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54 SMT007 MAGAZINE I APRIL 2021 IPC Managers Forum: Vertical Integration Feature Article by Pete Starkey I-CONNECT007 Denied by circumstances the opportunity to travel transatlantic to attend the IPC APEX EXPO 2021 in person, I sat up until late in the evening here in the UK, eager to catch the Ver- tical Integration session of the IPC Managers Forum. And my presence was well-rewarded— a most meaningful experience. In my own early days, vertical integration appeared a fairly typical characteristic of the electronics industry and most of the big compa- nies had their own PCB shops. ey all worked to their own internal designs and standards and oen developed their own techniques and pro- cesses. But as the specialist independent shops were established, they could offer economies of scale and progressively dominated the busi- ness. ey worked to national and international standards and bought their materials and pro- cess chemistries on the open market, resulting in a relative consistency of manufacturing tech- nology. I can recall upwards of 400 board shops, from mom-and-pop to large corporations, in the UK alone, as recently as the late 1970s and early 1980s. en there was a progressive dri of business to Asia and a steady decline in the number of manufacturers to today's figure of less than 40. And the industry very much relies on its suppliers for technical innovation, rather than do its own process development.

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