What are some of the major challenges and trends that have been impacting the electronics manufacturing industry?
The most significant challenges have been the constrained inventories and factory capacities of component parts within supply chains. There has been ebb and flow with demand amiss of a rhythm or predictability. This causes chaos with lead times shifts to both left and right, but primarily to the right with time-line extensions to receipt of parts. The positive news with all of this is the market has seen a softening over the last two quarters resulting with a normalization with the S&D. However, this normalizing is short term and expected to end in early 2020 with increased upside activity in the IoT and mobile businesses. Mobile attributed mainly to the 5G roll out. Couple this dynamic with an upside ramp in demand for higher technology requirements in the automotive sector and we will likely see a repeat of 2017 as factories will once again, not be able to stay ahead of pent up demand. For Crestron, the effect will result in our team pulling in current orders and building up our inventory levels of these components. We know that any unclaimed inventory will be re-allocated to other OEMs and our scheduled orders will be shuffled down in the queue. We are forced to work closely with the specific component commodity managers to ensure they are providing the proper level of support to their OEM partnerships, Crestron being one of them.
“The latest Innovations in the electronics manufacturing industry presents a massive opportunity for the future of technology and the growth of automated manufacturing to produce products on a mass scale”
The other challenging area is a high amount of part obsolescence activity due to the M&A activity within the semi-conductor industry. We are only seeing a quarter of the acquisitions activity we did two years prior but the latent effects from 24 months ago are with these paired-up companies now trimming their portfolios of competing lines or of specific parts that are not as profitable (which signifies lost opportunity margins) as they struggle with finding capacity within their factories.
Can you tell us about the latest project that you have been working on and what are some of the technological and process elements that you leveraged to make the project successful?
There are many unique identifiers on products today that have always been managed with the operations. Electronic IDs that were once only relegated to the likes of MAC addresses and RFIDs have evolved to managing copy protection IDs for digital content and certificates for cloud content and connectivity. The challenge we face is to ensure we retain a delivery method and reliable control points for these IDs due to a shift for these identifiers to be created and managed within the framework of the OEMs infrastructure through servers and cloud-based tools. We must ensure these processes are scalable and free of infrastructure disruptions to ensure our end users and dealers still receive a high level of satisfaction that doesn’t make the technology disruptive to their commissioning of a system.
Which are some of the technological trends which excite you for the future of electronics manufacturing space?
All of us will continue to see electronics co-exist in spaces that were simply not conceived a decade ago. We’ve seen the wearables proliferate which is incongruent to the false starts with flexible and stretchable electronics. There will be an evolution as these technologies stabilize and become more commercially viable and converge into softer less intrusive form factors like wearable clothing and mobile health monitoring tools with innovative power sources and low consumption. This same technology will be applied to support our eco-system with analytic intelligence to pattern user profiles for a non-intrusive experience to support convergence of existing technology with application of tools for tomorrow. This will continue to represent a massive opportunity in the future of tech and the growth of automated manufacturing to produce these products on a mass scale.
Would you like to give a piece of advice for the CISO community as to how should they approach this industry?
The first and foremost threat is the human vernacular. An Information Security Officer can have the best of tools deployed within their infrastructure to protect their systems. But, as we have learned it only takes one event for an employee to fall victim and compromise user credentials from a bogus SharePoint, DocuSign or OneDrive splash screen driven by a rogue phishing scam. The advice here is effective training and awareness with the users to avoid allowing the miscreant wrong doers from trying to heist, hold, and ransom your data. The key word is —effective— as the traditional once-a-year classroom-based approach may be simply a compliance-driven approach to security. It may only have been done to appease industry regulators and may not shift the culture as intended to truly protect the infrastructure.
The threat landscape is growing with the arrival of millions of mobiles and wearables. Exploit kits, Trojans, ransomware and social engineering scams will win out unless the users/operators fully understand the criminal game and can identify and prevent the miscreant wrong doers from trying to infiltrate our valuable data.
My advice here is obvious but allow me to leave you with one more applied thought; Much of our capital equipment residing on our factory floors in as little as 3 years ago has console PC terminals running Windows 7 OS. Microsoft will cease to push security updates in early 2020. I would strongly suggest that IT professionals audit their infrastructure and apply risk assessments to these HW clients to ensure they are properly protected and walled from these external threats. Train your operators on how to identify a potential threat.