When I was a kid, we had a recluse who lived just down the street from us. I’m talking the movie stereotype of a recluse. You had to be up past your bedtime to catch him coming or going; he never ventured out during regular people hours. All the curtains were closed all the time, the lawn had long since reverted to a field of native species. Every Thanksgiving, just as we were ready to serve it up to the family, my mom would make up a plate ahead of everyone else. She’d dish up a healthy serving of everything, with plenty of gravy and two dinner rolls, and wrap it up with tin foil. Then, without a word, she’d hand it to me. While everyone started passing the feast around the table, I’d pop down the street, and knock on the recluse’s door, carefully set the plate down on the stoop, knock again, and step back 10 feet. Only then would he open the door—just a crack—and say, “Thank you!” I’d wish him a happy Thanksgiving and sprint home to catch up with our meal. I’d be sliding into my seat before the food was done being passed around. The next morning, mom’s plate would be resting on the recluse’s stoop, cleaned, and waiting for pick-up. That’s the kind of giving I’m talking about.
Still, things could go too far, give too much away. When it did, talk turned to spiteful rhinectomies.
That seems to have been a persistent thinking pattern in business over the past few years. In a marketplace with compressed margins, lots of competitors, and customers demanding tight schedules and challenging builds, the idea has been to keep all the business to yourself. After all, you worked hard for that sale.
But that was then; this is now. Demand for electronics continues to be high; customer requirements can be challenging to our skill set. When we can do a fair portion of the work, but not all of it, instead of turning the job away, many are turning to collaboration. This idea drove the design of our cover this month. The main result can often be built up from numerous other constituent parts. Our product portfolio, like the largest pencil, may be a mini supply chain in and of itself—if we’re collaborating effectively, that is.
When we first started planning this issue, we used the word “partnership” in our working title. Partnership certainly is one way to collaborate. Creating close working relationships with manufacturing specialists who can extend your capabilities for your customers is one obvious way to collaborate. But there are others.
Collaboration can also look like proactive communication with customers as well as vendors, as showcased by our interview with Dan Beaulieu and representatives from fabricators and a material supplier. The conversation focuses on an entire assembly project and high-level collaboration ideas.
Columnist Emmalee Gagnon makes the point that collaboration can be an internal resource management exercise as well. Collaboration can also take the form of corporate responsibility, as ICAPE’s Lea Maurel suggests. She writes, “A 2015 Nielsen survey showed that more than 50% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product or service if the company prioritizes sustainability. It's a real indicator that consumers are asking more of companies. Companies should not just exist to make a profit but should give back to society and have a positive impact.”
That process of customers asking more of their vendors is an open invitation to collaborate with customers to grow into their needs, as well as an opportunity to develop partnerships.
Of course, those same customers tend to link environmental safety to sustainability. Hazardous chemicals and conflict-free mineral sources, therefore, play into corporate responsibility as well. In this issue, we step even further up the supply chain to get a take on the mineral/mining dichotomy. It’s worthwhile to remember that what we specify in our designs propagates as a demand all the way back to the mines digging up the ore to make the metals we consume. We provide an overview on the market dynamics from Noelle Lovern, as well as a compelling interview with mining CEO Shaun Dykes. In an industry like ours, where 90-day forecasts are often considered “strategic,” it’s mind-bending to consider that mining companies forecast out 20 years or more, and that our industry demands are a small part of their overall forecasting. Read our interview with Dykes to learn more about the how and why.
As always, our magazines are the culmination of collaboration with you, our readers. We strive to help advance the conversations we’re having within our industry. Your feedback and your suggestions for meaningful topics help advance the conversation as well. We love hearing from you.
This column appeared in the June 2022 issue of SMT007 Magazine.
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