A Not-So Public Affair

Jiangsu Xiehe Electronic started trading today on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The company makes flex circuits and performs SMT. That should be a big deal, since PCB manufacturers going public has become a rarity.

This is not your father’s printed circuit industry. IPOs are a novelty in our industry these days.

Moreover, almost all the IPOs of fabricators or EMS companies in the past 10 years have been in Asia.

This year, Covid be damned, Sihui Fushi Electronic Technology went public in July on the Shenzhen Exchange, and TLB is scheduled to be listed this month in Korea.

Insofar as I know, that’s it.

Last year was no better. Cal-Comp raised some capital by listing a subsidiary in the Philippines. Ventec went public in Taiwan.

Stretching back over the past decade, there are a few nuggets. But just a few.

Shennan Circuits (2017 IPO) and Zowee Technologies (2010) are public on the Shenzhen Exchange, and OK Industries (2017) is traded in Japan. And Dixon Technologies debuted in 2017 on the India Exchange.

Over in the UK, fabricator Trackwise Designs had an IPO in the UK a couple years ago. And NCAB went public in Sweden.

As private equity firms continue to consolidate fabricators and (mostly) EMS companies, as New Water Capital did with Veris and Saline Lectronics this week, the question becomes, what is their end-game? Will they amass enough revenue through M&A to make a public offering viable? Or will they try to button it up and sell to another PE firm — or perhaps an even larger manufacturer?

And is the era of the publicly traded circuit board manufacturer winding down?

All Screwed Up

If you work for Foxconn, don’t cheat on your wife.

That’s the message the world’s largest EMS company explicitly sent yesterday, according to several published reports.

Apparently, working for Foxconn means no cheating on spouses, gambling, prostitution, drugs or bribery (not to mention telling the company where you are during certain holidays or overseas trips).

Not that I’m condoning any of that behavior, but I can’t help but note the irony of the rules.

So it’s OK for the company to screw the employees, but not OK for employees to screw each other. Got it.

Trade Show Regionalization

On the eve of Productronica, I am certain of one thing and becoming more sure of another.

First, I believe that this year’s show will be Dominated — capital D — by Europe. I believe that there will be few Americans and fewer (read: next to zero) Asians.

That leads me to No. 2: That the reason for the regionalization of trade show attendance has less to do with the economy and more to do with the fact that for the very most part, existing production technology can build even the latest and greatest products. No matter that new generations of end-products come out every six months (or less), processes are driven by component packaging, and while leading-edge package types have shrunk from 0402 to 0201 to 01005 during the past five years, most conventional equipment is so darn good that it can print, place, solder, inspect and test the latest package styles. Assemblers simply no longer need to chase the latest and greatest equipment around the globe in order to win or build the latest designs. And that obviates the need to run from show to show in search of the “next big thing.”

Chong-where?

Where in the world in Chongqing? If you don’t yet know, you’d better grab an atlas as the ultra-dense (population: 31.4 million) central China municipality is fast becoming the next major hub for electronics manufacturing.

A reported $43 billion worth of foreign investment is pouring into western China, with more than 550 companies taking flyers on the region. Foxconn is on board (to the tune of $1 billion), and Quanta is reportedly considering a similar deal to open a PC assembly plant.

Be forewarned: the Three Gorges Dam, which in many experts’ opinions is a disaster waiting to happen, is nearby. And the crime so rampant in Shenzhen is making its way to Chongqing as well. But there’s no stopping the pursuit of cheap labor — even if it costs billions to save pennies.

‘The Goal’ of Line Balancing

The day of the line balancing telecom with AJAX had arrived and Patty was nervous. She had a feeling that the meeting might be contentious.

She felt some relief that The Professor would be teleconing in. The Professor had asked Patty to request a brief tour to measure the chipshooter and flexible placer placement times on one of the lines.

Patty arrived at AJAX an hour before the telecon. Rob took her for the tour. After the tour Patty and Rob went to the meeting room. While they were setting the computer projector and telecom equipment up, the attendees started to arrive. Patty had agreed to give a short presentation on the importance of line balancing, to kick things off. Rob had already told her that Charlie, the lead senior engineer, would be a hard sell.

