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Beaulieu: As a truly a global company, what advantages do you provide to your customers?
Navick: We take care of all production aspects around the clock. We don’t lose time when production in China is 12 hours off compared to East Coast time. We can quote, process orders, answer questions to suppliers, and serve our customers from different locations on the globe. Still, customers have their local office to communicate with, in their own language, when they are in the office working in the local time zone. We take advantage being global, but for customers we are local.
Another important thing for being global is the leverage it gets us due to our combined buying power. It is also promising stability as we are less sensitive to market trends in a specific region. It allows us to serve our customers for the two most important things to them: priority on production lines and price. Being a VIP customer (we are within the top five customers for most of them) enables us to leverage on it, get priority, negotiate pricing, and support our customers with service most of them would be struggling to get otherwise. For our international customers, we can work with their operations, and supply the same PN to different locations, based on their needs, from the same source, but handle each location for them in their own time zone, language and currency. It also means it is always 9 to 5 somewhere. We take advantage of the difference in time zones, and our regional teams can serve one’s needs almost 24/7. You will rarely hear us say that we got files ‘after cut-off time’ simply because our global system allows us to do our due diligence (either quote, run DFM, or act on the operational side). The result is, while our North American customers are off for the day, we are not.
Beaulieu: How are things going in North America for the company?
Navick: After a humble start mid-2014, with a very small sales force in the USA, we have gradually gotten to know and understand the local markets of the USA and Canada, and during 2017 started a massive growth in our sales force to be able to reach such a big territory. We are partnering up in different states with representatives like KTT out of California, Hughes-Cane in Texas, Tempest in Indiana, ATS in Massachusetts and have hired direct employees to run regional sales. We are taking care of marketing—one of the reasons we are having an interview today. We expect a decent growth in the next year as a result. Our new multi-agent website is another layer in marketing ourselves and reaching out to customers. It looks promising.
Beaulieu: What do you do better than anyone else?
Navick: The real difference I see is that Fineline is a company where individuals put their own ego aside, help each other, share loads, appreciate efficiency, and strive for the greater good, and it trickles down to quality of service, not only the quality of the product. It is in the company’s DNA. Let me explain. The business philosophy of Fineline is to find the customer solutions, not just sell boards. We listen to what the person on the other end wants. There is a great difference between what he or she needs to what they want. Price is important, no doubt, but we win business even when we are not the lower bidder, and our success rate is increasing over time with existing customers. Unlike other brokers (I hate using this term because we do so much more than brokerage), we look at situations where our involvement will allow our customers to have an edge in their markets. While not being shy and being profitable and growing year to year, our way of doing business is to create the synergy between the PCB manufacturing facility, the contract manufacturer, and the end user to tighten up the partnering. We also respect our suppliers and share with them what we do. By being transparent, honest and respectful, we apply Fineline’s DNA to the process, and that is what makes us good at what we do. This is our edge.
Beaulieu: Where do you want to be in five years?
Navick: Judging the market size in North America, we see an opportunity to rapidly grow and have our fair share in the PCB market. I think $50M in sales in North America sounds like a reasonable goal for the next few years. Some of us in the company believe it should be even more than that, and of course I hope they are right and I am too modest in my forecast.
Beaulieu: How do you see the global PCB market currently?
Navick: While prophecy is not in my skill set, looking at the current market trends, I see that the priority that suppliers used to give export over their local markets, especially in China, is diminishing. The price gaps between selling to local markets and to export is slowly closing. In general, the PCB industry is mature, and year-to-year growth is slow. As a result, the VAR we offer (value added reselling) becomes significant. It allows companies to stay competitive not only with negotiations of better pricing for the products, but with lower overhead.
Beaulieu: How do you see the North American market currently?
Navick: It is certainly not behaving by traditional segments any more. While others will categorize market segments by industry, for the PCB market I also believe there should be a secondary segmentation. Regulations and standards change, and with them the secondary segmentation kicks in. As an instance, the medical industry goes through a change due to regulations change. The IoT development becomes a stronger player industry with very demanding technology, but pushing to very cost-effective solutions, some traditional aerospace and semi-military production has more flexibility in overseas production, and it is an on-going trend, quick-turn capabilities are no longer limited to local manufacturing, so overall this is a very dynamic, evolving, and morphing market.
Beaulieu: What do you think is the most important quality a great PCB supplier should have?
Navick: Since technology and quality are sort of embedded in the process today, at least with Fineline’s hand-picked partners, and with on-line quoting, pricing is pretty much set. I believe the leading edge of suppliers is WIP tracking and visibility. As part of a supply chain, especially for Lean manufacturing, it is imperative to allow customers to do tighter planning of their operations.
Beaulieu: Are there any last comments you’d like to leave our readers with?
Navick: Thank you for the opportunity to introduce Fineline to the readers. I think we have something interesting to offer anyone who builds any hardware electronics. Being engineering-oriented (about one third of the company are very technical), we speak the language from engineering to supply chain. We offer endless depth of knowledge and have some technology gurus in the company who may help anyone in any stage of design.