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118 I-CONNECT007 I REAL TIME WITH... IPC APEX EXPO 2021 SHOW & TELL MAGAZINE IPC Managers Forum: Vertical Integration 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 processes. But as the specialist independent shops were established, they could offer econ- omies of scale and progressively dominated the business. ey worked to national and inter- national standards and bought their materials and process chemistries on the open market, resulting in a relative consistency of manu- facturing technology. 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 indus- try very much relies on its suppliers for techni- cal innovation, rather than do its own process development.

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