Yellowasp PCB Offers Intelligent Added-Value Service

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To the south-east of Manila, the skyscrapers rise majestically on the sky-line of Makati City, the financial and commercial hub of the Philippines, home to the headquarters of many international companies. In an imposing glass-fronted office building, a dedicated group of engineering professionals provide comprehensive front-end support to printed circuit manufacturers world-wide, under the name Yellowasp PCB Services.

PCB007 asked Managing Director Colin Smithson about the company, its history, its culture, its capability and its approach to the market.

PCB007: What were the origins of Yellowasp?

CS: Yellowasp (originally YellowASP--Application Service Provider--people called it "Yellow Wasp," so we the adapted the name, and adopted the wasp emblem) was founded in 2000, to provide offshore IT and programming services to foreign businesses. The principal activity of Yellowasp Corporation now is the provision of customized Web sites to fit clients' specific commercial objectives. Yellowasp PCB Services was formed as an independent business in 2003, specifically to provide offshore front-end engineering services, initially to UK, then progressively to European and North American customers.

PCB007: Why set up shop in the Philippines?

CS: Pretty logical really. The Philippines has the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia, and electronics is the leading contributor. Many international electronics companies have set up manufacturing facilities, encouraged by geographical location, low labor and production costs, government incentives and skillful workers, and a lot of good PCB engineers gained their experience working for bare board fabricators like Daeduck and Photocircuits. In the Phillipines, English is the dominant language in business, government, the sciences and education, and the Filipinos have an outstanding reputation for their communications skills.

PCB007: How big are you?

CS: Quite small actually--there are about two dozen of us. Sebastien Caudron and I own and manage the company, and then we have accounts, HR and nineteen engineers, all graduates, plus a Java programmer for Hypertools and a Genesis programmer for scripting. We have a very stable workforce, and over a third of our engineers have been with us for more than three years.

PCB007: And what equipment do you have?

CS: Six seats of Valor Genesis and four seats of Barco Ucam, which we work on a two-shift system to give us twenty hours cover.

PCB007: How do your hours relate to working hours in Europe and the U.S.?

CS: Local time Manila is GMT+8, and our shift pattern gives us the benefit of being able to communicate in real time with normal day-time hours in Europe and the U.S., as well as being able to process jobs effectively overnight from the customer's viewpoint.

PCB007: So what are your technical skills, and what range of services do you offer?

CS: This could take a long time to answer; I'll try to give you the abridged version. In essence, the customer provides the PCB design files and Yellowasp PCB Services returns the choice of: specified information in customer-defined format to allow for accurate job quotation; "cleaned" data to customer-defined specification in ODB++ or DPF format ready for in-house design-rule-check or design-for-manufacture analysis and penalization; "cleaned" and DRC/DFM checked data to customer-defined specification in ODB++ or CPF format; or a full package of plot-ready files, drill and rout programs, and AOI and electrical test reference files. Basically, we can do as little or as much as the customer wants us to do--from basic data preparation to a complete tooling package, personalized to fit his or her individual requirements.

PCB007: And how do you determine those individual requirements with a new customer?

CS: This is a careful and systematic process. We are very conscious of our responsibility to the customer, and of the consequences of getting the details wrong through errors in communication. We begin by evaluating and processing a test job, in close consultation with the customer, to discover anything that might cause future problems; and to determine how well we can build a line of one-to-one communication with the customer's engineers so that any problems can be resolved. Only when we are confident that the relationship will work do we proceed to the "familiarization" phase, during which we perfect our operation and communication methods with the customer on a series of standard lead-time jobs. This familiarization stage will last as long as necessary to build up confidence and trust in each other. We can then start to operate commercially, either on a jobbing basis or by contract agreement where a dedicated engineer is consigned to the customer for a specified number of hours per month. Our expertise in scripting and Java Hypertooling allows us to automate customer-specific routines for increased throughput and guaranteed consistency.

PCB007: What is your quality system and what results are you achieving?

CS: We have a comprehensive quality management system and ISO9001 accreditation. In terms of our performance, we count "production errors" as those identified and corrected internally and "critical errors" as those reported by customers. During the last three months, of 2,913 jobs processed we recorded a total of 91 production errors and five critical errors. We have a continuous improvement program in place, and we are progressively reducing the incidence of errors. In almost every case, the errors originate from imperfect communication of customer data and requirement. Dare I say that we are in the business of trying to perfect a system of understanding exactly what the customer wants even when he doesn't really know himself!

PCB007: So, in the end analysis, what are the real commercial benefits to your customers?

CS: Obviously an overall cost saving, but, more specifically, the conversion of fixed costs to variable costs; flexibility in capacity to manage bottlenecks and smooth-out production, with a consequent reduction in overtime costs; reduction in capital expenditure for systems, software and upgrades; and using the time difference to our advantage to provide an overnight tooling facility. We look upon ourselves as providing an intelligent added value service to the printed circuit manufacturing industry.

PCB007: Thank you.

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