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We recently met with Nathan Martin, group purchasing director, and Jean-Christophe Miralles, supply chain director for Europe and U.S. at ICAPE Group. This wide-ranging conversation dug into market drivers, supply chain challenges, and how ICAPE Group creates consistency on its manufacturing floor.
Complementing the supply chain control is ICAPE Group’s engineering expertise, which it uses to increase customer yields and quality. Corporate sustainability is a key strategic initiative for ICAPE Group, and it was enlightening to learn just how holistic their approach to sustainability is.
Nolan Johnson: It seems that you can’t be in this market right now without encountering interesting dynamics. What is the point of view at ICAPE Group?
Nathan Martin: There is so much we can talk about. We follow general trends, read industry reports like Prismark, as well as all the daily reviews online and offline about the market. But we have our own truths at ICAPE Group because we are in the machine, and it’s a little different than what you might read or see on the news.
Johnson: Let’s start with inbound materials, meaning laminate, chemistries, etc. How is the supply chain in your fabrication facilities? What are you seeing on the market as far as availability or new products?
Martin: As a purchasing guy, no matter what the topic is, the key is to look at supply and demand. There is a cycle in every single industry. At some point, you have a crisis. Let’s say we go back to the pre-pandemic status and look at what we do on a daily basis. I monitor our RFQs internally—what we get from the customer—as this demonstrates what a PCB or copper-clad laminate manufacturer would receive. That is the kind of monitoring we do. Right now, the situation is back to pre-pandemic status. There is no crazy shortage of copper-clad laminate. Everything is available, and the price is more or less back to what it was.
You can disregard other factors such as the increase in copper, because there is always demand and supply, and China creates such huge production facilities. If you look at Prismark, you see that H2 is not as good as H1. They need to sell everything now when the demand is a little less than what it was, then it’s easier for us to access.
Johnson: That’s good for the supply side now. But is customer demand for product down?
Martin: If you look at the overall data from industry reports, it’s increasing, but ICAPE Group’s percentage is higher than the forecast in those reports. If you look at the first half of 2022 compared to the first half of 2021, ICAPE’s sales revenues as a group increased by 51%. That’s not what is happening in the market. Our increases are due to specific investments and our IPO because we became a listed company in Paris in July. We did some M&As this year, but to be honest, the market in the second half is not as good as the first half.
Jean-Christophe Miralles: This is mainly because there was a pre-pandemic vs. a pandemic period where people were stocking up. Prices went up, but we have direct contact with the laminate producers, which are the suppliers of our partner factories. It’s a very interesting insight for us. Today, demand is declining because companies still have inventory and therefore don't order as much, but demand will come back. In terms of revenue, it’s still good, but in terms of quantities, not as much.
To read the rest of this interview, which appeared in the November 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.