abuse of videoconferencing to which I am referring. I suppose it wouldn’t stand out in my mind, but for the fact that these abuse cases constitute the majority of the videoconferences for which I had first-hand knowledge under those previous employers.

    In one case, we were a direct contractor to one partner in a consortium that was pursuing a contract on an advanced fighter aircraft. Each of the two primes had a very sophisticated videoconferencing setup, including a large room to accommodate several dozen participants. (Incidentally, this was in the infancy of email and the internet, and my company had no expensive video equipment. We relied primarily on telephone and fax communications.) I dare say that my organization had better and more responsive and accurate correspondence with either of the two prime contractors, than they had with each other. That, in spite of their fancy, state-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities, and scheduled weekly video meetings. This was attested to more than once, when we had to fill in the details about what one partner had directed us to do to the other partner – via our archaic, but adequate voice and fax messages.

    The second case was at a different company, and was even more telling. We were the ugly, West Coast stepsister division to a large New England-based defense contractor, working on a submarine “drone”. Each week we had a mandatory team videoconference that rarely lasted less than two hours. Consider having your entire engineering corps spending 5% of the nominal work week in a staff meeting. And only rarely in these meetings was there information passed out that was critical to the majority of the participants. In fact, it was as if the conference leaders deliberately dragged the meeting on and on, just to fritter away as much time as possible. Often it was two hours of drivvel about this and that specific issues – things that could have been dealt with much more efficiently, and less irritatingly, in a phone call or email.

    I’ve found when we travel occasionally, rather than merely relying on electronic communications, we tend to try to squeeze as much benefit as we can out of the trip, so as to make it pay for itself. That leads to efficiency – the ultimate goal for all of us. Also, there simply isn’t a substitute for the occasional direct meeting between critical partners in an endeavor. Conversely, the ease of videoconferencing and other e-communications channels is easily taken for granted, and sets up the pattern for ineffective use and abuse of time and the technology.

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