Throughout 2019, Thomas will be honoring the achievements of distinguished company leaders and managers in the manufacturing industry. Each month, we will present these respected pillars of industry with the Champion for Industry award. Nominated by their peers, Thomas Champions are leaders who embrace innovation, inspire their colleagues, dedicate themselves to finding trailblazing solutions, and drive business forward.
Thomas has chosen Scott Lindblad, CEO and founder of Automated Assembly and manufacturer of flexible circuitry, as the next Champion for Industry.
Growing Up “Majoring in Mechanics”
From an early age, Lindblad was immersed in a hands-on, “mechanical environment,” he explains.
“My father had a radiator repair shop, so I grew up fixing everything…I was majoring in mechanics before I went to college,” he jokes. After graduating with a B.S. in Industrial Technology from the University of Wisconsin, he joined the Society of Mechanical Engineers as a Certified Technologist.
“When I think about the Society of Manufacturing Engineers,” he says, “that continuing education is really helpful because as technology goes so fast, you have to keep your skill set up. [The Society] is one tool to help engineers do that.”
Inventing & Patenting Flex Circuits
While Automated Assembly is now widely recognized for developing flexible circuitry for a number of applications, it all began with Lindblad’s creation of the first SMT Flexible Circuit assembly, SMT-Flex for short, 27 years ago.
As the worldwide patent holder of SMT flexible circuit assembly, he is a founder of a very fast-growing industry. Flexible circuits can be utilized where printed circuit boards cannot; the components were integral in creating the first Motorola cell phone, as well as the ABS braking system.
Over the course of his career, Lindblad has seen the market develop at an incredibly rapid and has leveraged his company’s ability to grow with these changing needs.
“It’s challenging because the market is changing so fast,” he says. “I think the ability to change with the market and [adapt to] what the market is doing is really what makes companies successful. It’s [about] listening to the customers and figuring out how do you go faster, better, lighter, stronger, less expensive — and how do you accelerate your efforts to get there?”
Currently, Lindblad is working on a new technology, Wire-Write, which will replace the original etched circuit technology he developed nearly three decades ago. Currently being used as an additive manufacturing process used to design components for the automotive and medical industries, Wire-Write could potentially be Lindblad’s biggest career accomplishment, he says.
Leveraging Failure for Success
Throughout his career as an inventor and entrepreneur, Lindblad has seen his fair share of failures. Instead of getting frustrated when projects are derailed, he tries to focus on new chances for experimentation and views his failures as refreshed opportunities to succeed.
His Wire-Write product, for example, is unlike any other product in the space. As such, “none of the tools have been made, there’s no book to look at, [and] no one’s done it before,” he explains, “So then, it’s experimentation.”
And even if an experiment ends up going wrong, it’s still worth having tried, Lindblad says.
“I try to implement with our engineers that failure is success; I encourage our engineers to fail,” he says. “Because if they do fail, that failure will lead them to think of new ways to approach [the project]. Through failure, you get success. It’s really important to allow engineers to fail – that’s what brings on the next-generation ideas and ideas that make growth.”
Advising Fellow Entrepreneurs
Lindblad had a few words of advice for fellow entrepreneurs and technologists: “believe in yourself,” he says. “I think that’s number one, not just in my field but for anyone who’s going to break out as an entrepreneur or in any other area of business.”
While it’s critical as an entrepreneur to understand your market and be sure your product is going to resonate within that market, he says, having faith in yourself and your product is key.
And when starting your own business, “you’ll probably learn how to burn a little more midnight oil than you’re used to,” Lindblad says. “For example, when I started my business, I thought I had already spent a lot of all-nighters in college – but in reality, I spent more all-nighters in the first six months of my business than I did the rest of my life. I think it’s the extra that you have to put in, but if you believe in yourself [and] believe in the product, you are going to find the solution and you’re going to make it work.”
It’s also important to guide your business – and team – as a strong, listening, engaged leader.
“For me, it’s really picking up the ball where it needs to be picked up,” Lindblad says. “It’s going on the floor; it’s working side by side with the engineers. The most important thing is that you pick up a broom, taking it away from an engineer so they can keep focusing on what they need to do.”
“As a leader,” Lindblad explains, “you give the people the support, whatever it might be, that they need to get the job done.”