Reading time ( words)
In an interview with I-Connect007, Jimmy Fang, VP of business development at Sunshine Global PCB Group, speaks about the key demand drivers for the PCB industry, the challenges in the market, and the opportunities they are seeing.
He also talks about the increasing demand for higher-layer-count PCBs and the trend towards smarter manufacturing.
Stephen Las Marias: Jimmy, please tell us more about the company and your role.
Jimmy Fang: Sunshine Global Circuits is based in Shenzhen, China, and we have a large secondary facility in Jiujiang, in Jiangxi Province. What's unique about our company is that, despite being a Chinese company, we have a factory in Germany and we have sales offices in the U.S. I think that makes it pretty unique among Chinese circuit board makers.
Globally, we have about 2,000 people. Our sales last year were about $152 million and we're growing very quickly. Since your interview with David Aldape, we became a publicly listed company, and on February 1, 2018, we were successfully listed at the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. We're very happy about that. It allowed us to raise significant capital to fund the next part of our company expansion. We're growing very quickly. We're now expanding our Jiujiang facility. We're at about 40,000 square meters a month and we're working on doubling the capacity on our Jiujiang plant.
At the same time, we are investing in technology in our Shenzhen facility, in laser direct imaging, automated inspection machines, vertical continuous plating lines, etc.—lots of state-of-the-art equipment and automation. Our technology continues to grow. We're building more and more boards that are in the 20-layer range. More in 18-, 20-, 22-, 24-layer range products.
Las Marias: What has been driving this significant growth in the company's business?
Fang: With all companies, it’s partly organic and partly achieved with new customers. We're aggressively moving into new customers and getting new qualifications. We have a strong sales rep force in the U.S., and we also have a good sales team in Germany. So that tends to be where our focus is, is in North America and in Europe. We also see growth with our current customer base. We have a lot of contract manufacturing customers. Our customers include Flex and Jabil, Plexus, those kinds of companies.
Las Marias: Can you tell us some of the markets that are big demand drivers? Is it automotive, medical, or mil/aero?
Fang: We focus on industrial and medical. We do some telecommunications and automotive. I'd say the majority of what we build is industrial. We also seem to have a lot of customers in the audio-visual market. They might make speaker systems or conference room systems, those types of audio-visual controls. It's a huge market out there. At the same time, we are gradually growing our business in flex and rigid flex. We're building a large manufacturing area in Jiujiang that is dedicated to flex and rigid flex. That reflects the trend towards 3D bendable devices, lighter, cable assemblies or wearables. We see that demand is strong, so we are investing in the production area just for that product.
Las Marias: How much do your Europe and U.S. markets contribute to total sales?
Fang: I would say Europe is the largest portion, 40–50%; North America is at about 35–40%; and then the balance would be rest of the world. A lot of our product goes to Hong Kong and comes back to China. We actually don't focus too much on domestic Chinese OEMs. Traditionally, we've always focused on Western companies.
Las Marias: I understand SGC has advanced technologies, but what are the challenges that PCB manufacturers are facing right now from a technology standpoint?
Fang: It's a very competitive market. This is a complex subject. Part of it is that we see our competitors continue to invest heavily. That creates pricing pressure. We normally don't see raw material prices coming down, but our customers ask for cost reductions. So, it's really a matter of finding ways to improve our efficiency, improve our yields. I mentioned automation. We try to reduce headcount. Increased automation also helps us to improve yields. So, we just try to improve our efficiency, lower our cost and meet customer requirements. The customers are always looking for more technology. Finer lines and spaces, etc. A customer earlier mentioned they have 0.35 mm BGAs on their boards, which is very fine. Not a lot of PCB shops in China can handle that kind of technology.
Las Marias: And you're also going to higher and higher layer counts.
Fang: Yes. The highest we've done is up to about 34, 36 layers. We found some 30-layer boards, but we still build a lot of double-sided through eight-layer boards. Two through eight, to 10 layers.
Las Marias: You mentioned automation. One of the things quite popular in the industry is Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. Can you please give your comments on that?
Fang: Our management has considered that. I think we were trying to set up a meeting with Siemens to tour one of their plants with Industry 4.0, but I don't think we were able to get to go see that plant. I don't know if what we're doing is exactly Industry 4.0, but it's very simple. We have some very interesting robotic technologies from our suppliers, like Hitachi gyrating robot arms for loading the boards and for plating. We are also putting in machines on the line. So, it goes from one process to the next without being staged or stacked together and reduces handling. System-wise, we have also been doing internal programs like Lean manufacturing, continuous improvement; continuous improvement is through operator involvement, employee involvement, a suggestion program. I think we've been pretty successful in doing that.
Las Marias: What are the opportunities you're seeing in the market, and how do you see this year developing?
Fang: From my perspective, because I handle the U.S. market, we are hoping certain customers will increase their quantities. We've been working on new approvals and just waiting for those customers to ramp up. That would be the biggest opportunity for us. At the same time, some of the customers we've been working with, they now see us as a reliable supplier with good quality. They're trying to increase their growth with us. Higher layer count products, more technical challenging boards. As I mentioned, organic growth and also new business development. You have to do both at the same time.
Las Marias: Thank you very much for your time, Jimmy.
Fang: Thank you, Stephen.