Francis Tsoi on the Future: What's in Store for Technology, Automation in China's PCB Industry?

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Starkey: PCB manufacturing is a very complicated process with many different operations. It won't be an easy job to automate it.

Tsoi: We'll analyze what kind of processes can be replaced by the mechanical robot and how to design an integrated process, making it simpler, with handling by machine robot. That is possible; in different steps we can change from the human to the robot, and also make the production become more effective and more efficient.

Starkey: You are in a very interesting position because you are supplying a whole range of different capital equipment to this marketplace.

Tsoi: Yes, that's why we have a very strong engineering team, sales team and after-sales service team in the China market in order to meet our customers’ needs—to work hand-in-hand in upgrading their factories to increase automation and become more systematic, as well.

Starkey: Do you see that a day will come when we have fully automated PCB production? Do you see that as a reality in the future?

Tsoi: Yes, I think so. People are already doing it step by step and going in this direction. And I know that some other industries, for example electrical appliances like air conditioners, are close to having fully automated factories. So I think it is possible. It's not a problem.

Starkey: The forecast for the world PCB industry is that it will continue to decline slightly until the middle of 2016 and then perhaps it will start to turn and probably become positive at the beginning of 2017.

Tsoi: I think that for single-sided and double-sided there will be no more margin, or even a loss, if they continue to produce it. But for the higher-end products, I understand from what my customers tell me that the prices will continue to go down every quarter. The point is, if they want to survive they must not consider just the selling price, but their production cost, their running cost, their material cost—everything, in order to maintain a margin. Then they can still earn money.

Starkey: If PCB manufacturers look into the longer term future and start investing for the long term future do they have the financial resource to support that investment?

Tsoi: From the financial point of view, as I have already said, some companies are going to public lease. But taking the example of the robot, the government offers support, and can sponsor the company to reduce its labor costs.  And regarding funding, the government encourages the banks to release funds to manufacturers to help them overcome the hard times. That is the trend in China. We see the market as being tough, but we still can see the way the industry needs to go.

Starkey: Francis, I very much appreciate you sharing your knowledge and your future vision with us. Thank you very much indeed for your time.

Tsoi: Thank you. You’re welcome.


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