SAN JOSE, Calif. — Is your outlook for the long-term future of the North American electronics industry gloomy? Mine once was.
But after spending a year driving around the country interviewing engineers and entrepreneurs on the Drive for Innovation, I am sleeping like a baby.
Why? Because what we see on TV news and read online and in the newspapers about electronics innovation doesn't come close to capturing what's actually going on across North America.
I had a chance a year ago to pull a handful of executives I'd met on the road up on stage to have them talk about their experiences at Design West in March 2012. Their views are as relevant today as they were then.
On the panel sat Richard Szczepkowski, president and chief operating officer, Swemco; Dave Lentz, supply chain solutions manager, Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas; Jeff Lawson, embedded design engineer, Shockwave Impact; and Dr. James Truchard, president and CEO, National Instruments.
The complete, 50-minute panel session is embedded below. Here are some highlights with links to those excerpts within the video:
- I wanted to know why, with so many contract manufacturers in the US and so much foreign competition, Swemco had survived (8:30-10:16).
- From Lawson, I wanted to get a sense for how the supposed “well-oiled” supply and design chain is working for him these days (10:35-14:00).
- Innovation in a small company is one thing (it's arguably easier at some levels because one technology or product is the company's entire focus). But how do you stay innovative at a large, growing company? Truchard offered insight into that question (14:15-15:11)
- And then, from Szczepkowski, what do you think of employee-empowerment schemes that, analysts say, don't work very well at all. (16:50-19:01)
- What did these panelists think of jobs going overseas? (20:10-22:30)
The cage match
Probably the most entertaining segment of our time together was when Lawson, a designer who is having his design done in China, got into it with Szczepkowski over the benefits of offshoring versus on-shoring (22:16-28:00).
The other red-meat question for our panelists was where they stand on the role of government in fostering innovation (31:12-35:10). Where do you guys fall in terms of government technology winners?
Here's the complete panel session (50 minutes):