After an amazing 11 years at EMS, our very own Mike Harwood is retiring! We caught up with him to discuss his time with us and his 45 years of experience within the electronics industry. 

How did you start with EMS?

I previously worked as a purchasing manager for a customer of EMS — unfortunately, that company went into administration, making me redundant. I called Bernard Chubb, the owner of EMS, later that same day to give him the bad news, and he told me that by pure coincidence, EMS was looking for a purchasing manager to join the team. I went in for an interview, and within a few days, I was working for EMS.

What’s been your proudest achievement during your time with EMS?

My experience as a junior electronics designer (in my very young days!) through test, production, purchasing and operations management has given me a broad technical and commercial understanding of the electronics industry and has hopefully benefitted EMS. As for my proudest achievement, it has to be that I’ve been able to pass on some of my experience and knowledge gained over the years to my colleagues.

What would you say the most challenging time for the industry has been?

Without a doubt, the most challenging time I’ve ever known is happening right now. Well-documented component and raw material shortages are causing serious delays and higher costs to businesses such as EMS and huge problems for our customers.

I’ve experienced component shortages in the past, but only within certain commodity groups and for a relatively limited time. The current situation has been happening for over a year, and there doesn’t seem to be any improvement. EMS has — and continues to — put various procedures and protocols in place to mitigate the effect of the supply issues. Still, I’m sure that the current situation will likely threaten the survival of some organisations that lack the ability and resources to react and adapt accordingly.

What are the most exciting innovations you’ve seen across the industry?

Too many to mention! I believe the most revolutionary change over the last 30 years has been the development of electronic information exchange, something we all now take for granted.

Forty years ago, computers didn’t exist for routine use, and the internet still hadn’t been invented. If we wanted to order components from a catalogue supplier, we would need to thumb through a big, heavy catalogue and then phone or fax (remember those?!) the order to the supplier. Drawings and PCB data would be posted to suppliers for quotation and ordering.

Now, these can be emailed or transferred anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds. Everything is managed online, and the speed with which things happen is breathtaking compared to when I started.

What are some of your top tips/recommendations for industry professionals?

Persevere! I’ve known many industry employees who’ve changed their roles mid-career and thrived from the move; for example, people who began as design engineers or manufacturing staff who switched to purchasing or sales positions — often within the same organisations.

I started as an electronics designer and was going to be the next technology world-beater! That didn’t really work out for me, so I decided to move more into the manufacturing and commercial side of the industry and never regretted the decision.

Now that we’ve heard about Mike’s impressive experience at EMS, it’s time for the hard-hitting questions… What’s your guilty pleasure?  

Curling up on the sofa on a Saturday evening with a bottle of wine, watching Match of the Day — anything more controversial than that will remain between me and my conscience!

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

After listening to music for 60 years, there are so many! If I have to settle for one good rousing karaoke song, I suppose it would have to be Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’. Please don’t ask me to sing it, though!

What trend do you hope makes a comeback?

I never was a great follower of fashion, as most people who know me will realise — although I did wear velvet jackets in the 1970s! I’d definitely buy one if they became acceptable again. NOT platform shoes, though… I bought one pair and fell off them twice, nearly breaking my ankle.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Buster Merryfield, if he was still alive. Simon Whatley (EMS’ Supply Chain Manager) is well aware of the reasons behind this choice!

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

If there’s anything people don’t know about me, it’s probably because I don’t want them to know!

From all of us here at EMS, we wish Mike a happy retirement and thank him for his incredible work over the last 11 years! To find out more about EMS and the services we offer — including a comprehensive range of purchasing solutions — get in touch today.