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We are humble, but let me use Apple as an example just to make my point. No one knew they needed a smartphone before Steve Jobs presented this solution. Before that, people used to have either a computer or a phone, and he said, “Let’s do both together.” Nobody asked for it. It was not an identified need by any means in the world. But he said, “Here’s a solution to a need that you don’t even know that you have.” Again, we are not Steve Jobs, but we are telling the market, “There is another way of doing this—All in One.”
Johnson: Who do you see as the ideal customer for this solution?
Einhorn: The ideal customer would be a technology-focused customer. It can be either software or hardware, and their strength is with developing solutions for customers. They do not invest too much energy in places they cannot have any real advantage. If you are good at technology solutions, and if you don’t want to focus on fabrication and operations, leave that to us. Then, they can focus on strong technology solutions and conquer their market.
Johnson: How do you differentiate yourself against the major manufacturers in China who tend to offer the same sorts of services?
Einhorn: I’ve seen a lot of manufacturers in China, and as far as I know, this whole thing happens remotely. You visit the website and click your quote, all from a good intention of making things easier. But there are two issues with this environment. First, in this process, you don’t speak with your customer, and you are bound to lose the understanding of what your customer is all about and what they need. In most cases—at least from what I saw in reference to China—this customer turns into one of million customers that goes to this big Chinese factory, and they lose their identity. The second issue is that when you deal with high-performance/cutting-edge products, the web interface does not allow the customer to convey the full range of technical details and expectations—especially when we talk about products that are not mature but are still on the learning curve.
In our case, we have no aspiration of becoming something like Chinese mass production. We are not after simple, high-volume circuit boards for remote controls in cars. We are looking for customers with a unique technological edge that is not being produced in mass production but makes a lot of difference. It can be different market customers, like military and medical devices, or something to do with other rising trends, like agricultural technology, water purification, or automation.
We are working very hard and invest a lot of resources into automation that will help us serve a variety of markets with a variety of requirements—all, of course, in a high-mix, low-volume, high-performance environment.
Johnson: You’re targeting higher-complexity work with sophisticated customers, not run-of-the-mill consumer-level volumes and electronics. As you grow, is it on your roadmap to acquire some of these facilities internationally?
Einhorn: Yes. Being in Israel and looking at the markets in Europe and the U.S., we understand that we can serve the customers in these markets in two ways. One is to take advantage of the buyback obligations some of these countries have toward Israel—after Israel bought from these countries trains, airplanes, and other things under G-to-G deals. Here, we are talking about production in Israel and exporting to these countries. The second way to serve these customers would be serving them locally, meaning through a local facility. It can be either by partnerships or by acquisitions. The most interesting thing business-wise would be to provide these customers with a combined local Israeli service.
As we look at Europe and the United States, we find world leaders in the markets that I pointed out as interesting for us—military, medical devices, and so on. We would be after such countries, and we believe that Europe, for example, is not really acquainted with this All-in-One solution, so we believe they can get significant benefits from our services.
PCB production, as well as PCBA and box build on U.S. soil, is also of interest for us as we see opportunity in Israeli companies that seek such service, so they can support the Israeli government with fulfilling its obligations under the Foreign Military Support Agreement between the U.S. and Israeli governments. Israel receives monetary support from the U.S. government with the condition of production on American soil.
Again, we are not making simple boards; we are making highly sophisticated boards. This is also one of the reasons why we are looking for advanced products to serve. But we are doing the cutting-edge technologies of circuit board manufacturing. It can be either rigid-flex mixed with RF/microwave, or heat dissipation with high demands like vibrations, thermal shock resistance, high-reliability requirements, and miniaturization. When you take these demands and implement buried components (like resistors, capacitors, thermocouples, heaters, etc.), the system produced can become more and more sophisticated. This is why the designers engage with us in the very early stage of their electronic design. They want us to provide them with more tools and more capabilities. We have lots of good examples of solutions we have provided our customers. At the end of the day, this is the outcome of knowing your customers and their pains and needs.
Johnson: The security of the sensitive intellectual property and the security of the sensitive design itself becomes particularly important. How does PCB Technologies protect that information for sensitive customers?
Einhorn: Fifteen years ago, we acquired a PCB manufacturing site in New Jersey called Precision Circuits Incorporated (PCI). Since then, unfortunately, the fab closed, but the office remains, which is our liaison to the United States. They are approved by ITAR regulations, and this is how we protect the data from U.S. customers with sensitive information. In addition, we are in a position to sign a technical assistance agreement (TAA) with any customer that would require us to do so.
For other sensitive information, for other customers with services and information outside of the U.S., we have a highly classified section in our facility run by the most severe classification requirements, which is safe for data. Only classified people can walk over in this section, etc. Working in defense for 30-some years now, we are fully equipped and knowledgeable regarding securing our customers’ sensitive information.
Johnson: The design services side sounds like that something that’s relatively new to you. Are you staffed up in that part of the solution? Are you still looking to hire?
Einhorn: The service is new, and we already have a staff of 14 designers. However, we are very familiar with the design process and methodology, as we have been dealing with designers for almost 40 years. The seam between design and manufacturing is not clear cut, meaning the design relies on our stackup capabilities, for example. Out of years of interacting with designers, we found that most, if not all, designers do the design considering the theoretical electricity guidelines of how to design a circuit board, but neglect or don’t give enough attention to the practice of production.
A year and a half ago, we took a staff of 14 designers and trained them on this missing part. We have taught them the constraints and the considerations of production processes and practices, bettering their designs to match the production coming after the design. As we grow this idea and concept, we will certainly hire some more. We already have 750–800 employees.
Johnson: Do you have any parting thoughts?
Einhorn: When I say All-in-One, I’m not looking only on one axis of the services, starting with board design. I’m also looking at technology, starting with the simplest one and ending with the most sophisticated one. I’m talking about a variety of operations and logistics services—our customers can choose one of them, two of them, or have them all if needed. We are very flexible, and we take this All-in-One solution in many directions, not just only in one direction. It can be high volume or low volume, sophisticated or simple from a prototype all the way through mass production.
For mass production, we also give a solution with the Chinese. We took four to five manufacturers in China that are known and capable, and we have partnered with them in a way that we taught them the needed technology to do the circuits for us in higher volume. We are also tracking and auditing the quality management system and products. Let’s say we are manufacturing China, but we set it under our brand. Here’s another direction of All-in-One. You’re not constrained to a Western fab just up until a certain amount.
If your amount breaches this ceiling and you need something to be produced in a low-cost country like China, we can meet your need. I would like to add that we also work in Taiwan, South Korea, and India. It all depends on the type of technology needed.
Johnson: This has been a delight. Thank you, Arik.
Einhorn: Excellent. Thank you.