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I’ve known DIVSYS’ Stan Bentley for many years, having met when the company was called Diversified Systems and they made circuit boards and finished products at their facility in Indianapolis. I saw Stan at IMPACT recently, and of course we had to have a chat.
Patty Goldman: It’s good to see you here, Stan! We’ve been friends for quite awhile now. Can you update my memory on your background with the electronics Industry?
Stan Bentley: That goes back a long time! I made my first PCBs in graduate school circa 1970. Today, they would be laughably simple, but for that era, not many people were making PCBs. During the ‘70s, I was the chief engineer for a small conglomerate in Indianapolis that invented the electrostatic coating process. I left in 1979 to run Diversified Systems full time. I was allowed a unique opportunity because my employer during the ‘70s allowed me to have DSI (which began in 1972 in Indianapolis) at the same time I was working for them. By the time I was full time at DSI, it had progressed from a small design service that made a few PCBs to company that had design, PCB fab, and assembly. It added computer graphics in 1983 and made the INC 500 list three times. The last addition was a Rapid Assembly division in 1996. Basically, I got to do something I truly loved for 38 years. We closed all operations in 2010. I was retired for all of one weekend when my wife and daughter formed DIVSYS, Intl as a supply chain manager for PCB. I have been the technical advisor for this company ever since. More than half of my time is consulting and teaching about PCBs and PCBAs. So, I still get to do something I dearly love.
Goldman: We're here on the second day of IMPACT, and IPC just made a nice presentation to Senator Joe Donnelly (R-IND), thanking him for his support of our industry and NWSC Crane (the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division). Is this your first time at IMPACT?
Bentley: It is my first time, and it's fascinating to see how the process works. Most of us don't really get to visit Washington D.C. in an official capacity. I have done the tourist thing, but it is a completely different perspective when you visit with the senators and representatives. Everything runs on a tight schedule and there are so many people who want to express their position. I had not met Senator Donnelly, so it was very encouraging to hear his position on Crane. I left the meeting with the impression that the Naval center was near and dear to Donnelly’s heart, and so consequently he's been a very solid supporter. To those of us that know what an industry gem this facility represents, this is really important because Crane is always in the crosshairs of every budget-cutting thing.
Goldman: It certainly is, and we heard just yesterday how it's on the block again, which is scary.
Bentley: This happens on a regular basis, simply because no one [here in Washington] really knows exactly what happens there, and that's sad because the technology that is present within that facility is pretty difficult to replace. The thing that concerns me the most, whether it's Crane or not, but Crane is kind of the last thing standing, is that we simply do not have a repository of the technology to manufacture printed circuit boards or to assemble printed circuit boards or to do the deep forensic analysis. As these industries have left the United States the knowledge base has gone with it. Further, as the people who worked in these critical industries, who are from my generation, retire, there are few coming up to replace them.
Goldman: Many of us are still around but for how much longer, right?
Bentley: That is precisely correct. There has to be a mechanism to pass this information on to the next generation of engineers and technicians. That's why I spend a lot of my time teaching classes to anyone really, any company, university, or whomever simply to try and transfer as much information as possible. Where will the next generation of design engineers find the mentoring they need to keep the IP in the U.S.?
Goldman: So what do you think of your first IMPACT? You picked a good one.
Bentley: I picked a good one and I've certainly enjoyed listening to these folks. It's fascinating. Again, our perspective as an industry association is that we have a global perspective but at a tactical level. So when we talk to these people it's just fascinating to hear how they see things from more of a planning or strategic level. That difference is interesting because we don't often deal with that. We are very focused on getting something done and we don't have the roadblocks or all the considerations that they have for any specific event. I admire people that can overcome those challenges. I think I would be incredibly frustrated if I were in their shoes.
Goldman: Have you ever talked with Senator Donnelly before?
Bentley: No, I have not. I did not know him.
Goldman: You should invite him to visit your facility. IPC can help you make those arrangements.
Bentley: We will indeed do that, particularly in light of his support of Crane, because we're like a mirror of what they do. We essentially are a technology repository, teaching things about circuit boards, assemblies, design, and tooling. We’re helping people solve problems by doing analysis of things in our laboratory. It is an analog to what Crane does, so he should see this; I think it would be good both for him and us, frankly.
Goldman: Perhaps he goes to Crane. I don't know, but many times these senators and congressmen really don't know what a circuit board is. They've never actually seen one.
Bentley: Oh, that would be the difference between visiting DIVSYS and going to Crane, because Crane is a large facility, but it was never intended to be a manufacturing operation. So these various, very cool machines are not organized in a fashion that makes it simple to explain the process. Whereas within our factory— it's on a much smaller scale—it's very easy to walk the processes step by step so the pieces can be put together by someone that is not involved in the technology.
Goldman: Exactly. It's one thing to see a circuit board and kind of understand what it does, but then to walk through the process is a whole other thing. We know that some of the people that have come out to APEX are astounded. And then to go through a circuit board shop or an assembly facility, they are also astounded.
Bentley: Exactly. What was common when we began in this industry now seems to be shrouded in mystery. This must be changed.
Goldman: Okay. Thank you very much, Stan.