Nov 16, 2016
Manufacturing’s Makers and Shakers, Mike Jones-Microcare
Mike Jones - Microcare

Mike Jones – Microcare

Co-writer Mike Jones – He started his working career as a “yard bird” smearing wet cement into concrete blocks to smooth their surfaces. Now, as MicroCare Corporation’s vice president of international sales, Mike Jones spends his days traveling, writing and communicating the cost-saving benefits of MicroCare’s critical cleaning products with customers around the world. Kismet in Connecticut Sometimes things just fall together–right time, right place and the right combination of people. In 1983, Mike’s brother, Chris Jones operated R.M. Jones & Company Inc., a regional chemical distribution business in Connecticut. Chris had customers who wanted to buy cleaning fluids in aerosol cans; however the major suppliers at the time refused to make the company a local distributor. By sheer coincidence, Chris also provided products to Peter Clapp, owner of an aerosol filling company in New Haven, CT. They joined their resources and this “perfect storm” of packaging skills and customer-oriented selling helped MicroCare gain a foothold in the electronics industry. “Our competition could have squashed MicroCare at birth simply by selling us some aerosol cans,” said Mike. “Instead, they said ‘no’ to us, so we just decided to make the products ourselves. We didn’t love the aerosol business; we just wanted to make customers happy.” Today that customer-oriented focus still pervades over MicroCare and Mike attributes it as the single most critical differentiator between MicroCare and everyone else in the business. Transitions at MicroCare To emphasize how much things have changed for MicroCare, it’s important to understand their beginnings and how far they’ve come by embracing and repeatedly turning change into opportunity. “We started by selling Genesolv®, an aerosol-can cleaning fluid,” said Mike. “Chris was the sales guy, Peter filled the cans in New Haven and Jay Tourigny, senior vice president of MicroCare, was our chemist, QC, shipping, purchasing and logistics guy. I wasn’t even on the payroll but lurked in the background providing suggestions and ideas, preparing ‘pitches’ for vendors and such. Everybody wore lots of hats.” Genesolv® and Freon®, both chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), were used as cleaners and had been widely adopted by industries as much safer alternatives to earlier cleaning products. They were nontoxic, nonflammable, easy to handle and had no aroma. However, in the 1970’s they were identified as major contributors to stratospheric ozone depletion and were phased out in the 1990s. That meant MicroCare had to develop alternatives and transition customers to the new choices. “Once we got over the shock of the change, innovating became a key part of our tool kit,” said Mike. “This core competency has become the backbone of our successes.” Since the 1990s, MicroCare has pioneered HCFC cleaners, siloxane cleaners, HFC and HFE chemistries. They were also the first in the world to introduce the new HFO chemistries to rework and repair in the electronics industry. The TriggerGrip™ and Product Stewardship

MicroCare TriggerGrip

One of many products that put MicroCare on the success track came with the TriggerGrip™ dispenser, a simple and inexpensive product invented by Jay Tourigny. “The TriggerGrip™ connects to our aerosol and enables faster, better and safer cleaning of PCBs,” says Mike. “It also reduces the amount of solvent needed. That’s right—we actually invented a tool so people would buy less of our products. It sounds crazy, but if you help customers save money, they will be loyal forever.” Diligent about safety as well as costs, MicroCare also checks to make sure customers know how to properly use their products. “We call this ‘Product Stewardship,’” says Mike. “In some cases, we will ask a customer exactly how they plan to use one of our products. If the answer isn’t safe, and we can’t convince them otherwise, we will refuse to sell to them.” Mike also explains that customers will ask for different package sizes or for the company to make refillable cans. “Experience shows us that the more a chemical is handled, the more likely it won’t work, or cost too much or somebody will get hurt,” says Mike. “Bad business is not our business.” Change with the Challenges Like many companies, MicroCare’s challenges have changed drastically since they started. When new to the industry, MicroCare concentrated on building traction for their products and a reputation for exceptional customer service. And in terms of the electronics industry, hand-soldered through-hole PCBs and traditional RMA (rosin, mildly active) fluxes were the standard. That’s no longer the case. “The advent of surface-mount technology was a breakthrough in PCB assembly,” says Mike. “Then independent subcontractors took the market from the brand-name, well-known Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and moved out of the U.S. looking for low-cost labor.” Additionally, industries were also dealing with the turmoil of the lead-free solder phase-in, denser packaging and the requirements that surrounded volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and halogens. Mike recognizes that new technical, economic and regulatory changes will continue and that manufacturers will need to “stay nimble and innovative” every day. For instance, as of this writing, the U.S. House and Senate have just agreed to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) after 40 years. This reform will create ripples throughout the industry. “This is going to be a sea-change in how chemicals are regulated,” says Mike. “It will require manufacturers to review and adapt again.” As the pace of change continues to accelerate, how have manufacturers adjusted? “The days of Henry Ford building cars from tip to toe are dead,” said Mike. “Nobody today has the capabilities to build every component for a complicated product under one roof…it just doesn’t happen anymore. In every industry, companies subcontract non-core tasks to people who can do those specific tasks better than they do it. It’s the end of vertical integration.” A Bright Future

sticklers-microcare

MicroCare Sticklers

Mike gets excited about the “burgeoning portfolio” of their MicroCare products, such as the innovative  Sticklers®; tools used to clean fiber optic connectors. He remembers seeing a demonstration of the first fiber optic cables being installed under the streets of New York City in the mid-1970s. Technology has advanced so far, so quickly,” says Mike. “In the old days they cleaned fiber with rubbing alcohol and could send maybe 50 megabits per second through those cables. Today they’re sending gigabits per second.” Mike goes on to explain that today’s fibers cannot be cleaned with alcohol because of the residue they can create and leave behind. As a result of this change, and the need for perfectly clean fibers, MicroCare’s scientists invented a whole family of cleaning products. “MicroCare’s cleaning products aid AT&T, Verizon, Facebook and YouTube to move clients quickly and reliably along the fiber optic networks,” said Mike. “Our cleaning products are one of the enabling technologies for today’s digitally-connected world.” On the heels and because of technology loom even more advances, including driverless cars. From empty garages and parking lots to how we design of our cities, Mike believes their impact will be far-reaching. “You want to talk about challenges?” said Mike. “You’ve heard of the self-driving car? It literally might bring an end to car ownership as we know it today. What about the auto body repair shops that will go out of business because self-driving cars will be far less likely to be in accidents?” Mike questions whether people will still need a designated driver on New Year’s Eve or a driver’s license by the year 2035. And what about trucks? “If self-driving cars are cool, then self-driving trucks would have enormous economic advantages over human-driven trucks,” said Mike. “How will the U.S. economy handle three million unemployed truck drivers?” Mike trusts that the widespread deployment of electric cars might well have the biggest impact on the world and that by 2025 people may never have to stop at a gas station again in their life. “The electric car might even be a big part of the solution to global warming,” says Mike. He’s one of a dwindling number of optimists and believes it’s something that companies and technology-driven young people need to be today.  His advice— “Get good at adapting and learning new things,” said Mike. “Never stop learning. Challenge your assumptions. Bust down the walls that say ‘we have always done it this way.’ Innovate, or you’ll be road-kill, like companies making buggy whips and slide rules.”

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