IPC's Mitchell Emphasizes Members' Technical and Financial Success

San Diego, CA. An association must be about its members. That's the view of John W. Mitchell, D.Ed., president and CEO of IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries. Consequently, he has launched an initiative to focus on customer success.

According to its mission statement, IPC is a global trade association that represents more than 3,300 member companies—which constitute an estimated $2.02 trillion global electronics industry—in all facets of printed-circuit-board manufacturing and electronics assembly.

Mitchell's appointment as IPC president and CEO was announced on March 28, 2012. On February 20, 2013, at his first IPC APEX EXPO since assuming his new role, he spoke with EE-Evaluation Engineering.

Mitchell began his engineering career at General Electric Aerospace and has held management positions at companies including Bose Corp. and Alpine Electronics of America Inc. He also has previous international nonprofit experience, having most recently served as the CEO of Golden Key International Honour Society, a nonprofit collegiate honor society with more than 2 million members from more than 190 nations.

But it was his experience in the for-profit sector, he said, that drove home the importance of being able to demonstrate members success. In the for-profit world, he said, companies must take care of their customers if they want to keep those customers, and the same concept applies to IPC and its members. In difficult economic times, he said, companies can be motivated to cut their association memberships. The goal of his customer-success initiative is to demonstrate to members that their IPC dues provide a very favorable return on investment—a claim for which he has anecdotal support. One member, he said, reported saving $2 million from information it had learned as a result of its IPC membership.

The initiative got its formal start last November when Mitchell and IPC hired Sanjay Huprikar as vice president of member success. Huprikar was most recently the executive director of customer success at LLamasoft Inc., a supply-chain design software and technology solutions company. Huprikar, who earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and received an M.B.A. from Stuart School of Business at Illinois Institute of Technology, has also held positions at Motorola, Knowles Electronics, ISCO International, Novarra, and SmartOps Corp. At IPC, he is responsible for membership, member support, events, industry councils, and market research.

The initiative's goal is to drive members' technological as well as financial success, with the latter flowing from the former, Mitchell said. IPC supports success in both areas by serving as its members' source for industry standards, training, market research, and public policy advocacy.

With respect to this last function, Mitchell said that IPC on February 19 announced the appointment of John Hasselmann as its new vice president of government relations. Hasselmann, who starts his new position on March 4 and will be based in IPC’s Washington, D.C., office, will be responsible for development and implementation of the organization’s global advocacy efforts and policy agenda. Hasselmann was most recently the senior director of government relations at BSA The Software Alliance in Washington, D.C. Prior to BSA, Hasselmann worked on Capitol Hill for two governors and has been active in numerous political campaigns as a volunteer, fundraiser, and policy advisor. Hasselmann earned a B.A. degree in political science from Virginia Tech.

Mitchell noted that most IPC member companies do not have an office in D.C., but what happens in D.C. can drastically impact them. In contrast, big companies may have a D.C. presence but may want to maintain a low profile on potentially controversial issues. For big companies, IPC's Washington office can serve as a biffer, Mitchell said; for smaller companies, it can serve as a channel.

Mitchell cited two policy areas of concern: conflict minerals and ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). With respect to the latter, IPC in January filed regulatory comments commending the U.S. State Department for enumerating printed boards in proposed revisions to Category XI (military electronics) of the U.S. Munitions List (USML) while also urging the State department to clarify its proposed language regarding controls on PCBs for ITAR-controlled defense electronics.

Printed-circuit-board maker K&F Electronics is one company that must contend with security-related regulations, Mitchell said. He pointed to a January 4 Washington Post article that quoted owner Richard Kincaid as saying he doesn't have the time to follow export-control-reform details and relies on IPC to keep him up to date.

As for conflict minerals, IPC in February released the “Conflict Minerals Due Diligence Guide” to help companies develop a conflict minerals program to meet customer, legal, and regulatory requirements. (See a related article on the lack of preparedness on the part of the part of electronic component manufacturers to comply with rules relating to conflict minerals.) In addition to offering the guide, Mitchell said IPC offers courses and workshops, such as “The Basics of Conflict Minerals Compliance,” held February 18 at APEX.

Mitchell said IPC will be focusing on various additional initiatives, including training with online, traceable certification testing. In addition, he expects to establish a low-cost “Ambassador Level” membership for individuals who may no longer work for member companies but who have made and can continue to make significant contributions to the industry. “We don't want to lose that brain trust,” he said.

Meanwhile Mitchell and Huprikar will be engaged in member outreach to insure—and measure—member success. Mitchell said he is on the road 70% to 80% of the time and is rarely in IPC's Chicago office.

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