Archive for February, 2016

Book Recommendation: The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber

The Inventor’s Dilemma: The Remarkable Life of H. Joseph Gerber

By David Gerber

Copyright 2015 Yale University Press

Price $35.00

Pages: 400 and Index

The story of the man who changed our industry

All of us in the PCB industry should read this book. All of us who have heard about talked about and used “Gerbers” for our entire career should take a moment and thank the man H. Joseph Gerber the man who changed our industry for the better.

This well research and masterly written extensive biography by his son David is a must read for anyone who is interested in someone from another generation who also put a proverbial dent in the universe.

The most surprising thing about this book is that it read like a novel. Mr. Gerber lead a very exciting and dramatic life, from his escape from the Nazis who had invaded his native Austria to his Horatio Alger rise from rags to riches in New York to the his first invention a measuring device made from the elastic waistband of his pajamas to the start of his company Gerber scientific, Mr. Gerber’s story is indeed the stuff of novels and movies!

I think the man’s most striking feature was his generosity. His goal was to invent products that help people produce their products which is something that those of us in our industry can testify to; and he didn’t just help the PCB industry he also did the same thing in the clothing and automotive industries, developing tools that not only made making their products much more efficient but improving lives along the way.

And never for money. He and his team were always interested in the products first, helping people and improving their lives first with the consideration that if they did that the money would come.

A businessman who put people ahead of profits, now that’s a novel idea. This was a man who lived a life in full… a man who worked every single day of his life, worked hard to help mankind in any way that he could, using his talents to make the world a better place.

And let’s remember that this is also a story of forgiveness. Despite what his family went through, regardless of all the suffering he experienced in his early life he always had faith in his fellow man always tried to help the world around him with kindness and generosity instead of the bitterness and rancor some might have said he was entitled.

I commend David Gerber for spending the past 15 years of his life working on this project and I thank him for this act another act of kindness from the Gerber family. I feel that my life is a bit richer for knowing exactly who H. Joseph Gerber was and I urge all of you, my fellow PCB and EMS professionals to pick up and read The Inventor’s Dilemma and enrich your lives as well.


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Getting the most from your PCB Vendors

Five things you have to do to get the most form your PCB vendors

Last week we talked about how most PCB users are missing the boat when it comes to getting the most from their PCB vendors. We discussed how the new age of buying boards with minimum communications and almost no face to face relationships between everyone from the buyer and beyond has really take its toll on the PCB industry to the point where the vendors are very dissatisfied with the relationship they have with their customers and the customers, well the customers are extremely disappointed with their PCB vendors.

Okay now that we’ve slammed that right there on the table in front of us what are we going to do about it? How are we going to get the board guys and their customers in the same room, talking the same language so that we can all start reading from the same page and heading in the right direction?

So here are five things you as a customer can do to get the most form your PCB vendors.

  1. Get to know them. I mean really get to know them. Of systems are fine, audits are necessary and of course you have to have qualifications but be careful. These things are not the be all and the end all of your relationships with your suppliers. In fact they can sometimes hurt the relationship because, well because they are after systems, only systems and systems don’t always mean that they take the people suing them into consideration. So yes get to know your board shops. Visit them, look them in the eye. Find out what kind of people you are dealing with, make sure they are people you can trust, that you can rely on. After all you’re only putting the success of your new projects and the future of your company in their hands.
  2. Share your information with them. Sure after you get to trust them. I mean trust them not because you have what you think is a rock solid NDA signed but rather because you have met with them, you have broken bread with them you know what they think and how they act and what their values are to the point where you can trust them enough to share your information with them. Let them know what you are working on. Show them what their boards are going into and thus why the boards have to build a certain way. Explain to them why that board thickness if critical, why those impedance numbers are crucial why you need to have perfect boards on time every time. Not only explain the product the boards are going into but the project as well. Talk to them about your company, your customers and your industry give them an understanding what it takes for your company to be successful and how they can help you be successful.
  3. Talk to them about the future. Let them know what your plans for the future. Share with them what you will be working on in a year or two years or five years. Show them where your company is going. Let them in on what kind of technology you will require of them and ask them if they will be ready to meet your technological needs. Ask them if they are willing to take this ride into the future with you and start them thinking about their future and what it will take for them to be ready to handle your needs in that future.
  4. Ask them to share their knowledge. If you are going to get everything you can from your PCB vendors you have to make sure that you let them share their knowledge with you. They are more than just a board building machine, they are a valuable resource they have years of experience building hundreds of thousands of PCBs so let them be your PCB experts. Use them that way. Ask their opinion and advice about your end products and your PCB designs. They can help you with this. They can help you develop a better, more producible and more economical design. Remember the adage that the design is not complete until the board is build? Well stick to that. Have your PCB vendors complete your design by building the board for you.
  5. Answer their questions. If a PCB shops ask you something about your design it’s because they want to build it right. They want to give you what you need. They are not trying to be difficult, they are not trying to me a pain in the neck, no they have a question and they need an answer to that question to do a good job for you. In fact be wary of the company that never asks any questions. I would inspect the heck out of their boards if I were you. Be careful of those guys

And of course there is one more, there is always one more remember under promise and over deliver.

