News & Analysis

Keeping the electronics industry moving forward

6th November 2023
Paige West

Karen Mascarenhas, MASCARENHAS PR speaks with Debbie Wade, Managing Director, Advanced Rework Technology about its IPC certification programme – the most widely used specification for the electronics industry.

This article originally appeared in the Oct'23 magazine issue of Electronic Specifier Design – see ES's Magazine Archives for more featured publications.

Having now visited your company in Witham, i am interested to know the history behind it.

It is going to sound very cliché when I say the company started from humble beginnings but honestly, with Advanced Rework Technology that is the case. The company was started by my father, Barry Morris nearly 35 years ago. Barry had many years of experience within the electronics industry, especially as a lecturer having spent many years at Marconi College. Barry started his career as an apprentice wireman/assembler before progressing to training apprentices at Marconi, Basildon  With this teaching experience Barry moved to Marconi Collage in Chelmsford where he trained people from around the world in the principles and techniques of repairing printed circuit boards. During this time, Barry was the first instructor to present a hands-on course for Surface Mount Rework within the UK. When the college closed, Barry and another Marconi lecturer started Advanced Rework Technology. As a child, I can clearly recall the very first training facility.  Actually, I’m not sure that is the correct term as it was simply one room at a business centre that the company used for everything, training, office facilities, and tea making. Over the years the company has expanded in size and number of personal to a point where we are now in our current facility that we had custom fitted to suit our specialist needs, since 2019.

The work that you undertake is so vital and yet highly specialised so what led you towards this career path?

I have always had an interest in how things worked and how things could be built better. As a child I would always take my electronic toys and games apart to see how it worked, of course I was always left with one or two screws and sometimes a collection of pieces that did not fit back together again!

Because of this intrinsic interest, I studied mechanical and manufacturing engineering at college specialising in electronics, but I can certainly say it was my father who encouraged me into the instructor field.

After completion of my studies, I worked within electronics manufacturing and spent many years working for a class 3 military manufacturer. 

Due to relocation factors, I ended up back where it all began, in the area I was born and raised, local to Advanced Rework Technology so I felt it was a natural progression and some would say fate, that I started working for the company. That was a little over 22 years ago.

Debbie, year after year, i see you continue to win key awards within the electronics industry so i was keen to know – how you achieve this with such regularity?

Karen, I think that is a question you should ask my customers, colleagues, and peers!

It is always a great honour to be nominated and always takes me by surprise to hear my name or company read out as winners. I will always be grateful for the recognition and the support from the industry.

I have a great passion not just for the industry as a whole but for teaching and that can be seen during my presentations. I have great satisfaction knowing that some of that passion rubs off on those I teach, giving them not just the knowledge and skills to pass on and use that information within their company but also provides them with the confidence to use this information. I believe this is partly why I receive these nominations, but I cannot take all of the credit myself, as I owe a lot to the great team around me at ART, without them many of our achievements would not be possible.

Having written for companies within the defence and space sectors, aerospace, oil & gas industries, i have come to realise that catastrophic disasters can emanate from the smallest errors or component failures – bringing entire systems down. as with the Apollo 11 crash where a fuel seal failed. Do companies realise the importance of your training facilities?

Yes, I believe most companies understand the importance of training and skill enhancement, whether internal training or using an external training provider. Over the years we have seen a large increase in training needs from large OEMs to smaller CEMs as they appreciate having recognised training puts them head and shoulders above the rest. It indicates that all companies, big and small are investing in the quality of their products and personnel.

As ART offers training, as well as consultancy, to all sectors of the industry from commercial through to military, medical, aviation, and aerospace to everywhere in between for all stages of the process from design right through to box build, we can work with the customer to ensure that highest possible quality level for the products and services they offer.

I am so impressed with your commitment in terms of time and expense given to the voluntary aspect of your IPC contributions and would like you to expand on this aspect of your work and its impact, internationally.