After everyone had arrived and Patty had called The Professor, she began her brief presentation on line balancing. AJAX has three similar assembly lines each with a $2 million Pinnacle ultra high speed chipshooter and one of Pinnacle’s top of the line flexible placers.

On her tour, Patty measured the placement time for the chipshooter at 81 seconds and the flexible placer at 18 seconds. Patty mentioned in her presentation that for maximum productivity the chipshooter and flexible placer should each take the same amount of time. Upon hearing this comment, Charlie hit the roof.

“Let me tell you something about running a manufacturing facility, little girl,” Charlie fumed at Patty. “When I bought them three $2 million chipshooters, I promised Tom Stevens that I would work them puppies to death. Everyone knows that to minimize costs you must use your expensive equipment the most, so I make sure every feeder is full on all them there chip shooters.”

Patty couldn’t tell whether she was more intimidated or annoyed, but was ready to speak when The Professor intervened.

“Charlie, have you read The Goal?” asked the Professor.

“The only ‘Goal’ I have is to down a few cold ones after I finish wit youse guys.” Charlie shot back.

Patty looked a Charlie’s ponderous beer gut and thought to herself, Now that is something I believe!

Was Charlie right? How does The Goal fit in? Will the meeting take a more productive turn? Who is Tom Stevens?

Stay tuned for the latest.

Cheers,

Dr. Ron

Santa Anna, Redux

That was quick. Electronic News today raised the same point as my post from last week.

To quote: Opinion: In comparison to China, Mexico has emerged as a “best cost country” for products destined for the United States and global markets. Daniel J Hill, CEO of Silicon Border, argues that the reasons for this trend are relatively straight-forward.

You can read the article here.

Santa Anna’s Revenge

We continue to see greater emphasis on Mexico as a preferred sourcing spot by North American OEMs, and thus a preferred locale for volume production by major EMS companies.

The latest proof: According to a recent article, Jabil expects to boost employment at its factory in Zapopan to more than 9,000, up 136% from October 2008.  According to an industry source, Jabil has moved all but six SMT lines from its St. Petersburg, FL, headquarters to Mexico as it ramps its capacity south of the border.

And Sanmina-SCI projects 10 to 20% growth in sales over last year, prompting plans to invest $7 million to  $10 million in new machinery.

Call it Santa Anna’s revenge.

Word Play

Here’ s a little trivia for your Thursday morning. Do you know what Nintendo means? Or how Nokia got its name?

Of course you do. (Not.)

As the Wall Street Journal today explains, “Nintendo” in English translates as “leave luck to heaven,” while Nokia is named for the nearby Nokianvirta River, which in turn is an ancient Finnish word for sable.

It’s part of a fun and anecdotal look at how those and some 14 other electronics companies — including Motorola, Coleco, Magnavox, Samsung and a host of others — came to be known as they are today.

I won’t rob the Journal of its work by listing them all here. Click on the link, though: it’s worth the two minutes.

Service Excellence: Coming Soon, to a Company Near You

In just over a month, Circuits Assembly opens the doors for our annual Service Excellence Awards for EMS providers and electronics assembly equipment, material and software suppliers.

Now in its 18th year, the SEAs honor companies in electronics manufacturing for excelling in the critical area of customer service, permitting participants to benchmark customer service against their peers.

Customers are surveyed to determine a participating company’s level of customer satisfaction in various categories, including dependability/timely delivery; ease of use; manufacturing quality; responsiveness to requests and changes; technology, and value for the price. All customer responses and ratings are tabulated by a third party and provided in a confidential report to the participating company.

The SEAs recognize four categories of EMS providers based on revenues (under $20 million; $20 million to $100 million; $101 million to $500 million, and over $500 million), and the following categories of suppliers: automation and handling equipment; cleaning processing or materials; device programming equipment; dispensing; pick-and-place; repair and rework; screen printing; test and inspection; materials (solder paste); soldering equipment, and manufacturing or supply chain management software.

Circuits Assembly will honor winners during the Apex trade show on April 6, 2010. Proceeds from the program help fund the SMTA’s Charles Hutchins Educational Grant.

For more information, click here. The deadline to enter is Nov. 24.SEA 2010 logo