  1. Respect them: see their value, appreciate the value they bring to your company. For yeas OEMs, CMs, Vendors, IPC and yes other board shops have found it advantageous to commoditize the PCB, to debase it as a low tech product, to trivialize its importance for the sake of getting the lowest prices on the market. All I can say is that it is that you were wrong to do this and stop doing it. One more time a 28 layer blind and buried via board is not a commodity, having one built in 48 hours is sure as hell not a commodity. Stop treating our technology like that. Some trying to find the cheapest boards on the market. If you products are important, if you feel that you are building the very best products in the world then stop insisting on putting low priced crap boards into that product…show a little respect.

As I conclude this column it strikes me how basic these guidelines are and how far we have strayed from just plain old business to business people to people practices that we have to even have a column about this. But we do. Imagine a column telling you that you have to communicate directly with your PCB vendors. The more we change the more we stay the same…it’s only common sense.

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Start collecting those WOW! Stories, they’re worth their weight in gold

You have to do something commendable to be recommended

You can go around telling everyone you know that your company is great and that you do great things, but it’s not going to mean a thing because anybody can do that. In fact there are a whole slew of companies, most of them your competitors, who are doing exactly that right now, and you and I both know that most of the time they are just er… exaggerating, or maybe just well…they’re lying alright.

So if you’re the one company who is telling the truth. If you are the one company out there who really is doing a great job then you are at a distinct disadvantage because you are just getting lost in the crowd of everyone who is saying the same thing.

What can you do about that? What can you do that is going to make you stand out of the crowd? What are you going to do to prove that yes you are in fact the best company out there? What are you going to say to get your potential customers to listen and most importantly believe you?

Well, here is what you are going to stop talking; you are going to stop saying you are the best. Just stop it already!

And here is the answer, you are going to let your happy customers do it for you. Yes, having one of your customers tell other potential customers that your company is the best is literally thousands of times more valuable than you saying it yourself.

In fact there is nothing better than a customer reference or a customer testimonial when it comes to endorsing your company’s products and services.

People who would never believe you are going to sit up and pay attention to your customer one hundred percent of the time when he is saying good things about you.

So yes the key to getting your message of great service and Quality to the market place is letting your happy customers do it for you.

And the best way to do that is to make sure your customers are happy customers. Not rocket science is it?

Now how do you do that? How do you get your customers to say nice things about you? Well the first thing you do is perform so well, service them so well, make sure your products are so outstanding that they will be happy to say great things about you.


It’s very straightforward; in order to get recommendations you have to do things that are actually commendable. You have to keep your customers so happy that they will want to shout out about your from the rafters. And the best way to do this is to be truly outstanding. And the best way to be outstanding is to look for opportunities to be so.

None of this happens by accident. You have to be looking for occasions when you can walk that extra mile for you customers. You have to provide them with products and services that are so insanely great that they will actually want to tell people about it.

Here are a few examples:


  • Deliver your product in a blizzard or a hurricane, or a tornado or any other time when your competitors are taking shelter from the storm.
  • Deliver that QTA product ahead of the nearly impossible schedule you had signed up for in the first place.
  • Always give more than you promised.
  • Find special ways to service your customers that will enthrall them.
  • Look at what your competitors are doing and double up. Put them to shame.
  • Package your products in special containers that your customers can re-purpose.
  • Give things away at most opportune time…when they need it most and expect it least
  • Help them out of a jam when it is their fault
  • Figure out what they need to be successful and give it to them…before they even know that they need it

These are just some examples. To develop more, create a WOW! Team that brainstorms to come up with great service and product ideas that will blow your customer’s mind. Have everyone on your team thinking about ways to surprise, excite and thrill your customers to the point where they can’t wait to tell everyone about it.

This kind of thinking can be not only a lot of fun but profitable as hell as well. How much fun is it to have customers loving to do business with you? Life gets a lot better when that happens doesn’t it?

Now once you’ve providing your customers with all of this remarkable service there is only one more thing to do. When they are calling to thank you for the great job that you’ve done, there is only one more thing to do. And when they start praising you for the great product you just delivered there is only one thing more to do. And that’s to ask them to write you a testimonial, or an endorsement or a reference or a success story because the time has never been better…and yes they will be happy to do it. I promise you. It’s only common sense.


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