My IPC committee work started back in 2002 at my first IPC standards development and training meetings held in New Orleans. My reasons for working on these committees far outweighs the cost implications on my company. And one of these reasons goes back to your second question, and I answered that I have an interest in how things work and how things can be built better. Working with experts within their particular field within these committees helps me gain all of the information I need to learn how processes can be improved. It also helps me during my training sessions as I have that superior knowledge that I have accumulated over time.

Of course, the team and I, at ART, are highly active within the IPC Training committees. This allows us to work with the IPC training development staff to release the best possible training courses to the industry.

I was honoured to be bestowed the IPC Presidents Award in 2017. This award is given to IPC members who have exhibited ongoing leadership in IPC and have made significant contributions of their time and talent in the association and within the electronics interconnect industry.

I understand being an active committee member can place a large strain on company resources, for this reason I worked with IPC many years ago to develop regional committees for standards development, standards steering and training. Not only do we have these regional committees in Europe but also Nordic, China and beyond.

Bergamo in Italy is much associated with the epicentre of the COVID pandemic and linked to considerable press coverage at the time and yet, it is now the centre leading the training facilities much needed in Europe, I understand, for implementing and facilitating the latest IPC protocols. Would you like to expand on this?

People are familiar with other Italian cities, but Bergamo only really become well known due to the devastation caused by the global COVID pandemic but many of our customers were familiar with the name for a while as ART Europe, Leading Edge Training officially opened January 2019. There were many reasons for us to expand into Europe, some purely for workload and addressing the needs of our customer in mainland Europe, others more political. We had to make provisions for Brexit as no one was fully aware of the full implications of leaving the EU, visas, free travel etc, with this in mind we made the decision to open a site in mainland Europe to assist our customers within this region. Having two sites now allows for us to also offer more courses, training dates and locations to cater for current and new customer needs.

Our highly experienced trainers at our Bergamo site specialise in the IPC Design qualifications and conduct the Certified Interconnect Design and Enhanced Interconnect Design classes at both training sites. We are aware that IPC certification may not be a requirement for each production facility, so we pride ourselves in the bespoke training syllabuses to suit the needs of the company or individual job role.

Both of our training facilities can offer the following IPC training at all levels of training, Certified IPC Trainer (CIT), Certified IPC Specialist (CIS) and Certified Standards Expert (CSE)

IPC-A-600 Acceptability of Printed Boards. IPC 6012 Qualification and Performance Specification for Ridged Printed Boards, IPC-A-610 Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies, J-STD-001 Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies, J-STD-001 Space and Military Addendum, 7711/21 Rework, Modification and Repair of Electronic Assemblies, IPC/WHMA-A-620 Requirements and Acceptance for Cable and Wire Harness Assemblies, IPC/WHMA-A-620 Space and Military Addendum.

When we were speaking on site, I asked about ART’s competitors and was really astonished to learn that you trained two of your competitors. Why?

This is a great question Karen and one I am asked regularly, and the answer will always be the same. Every company will always have competition and there is nothing I can do to prevent that, but I am confident the training that my competitors go on to present to others will be the best possible training as they were originally trained by our highly skilled and experienced trainers at ART. I feel this is one great benefit of the trainers at ART being active IPC committee members, as they don’t only know that there has been a change to an IPC document or standard but also know why the change was made. This makes the training provided by ART, whether it’s to our competitors or customers, that little more in-depth.

Given the current interest in AI, can you perhaps, suggest if it has impacted or can influence training – both positive and negative. Do you envisage any precautions that we need to undertake to ensure safety?  

A computer is only as good as the person that programmed it. This should be a point of concern for the entire industry, but I feel, if used correctly within manufacturing that there is scope for advantage with the use of AI. Precautions, I would like to address would be quality assurance as the human eye is generally better than that of a machine.

Climate change is our greatest existential crisis so are you able to say if energy companies are using your resources to optimise their operational equipment – even if it is via OEMs and not directly?

Controlling the process to bring down the need for rework, repairs, and modifications is vital when it comes to energy efficiency. This is where I would always recommend consultancy services alongside training to assist with setting up and controlling the process. This will ensure that the process is in and will stay in control bringing down production costs, reducing waste and decreasing man hours used for scrap, rework, and repair. Training and consultancy will assist each company with their environment controls.

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