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I recently learned that a high-tech PCB supplier, Coast to Coast Circuits, had decided to provide their customers with quick-turn, high-value print-and-etch printed circuit boards. I thought that most of this technology had gone to Asia, so I had to see what was going on. What was their strategic thinking in making this contrarian move? I talked with CEO Walt Stender and Marketing and Key Account Manager Michael Cisco, and I asked them to provide more details about this interesting decision.
Dan Beaulieu: I understand you are going into the print-and-etch business. That is an interesting twist for a high-tech company doing some of the highest technology in the country, like liquid crystal and all of that. What’s the story?
Walt Stender: We identified a growing market demand for speed and price right here in the USA and we decided that we can add value to this market. So we are expanding our product offering and believe this is a great addition to our line card.
Beaulieu: There are few domestic suppliers offering this now so that will make you unique. Have you identified the type of customer is going to come to you for this service?
Stender: We will be unique because we are utilizing a fully automated process for this technology.
Michael Cisco: A lot of your commercial products, individuals that need some design work fast, quick turnaround and low-cost solutions. Four days is going to be our standard turnaround on a typical print etch single or double-sided, non-plated through-holes, any volume that you can bring to the table.
Beaulieu: Really? Any volume? Because a lot of that, as we both know, has gone offshore, so the goal is to give an alternative to North American companies.
Cisco: Yes. We want to make sure that we can support this technology and this growing market, right here in the United States. We feel we have the resources to do so and add value to this actual market segment. Ideal orders are probably between 1 and 100 panels. Anything in that range we could support efficiently with the fastest turns available. The manufacturing will be done in our Rochester, New York facility.
Beaulieu: Why will your service be better than offshore?
Stender: The product that will be offered by Coast to Coast will focus on speed—being faster than the competition—and price—being competitive or lower than the competition, and the quality will be consistent every time with our fully automated process utilizing state-of-the-art develop-etch-strip technology.
Beaulieu: I know you're doing high technology. You do flex, rigid-flex, and all this other stuff. Do you think some of your current customers also have this requirement?
Cisco: Absolutely. Since we've never really pursued this particular market segment, we certainly have the option to reach out to our current customers and see what we can do to manufacture these designs for them as well.
Beaulieu: Are you going to be doing this on a permanent basis, even when the Rochester facility has its new plating line?
Stender: Yes, we have identified a need in this market, so it will be great to add this technology to our product line to further support our current as well as prospective customers with a low-cost PCB option manufactured right here in the USA.
Beaulieu: Maybe with someone who can go up the ladder. This might be entry-level work for you, but then, as they need other things, they grow with you.
Cisco: That is correct.
Beaulieu: That sounds good. When do you start?
Cisco: This is effective immediately. We have the approval from our senior management team that made the decision for our market evaluation, and we have the go-ahead right now. We are 100% open for business.
Beaulieu: Just a couple more questions. Why should I come to C3 and not go to Asia?
Cisco: Speed, reliability, and fully automated processing, besides being built right here in America.
Beaulieu: It has to be easier than Asia. I know from my research there's also a market for a smaller quantity, not a tiny quantity but not 10 trillion garage opener boards, and people who want to try things out. I know new product or pre-production orders can be 4,000–5,000 boards. As they do that, I imagine that would be nice niche for you guys as well.
Cisco: Yes, it certainly will. Anything within that realm that requires speed, sub-five days for turnaround time, and a low-cost solution.
Beaulieu: How do you see C3 going right now, and in what direction? I know you are one of the strongest independent high-tech companies in the industry. And what does the future hold?
Stender: Our company is in a great position to expand into this new market with a focus on overall growth. Our main success factor is the support that we offer to our customers with a small business, home-town feel. We want to work with our customers and be a part of the technological advancements and projects that they are involved in.
Dan: Fantastic! Well, gentlemen, thanks for talking with me today and I wish you good luck in this new endeavor and a great 2017 as well.
Stender: Our pleasure. Thank you.