By Terho Koivisto – Country Manager Finland, Elmatica
Last autumn I moved out of my 25-year long comfort zone and started a new job. A small step for youngsters, a giant step for a mature “dinosaur” in the industry like me. So, how has this first quarter as Country Manager for Printed Circuit Broker Elmatica been, and what is the happening in the industry?
There is no doubt that a lot has changed in the PCB industry since I joined in the beginning of the 90ties. Back then there were more than 1000 manufacturers of PCB in Europe. You had the whole specter, from larger industry groups with several facilities to tiny “backyard” companies. Every customer had their own local “preferred” supplier – in most cases the local manufacturer.
From the customers perspective
In the 90ties, Elmatica had already existed for decades. Then as now, they were able to supply customers with more advanced PCBs, procuring complex technology from various manufacturers, supplying alternatives to what the local preferred supplier was able to provide.
So, how does this all look from a customer perspective? What is it the customer really wants? In a dream scenario: cheap, preferably free PCBs, delivered yesterday and without any EQ:s despite how inadequate the documents delivered are, and of course zero defect.
Why use a broker?
On time delivery, quality, competitive pricing, good communication is still king, but more and more customers also request technical assistance, training and full handling by a transparent 2nd party. We recognize that customers request more and more the capability to access data digitally and transfer data to reduce manual handling and consequently costs. Maybe that’s why the desire for a broker in the procurement process is increasing?
There are a couple of reasons why a customer involves a broker in the purchasing process. One, a broader portfolio allows a purchase of any kind of printed circuits, with one point of contact for the customer.
Two, smoother communication, no need to relate to all involved in all aspects of the delivery, hence saving time and accessing external knowledge. Three, “right” cost. Cost is always a factor. By manufacturing your printed circuits at the most suitable location in relation to your product, demand, documentation and risk portfolio, we secure this. Last, but not least: Knowledge and experience provide our customers with the security to make the right decision.
Some things stays the same
I have the last months learned a lot. Luckily, some things still stay the same. Sales processes, trip planning, meetings with the customers and presentations are pretty much the same, no matter if you represent a manufacturer or a broker. The biggest difference is what we can offer and what is available. Not only in terms of printed circuits but also in education and training for customers.
My product range is now broader, which of course makes the salesman’s work somewhat more exciting. I know my rigid boards by heart, now I have learned more about flex and rigid-flex. In addition to the product portfolio, I have these last months experienced a huge leap in digital sales- and CRM-tools. Suddenly I was moved from the 19th century to 2017. What a great feeling!
Even if certain aspects of PCB production might be similar for several processes, the standards developed by IPC for the various steps will be, in my opinion even more important as time goes by. I am very impressed by all the work conducted by Elmatica in this field. Participation in various IPC committees both as member and chair. Last year we even launched the initiative to have the whole industry talk the same language – CircuitData. Not heard of it yet? Check it out: www.circuitdata.org
2018 might be the year of change!
The smell of PCB in the morning
Someone knowing me well, might wonder: ”Don’t you miss anything from the past?”. Yes, actually I do.
Discussions around the coffee-machine, lunch breaks and the smell of PCB manufacturing. Luckily we have Skype, digital hangouts, and the good, old phone call. As a salesman, the best thing is still to hit the road and visit the customers. Visiting our various suppliers globally will fill up my demand for pure PCB-smell in the morning, and my colleagues at Elmatica are experienced and able to support me with answers to my questions. Challenges are always great, it keeps you on the edge.
For those who know me by heart. I will let you know when I have the feeling that Apple products are better to use than the ones from Windows and Android. And if you were wondering, yes, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks.
And it’s not me on the top. 😉
Have a great 2018.