February 6, 2024
VIEWPOINT 2024: Chris Nash, Senior Product Manager, PCB Assembly Materials, Indium Corporation
The electronics manufacturing sector has experienced a slowdown in 2023 due to various factors such as global semiconductor shortages, a weakening macroeconomy, and declining demand for consumer electronics.
Inflation and high interest rates are certainly playing a large role in the macroeconomic environment. The PMI (Purchasing Managers' Index) is currently at 46.7 which is still soft; however, I believe the electronics industry is poised for growth in 2024.
Everywhere you look, new electronics are being introduced into our lives. The automotive market is undoubtedly incorporating more electronics into vehicles and with Indium Corporation Leading the Charge in the e-Mobility market, we are expecting an acceleration in growth.
There are so many other areas of growth within our industry that I cannot cover them all, but one example is the adoption of AI and the growth trajectory this has put the server and big data markets on. Our materials science and technological advancements will enable new and even more exciting opportunities for growth in these markets.
Will you be launching new products or services in 2024?
Yes, innovation is at the core of Indium Corporation’s culture and much of this innovation stems from our product development. The patented Durafuse® alloy technology has been immensely successful in PCB assembly and we will be expanding our product offerings within this technology platform.
We will also have new alloy developments to address high-reliability demands, low-temperature requirements, and/or pb-free die-attach. We have many exciting new material technologies in the semiconductor and engineered materials realm, as well, including Ag and Cu Sintering, no-clean ball-attach fluxes, Type 7 System-in-Package (SiP) solder pastes, InFORMS® for power electronics, and fluxless soldering. We believe materials science changes the world and will continue to focus on innovation in all aspects of our business.
Have supply chain shortages caused problems? If so, what has your team done to reduce issues for 2024?
Supply chain challenges are always present but were especially challenging over the last few years primarily due to the global pandemic. We still experience an occasional short-lived challenge but are certainly more prepared when these obstacles arise because of the practices we have implemented.
It really starts with identifying and assessing risks, developing a risk management plan, increasing supply chain visibility, diversifying suppliers, collaborating with suppliers, implementing risk mitigation strategies, and monitoring and evaluating potential risks.
We also have an internal understanding that we are an integral part of the supply chain for our customers and take the necessary actions to ensure our customers are not put into a line-down scenario. Remaining nimble, flexible, and agile to our customer's demands is extremely important and valuable.
With hiring still a challenge, what can the industry do to help develop skilled workers?
Hiring and retaining a skilled and reliable workforce is still a challenge and the electronics manufacturing industry is certainly not the only market sector facing these challenges. To address this issue, Indium Corporation has been taking several steps to mitigate the impact to our business and working with industry partners, suppliers, and our customers to minimize the risks, as well. Some of the more common practices include:
• Investing in training programs to help develop the skills of existing workers and new hires. This can include apprenticeships, internships, and other forms of on-the-job training.
• Collaborating with educational institutions to develop programs that provide students and employees with the skills and knowledge needed to work in the industry. This includes partnerships with universities, community colleges, and vocational schools.
• Offering competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain skilled workers. This can include bonuses, profit-sharing, and other incentives.
• Promoting diversity and inclusion to attract a wider pool of candidates. This can include initiatives to recruit women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups. We are also seeing a larger population of refugees and migrants that we are working with, as well.
One of our biggest efforts to minimize workforce disruption has been automation, and not just on the factory floor but in all aspects of our business. Automation has been transforming businesses and contributing to economic growth and productivity. However, it has also been transforming the nature of work and the workplace itself.
Machines are able to carry out more of the tasks done by humans, complement the work that humans do, and even perform some tasks that go beyond what humans can do. As a result, some occupations will decline, others will grow, and many more will change.
Chris Nash, Senior Product Manager, PCB Assembly Materials
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