Heather Gombos is Vice President of Business Operations for MicroCare, LLC a global company that provides PCB cleaning fluids and tools to the electronics industry. She has been with MicroCare for nearly 25 years, filling many roles in the company from sales and marketing to human resources, and now is responsible for all business operations. We asked her for an update on how MicroCare fared during this challenging year and what she sees trending for 2021.
EMSNOW: 2020 was not the year we expected and has significantly affected companies globally. How did it affect MicroCare?
MicroCare is a global business and the global impact from COVID-19 was unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Our customer base is diverse in the types of companies that we support, so while those customers classified as “non-essential” slowed down, other “essential” businesses saw an uptick in activity. We are flexible enough that we quickly shifted priorities. Our whole team pivoted to secure our supply chain and maintain our manufacturing operations. This allowed us to produce the product lines that our customers needed. Our focus was, and continues to be, on maintaining our own business continuity while delivering the cleaning products our customers need.
At the same time, the entire world needed facility cleaning products to support their staying open and keeping their employees safe. People are cleaning things they never thought about cleaning before. MicroCare offers workspace cleaners, wipes and hand sanitizers that help them to do that. Those products are strong sellers and we expect that to continue well into the future.
EMSNOW: Cleaning is now a major factor for keeping employees safe for all manufacturing companies; what advice can you offer?
After the virus outbreak our immediate priority was our employees and their safety. They need to be comfortable about coming to work and confident that we are doing all we can to keep them safe. We implemented strict social distancing rules and rigorous facility cleaning protocols. But importantly, we continue to proactively communicate with the team about what we hear from health officials and what we plan to do in response. Good communication helps maintain worker confidence that they can come to work and be safe. Also, being vigilant about maintaining your safety protocols and not letting your guard down is crucial.
EMSNOW: What trends do you see emerging in 2021 and how will MicroCare accommodate them?
The industry-wide focus on producing miniature, compact and zero-defect PCBs, will continue. And cleaning PCBs during fabrication to ensure reliability will remain important. However, the cleaning process itself may change for some companies. Some are exploring automation as a way to improve their social distancing requirements. For instance, using single-operator vapor degreaser cleaning instead of close-quarter benchtop or workstation manual cleaning. Customers often have questions about automating, so it is important to work with a cleaning fluid supplier that knows the cleaning processes, both vapor degreasing and benchtop, and how their cleaning products fit in. Collaboration and consultation, not just sales, will become important as more companies move to automate.
EMSNOW: 2021 may see some new regulatory changes for the use of cleaning products that use n-Propyl Bromide (nPB), can you tell us about that and how people can be prepared?
The US EPA is ready to implement new restrictions that will impact virtually every company in the United States that currently uses nPB as part of their cleaning process. The best advice for companies is to start planning a transition to an nPB replacement now. Don’t wait until the ban is in full effect. Consult with a knowledgeable cleaning fluid supplier who can help you manage the transition. There are a number of good, tried and tested drop-in replacements to nPB on the market today that will work in existing equipment, and will clean just as well, if not better, than nPB.
EMSNOW: What do you foresee as the biggest challenge for the forthcoming year?
2021 is already a year of unknowns, including trade issues with China and Brexit in the UK. What their impact will be to the global market is unclear. But tackling the pandemic and continuing to work safe is still the biggest challenge.
For Microcare, and other companies within the electronics industry, finding new ways to communicate with our customers and vendor partners will be a big focus for 2021. As an industry, we used to rely heavily on trade shows, conferences and in-person meetings to share ideas and solve problems. But now, many of us are still working digitally and remotely. Getting everyone into one room is no longer an option. So, using virtual communication methods to provide collaboration, training and technical support is key.
There is no substitute for in-person communication, but as more people gain confidence and comfort with this new style of virtual communication, it provides a perfect opportunity for better communication and adds value to our customers.