Viking Test Services: Much More than Test

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Matties: How does the partnership work? Are they manufacturing equipment for your brand name? Tell me about that.

Kelly: No, it is just UCE. I have never thought of branding it as a Viking, because I don't need to. I think the UCE name has come from almost nothing in Europe to a very well respected name now in the last six or seven years since we've been working with them. We've sold to some big companies.

Matties: Are they taking your designs and building them? I'm not quite sure I fully understand the partnership.

Kelly: We're a sales and support partner, an agency/distributor, but we have introduced them definitely to some different design concepts that they weren't aware of so much before. Our engineers have gone to China today and we're there to buy-off on some lines that we've got in build at the moment that are coming here to Europe. Part of the visit will be talking to their top manager about new features that we need to be put onto the line. Definitely their technology has increased a little bit since they’ve been working together with Viking.

Matties: You sell their product lines, you help influence the design, and what territories do you sell in for that product line?

Kelly: Europe and India.

Pete Starkey: What are your thoughts on the Indian market?

Kelly: I'm really excited by India, actually. This all came about when I was looking for a sales manager to help Viking grow in Europe specifically, and I advertised about a year ago. I wanted to replicate what Viking is doing in the UK in Germany, because we've got 80% of the market in the UK now for wet process equipment. There's no reason why we can't do that in Germany and other European countries, but Germany was the focus market. I advertised for a European sales manager and a lady by the name of Veena Bopanno applied; she is Indian. She's been in the PCB industry 25+ years and started her career at ATNS in India. She then moved to ATNS in Austria, and she's been with us for the last year.

It wasn't the path I was looking at by any means; it's just the path that we've gone down. She's been focusing on India, and we've developed some strong sales in India already. Better than that, it's the projects that we're working on now that some big contract electronics manufacturers have moved to India in the last couple of years. With India’s enormous defense budget and the new Indian incentive ‘Make in India,’ the growth in electronics in general is enormous. Our segment of that is PCBs, and we're working on some complete turnkey projects now. I've probably got eight on the go at the moment at various different stages of developments and at various different sizes, ranging from relatively small, high technology plants, to enormous mobile phone plants that have been rated as some of the largest in the world.

Starkey: That's great news.

Kelly: Yeah, it is. It's fantastic.

Starkey: That would really add to your total revenue and give you a nice boost.

Kelly: If we get them it will be company changing. We've opened an office to support what we're doing there and we’ve joined the IPC and some other trade organizations there. We've taken on local staff, and we're heavily involved now in what we're doing. We're actually going to be setting up a lab as well. Because again, we want to do it similar to how we're doing here at Viking in the UK. We don't just want to be a guy sitting in an office with a suit and tie selling equipment—we need to do more than that.

The Indian market has struggled because people have gone in and sold equipment, but there's been no service and support, so if the companies that buy equipment want service it has to come from China, Japan, or Europe. It's costly, it's expensive, and so it doesn't actually help them. We need to be there with trained staff to service and support and do the job correctly, so that's what we're involved in now. We've got training programs and we're in the process of setting up a high-reliability test lab as well. We're going to do proper reliability testing on finished boards. There's only three or four labs of this type in the world. We want to set up in India, where there's a market there for it. It won't be just for Indian customers, the boards will come in from all over the world to do that. That will just further show what we're doing for the market.

Starkey: You certainly are putting together a strong team with a lot of capability. How many people do you have working for you now?

Kelly: Approximately 20, worldwide. We've got an office in China as well, where we've got two people working.

Starkey: What do you think of the China market?

Kelly: I hear that PCB manufacturing has slowed slightly, but I don't see that because I'm not there. From our point of view, the equipment that we're getting is the same quality. If it's slowed slightly in China, if anything I should get a faster delivery of the equipment that we’re buying. All I can say is it doesn't seem to have affected our major suppliers. For wet process, UCE is only our supplier, but we work with cut sheet laminators, we work with drilling and routing equipment, UV exposure machines, so there's a whole range. They're carrying on as strong as normal.

Matties: When people think of Viking Test, what is it that they should recognize your company as? A sales and distributor, a service, a manufacturer? Because we saw on the tour downstairs that you do spindle repair and equipment refurbishing as well.

Kelly: I suppose we have got a broad portfolio of equipment and services now.




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