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Can you imagine a time when people went jogging with nothing more than a self-winding wristwatch and a street map? How many of the gizmos in your doctor’s office were there five years ago? What would your boss from ten years ago say if you asked her to install a napping pod at the office?
Things have changed, a lot. Our population is aging, living longer, and seeking to maintain a healthy quality of life in the process. In a job market that’s been at full employment for years, employers are feeling the squeeze from rapidly evolving expectations surrounding workplace wellness and rising healthcare costs. These drivers are converging to create rapid change that is impacting the PCB industry in many ways.
Our increased focus on health and wellness drives technology advancement for personal devices and those used in the delivery of healthcare. This trend also drives both PCB production innovation and a long overdue update of the employer/employee relationship.
Wearable technology was barely a thing five years ago. When we go for a run now, we expect detailed information about where we went and how our body performed. This health and wellness information must be reliable and easy to use during our workout. It also needs to be available to review and analyze later, to see if we are reaching our goals.
From the safety lights on the bicycle you ride to GPS tracking to sophisticated fitness monitors and small-rugged video cameras that record fitness adventures, electronic devices are capturing more and more information even as they become smaller and lighter, as well as more durable and affordable.
PCB manufacturers are responding to demand for increased board complexity by upping our game. Thanks to new equipment and enhanced process controls, we now have the capability to miniaturize circuits with smaller footprints and reduced weight. Using laser direct imaging, we can produce boards with trace and space narrower than a human hair. Advanced drills put holes in panels visible to the human eye only with help from a loupe magnifier.
In addition to deploying more advanced equipment, we are improving production efficiency to reduce the number of steps needed for a production run. Continuous process improvement like this is a primary focus in our industry, because wellness technology is about more than consumer wearables.
Medical technology also represents an emerging opportunity for the PCB industry. Small, seemingly simple devices capable of complex functionality such as real-time health monitors, smart prosthetics, and intelligent surgical equipment are all part of this innovation trend. Manufacturers serving this vertical need not only International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001 certification, but also ISO 13485 — a medical device-specific quality management system (QMS) cert that sets a high standard for production documentation and traceability.
Investment in QMS and ISO certification can run into the six figures for PCB manufacturers, but we believe the return on investment is there. Improved quality, increased production capability, and reduced waste are just some of the benefits of implementing QMS and maintaining ISO certifications. Doing so also sends a message to the marketplace that we are committed to delivering a quality product and top-notch service.
New equipment and better processes can’t deliver quality by themselves. Quality products are made by skilled personnel who take pride in their work. Quality of life is dependent on our health, so we do our best to inspire the team at Sunstone to live healthy lifestyles both at both home and work. For seven years, Sunstone Circuits has been named one of the Healthiest Employers of Oregon.
In addition to incentives for getting annual physicals, seeing the dentist, and participating in company-wide challenges, we provide an onsite walking trail, fitness room, and company-organized running and walking events. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from employees who are healthier as a result of lifestyle change we helped promote.
From health tech to wellness programs, our industry is uniquely impacted by this new paradigm. We not only participate in the trend toward healthier lifestyles, we’re also helping to build the technology that makes peoples’ lives better. Whether it’s a treadmill that measures distance covered and calories burned, a wearable device that measures your VO max, or an AI-powered insulin pump, the future of wellness is here, and we are thrilled to be part of it.
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