Thursday, May 24, 2018
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The World Cup of Electronics Manufacturing
PhilipStoten @philipstoten

First, apologies for the self-absorbed parallels between football and the electronics supply chain; I should confess that I love football, or soccer as some of our international colleagues call it.

So, to put things into context, I am writing this before a ball has been kicked in anger. Sure the hype has begun and in Europe and I and my European friends are winding each other up on the potential of their national squads. By the time the cogs of the printing presses have turned I suspect we'll be halfway through, my national side will be on their way home and most of my predictions will look pretty silly.

Anyway, this isn't about football, it's about electronics manufacturing and the supply chain that surrounds it. Who will be the big winners in the World Cup of Electronics Manufacturing, who are the surprise packages and who had so much potential but failed to deliver again?

Current Champion, China
As holder China is in a great position, and having so many more players than the other teams seem to be an almost unfair advantage. Unlimited players and unlimited substitutions are quite a heady mix for the smaller nations that attempt to challenge them. The China team has also been under the same management for longer than almost any other team. This management stability has yielded dividends with strategic and steady team development, a great youth academy program and an ability to plan for the long term and peak when their best performances are needed.

Summary: An awesome defense based on getting as many players as possible behind the ball and a fanatical desire to win at all costs.

Previous Champions, USA
It is always hard to provide football analogies where the USA is concerned; they have certainly taken their eye off the ball over the last few years, losing their ability to compete at the highest level. They remain a country full of hugely talented players who seem to have preferred to ply their trade overseas, perhaps chasing the big dollars or the lure of attractive transfer fees, or even a larger fan base. They remain a hugely creative team, but many of the best coaches and former players are now training new, younger, more ambitious players elsewhere.

Summary: Not the team they once were, but many talented individuals that will light up the competition with their flair and innovation.

Over Performer, Germany
Their ability to continuously reinvent their style of play, their confidence, their determination, and their sense that they have the right to win are all things that mean Germany is always a threat in major competitions. They value their young talent and nurture and encourage them, ensuring they continue to play rather than moving into management. And, perhaps most importantly, they always have a new idea. This year it's a new formation called 'Industry 4.0'. Very few other nations know what it is or have any idea how to defend against it. The Germans will bring this formation to the world and the world better pay attention! They also have a real national pride in their team and the whole nation, from Angela Merkel, to the engineer on the factory floor, will get behind them.

Summary: Never underestimate Germany as a potential winner, they have a habit of getting the ball in the back of the net when it's most important, and if it goes to penalties they know how to win!

At the top of their game, Poland
I've really enjoyed watching Poland recently and have probably attended more matches here than almost anywhere else. They relish competition and have some talents that are a really difficult to compete against. They have the infrastructure to support their game and play in a style that is within their capabilities. Yes, they're ambitious, but they are also pragmatic, looking west to their neighbors, learning from them and sharing what they have learned on the largest stages in the world. Individually they are good, but as a team they are great.

Summary: Very solid throughout the team, not full of prima-donna millionaire superstars, but a group that puts joint success above the individual, a great team ethos!

New Challenger, Mexico
Mexico has always been a good team, but some challenges in the national game have impacted on their international performance. With those issues seemingly resolved I expect a better than ever performance from this squad. In fact I'd be surprised not to see them in the last four, or even the final. They have been working hard on their game, learning from elsewhere, watching the world and exporting their own style of play successfully. They are a fine group of individuals and deserve success.

Summary: Having cleaned up the national game, international success awaits these talented individuals. They are tenacious, steadfast and solid performers.

Carrying Africa's Hopes, Nigeria
We have been waiting for some time for an African champion to come along and I suspect we'll have to wait a lot longer. While others are tentatively investing in the game in Africa at a grass roots level, it seems unlikely that it will reap rewards anytime soon. Nigeria recently found its way onto a list of growth nations, referred to as MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) by the same journalist who coined the term BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China). I suspect, particularly in the electronics manufacturing sector, they will be the slowest of the group. But rest assured the region is one to watch, population growth and economy will dictate they participate eventually.

Summary: One to watch for the future, but not yet, or for some time…

The Hosts, Brazil
Brazil is definitely an exciting prospect, lots of opportunity, natural talent and ability. But bureaucracy seems to have gotten in the way. Brazil wants to play its own game, but the game is global now and a level playing field is important to success nationally and internationally. When Brazil participates with the rest of the world openly and without its own agenda, it does better in international competition, failing that success may be limited to domestic titles.

Summary: A great team and a real prospect, expect plenty in the future. There is plenty of talent, verve and opportunity domestically that has yet to shine internationally.

Surprise Packages, Costa Rica, Romania, Ukraine and many more
There are so many small teams that can bring up a surprise in international competition. Take Costa Rica, a modest Central American nation, but with the right investment and an overseas manager, from an experienced nation like Germany, and suddenly you've got a real contender. Eastern European teams like Romania and the Ukraine have potential too, sometimes hampered by themselves, their politics or their history. I'd think an Eastern European team that played together could go head-to-head with any team in the world.

Summary: Always look at the smaller teams with the talent to succeed beyond the odds; they are exciting to watch and can provide a good outside bet.

Did Not Qualify, India
Another major competition where India struggled to qualify… Basic infrastructure and the ability to put obstacles in their own way seem to be the norm here, which is a pity as the side has so much talent. They just don't feel like a team that has the same goals and they continue to perform below their potential and below everyone's expectations. Perhaps the new man in charge can bring an improvement in their fortunes.

Summary: Under new management, with great undelivered potential.

And the football?
I am not so patriotic, and my expectations for England are modest, perhaps getting out of the group stages. I do love football though, and actively support my club over country. That club is Chelsea and there are a few Brazilian and Belgians that will hopefully leave their mark on the tournament. I'll probably be cheering for them, along with any other Chelsea players on show. It's always nice to see a host nation do well and the fans get behind them.

Enjoy the tournament, I know I will… Tweet me if you agree or disagree with my thoughts on the World Cup of Electronics Manufacturing. I'm @philipstoten and you can use the hastag #EMSworldcup.  

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