Orbotech’s Strategic Decision for End-to-End Partnership Benefits Everyone
Barry Matties met with Sharon Cohen, president of Orbotech West, at productronica 2017 to discuss what’s new at Orbotech, specifically their shift to be more customer-centric and to provide regional coverage across the globe. He also discusses the current trends in the marketplace and Industry 4.0.
Barry Matties: Sharon, can you start by telling us a little bit about the show?
Sharon Cohen: First of all, this show has been very successful for us. We expected it to be busy, but it completely exceeded our expectations. We started off with a thank-you dinner for close to 100 of our long term customers and partners. This set the tone for the rest of the show which was both busy and very productive, with more than a hundred meetings each day.
Matties: Were those all pre-arranged meetings, or was a lot of this spontaneous, as well?
Cohen: About 50% of the meetings were pre-arranged, so we expected a busy show. But it ended up being much busier than we expected. It was successful and we got a lot of feedback from our customers and fielded a lot of questions. Our customers shared their plans for moving forward, and of course, we had the opportunity to share our plans as well. So all in all, it was a very productive show.
Matties: What kind of concerns or questions are your customers coming to you with at this time?
Cohen: There’s a lot of focus on increasing productivity and throughput as the world of PCB manufacturing becomes more and more competitive. Our customers want to know how can they improve their production quality and how can they make sure that they remain competitive, not just for the short term but also for the long term. They also want our opinion on the manufacturing trends in China and Asia and how those trends may impact the European and the U.S. market.
Matties: And when they ask about the trends, what sort of response are you giving them?
Cohen: So first of all, in Asia we see a clear move towards mSAP, the modified semi-additive process, with finer lines and additional layers. We see increased HDI participation in other segments as well, such as automotive and more. And we also see those trends coming here in the future. Right now, the Western market is mainly focused on QTAs and prototypes, and they are looking for solutions to improve the turnaround time.
Matties: Here in Europe, I hear reports that the economy is doing quite well. The industry is robust at the moment. I'm guessing that's the same sort of feeling you have as well?
Cohen: Absolutely. Actually, we had a conversation here about an hour ago with a couple of suppliers who also admitted that it was a better year for them than they expected. I can see from our angle, we're working with most of the PCB manufacturers here in Europe. We see a lot of busy shops, a lot of customers trying to increase their capacity. It's a great opportunity for them to explore new technologies, and a great opportunity for us to assist.
Matties: Part of the understanding is that Orbotech is becoming more customer-focused. Tell me about that. What is the strategy now with your customers?
Cohen: True. So first of all, we changed our structure not just to become more customer-friendly, but also to become the best partners we can possibly be to our customers. The process started about a year and a half ago, when we began the restructuring. We shifted to a regional structure to help us create and maintain long-term relationships with our customers and to support their different needs—not just for specific purposes like post-sales or problem solving, but actually so that we could listen better to our customers’ needs and build strong relationships that would enable us to anticipate more and plan together. That was the first phase.
The next stage was the monitoring center. We created capabilities that we could remotely monitor, and that could provide us with actionable intelligence which we use to improve our customers’ experience. I’ll give you an example. We have the ability to know ahead of time if a particular machine is going to need maintenance or a part replaced. We can act on that intelligence and schedule the repair before an error occurs and can even prevent it from happening. These actions provide more flexibility to our customers, since the downtime can be scheduled at their convenience, at a time that will cause the least disruption possible. This is something that we're really proud of, and we're putting a lot of effort into this.
Matties: Orbotech has such insight and a wealth of information, because you're in a lot of different aspects, from imaging and beyond. Your data must just give you such an incredible advantage in product development and customer service. How do you use that data?
Cohen: It ties back in to the technology. Our goal is to increase the capacity and offer better support. We changed the organizational structure, we created the monitoring center, and we're actively supporting the yield of our customers. Last year we introduced the Precise™ 800, our automated optical shaping solution or AOS as we call it. The Precise leverages two incredibly innovative technologies—3D Shaping (3DS) Technology™ and Closed Loop Shaping Technology™—that allow for copper deposition as well as copper ablation, so we can increase the yield and the throughput of our customers. The data allows for partnering on the process, maintaining, and monitoring the performance, and helping at the tail end of the production to make sure that our customers can deliver what they need to their customers.
Matties: You introduced the Precise about a year or so ago. How many installs do you have, and how's that working out?
Cohen: I'm not able to share exact numbers of installation base, but I can say that we're very proud, and very successful.
Matties: But you have it out in the field, and it's being used?
Cohen: Absolutely. We have tens of machines already working in Europe, in the U.S. and, of course, in Asia, where the biggest install base is so far.
Matties: And the feedback from the customers?
Cohen: They love it. It really opens up a whole new set of opportunities. Some of the customers that took a machine for a couple of months for evaluation, only realized how critical it had become to their process after the machine needed a new supply of copper deposition.
Matties: Talk about your regional approach. How does that work?
Cohen: Orbotech West basically covers from Moscow to San Francisco. It's 11 different time zones. Huge territory in geography, but smaller in market size compared to Asia. So we had to come up with the best way to support the countries, and to support our customers. We divided the area into six regions and two territories. In America, we have the West Coast, Central, and East Coast. In Europe, we have North, Central, and South. Every region has its own Regional Manager and team of engineers, multifunctional and multi-technology support, from DI, AOI, AOS, additive printing solutions (APS), and software. Every territory has its overall territory manager that the regional managers report to.
On top of that, we've established a new team called the Experts Team that basically covers the entire territory of Orbotech West, and supports the different regions by introducing new technologies, solving complicated challenges, advising and so on. We have process engineers, technical engineers in the LDI and AOI software, Industry 4.0. We’ve really created a powerful team that enables every region to be independent, and improves the overall performance of territory as a team.
Matties: The R&D that you do at Orbotech is phenomenal and you invest a lot of money into it. Can you share a bit about some of the projects that you have on the table?
Cohen: Orbotech invests between 12−14% of our turnover into R&D. We see that as a strategic investment. That's what we do. That's what keeps us far ahead of our competition, in PCB manufacturing, DI, AOI, AOS, and all those areas. We introduce new technologies every year. This year, in the West, we introduced the Precise for AOS and the Orbotech Diamond™ 8. The Orbotech Diamond is our first dedicated direct imaging solution for solder mask. These two technologies were a major focus for us. At the same time, towards the end of 2017 in Asia, we introduced a new AOI called Ultra Dimension™, which we’ll introduce to the Western market at IPC APEX EXPO 2018. The Ultra Dimension offers four solutions in one, including remote multi-image verification that provides our customers with improvements in quality, yield and cost efficiency. Of course, we're always working to introduce more. There’s a lot look forward to!
Matties: Just a few years ago, we could count the number of direct imaging machines on one hand. Today, in this show, there are 16 or 18 different options. But yours went after speed, and really, the high volume in China. I think you guys were printing in 12 seconds, if I recall right. Tell me about the direct imaging market, and some of the evolutions or progressions that you see there.
Cohen: In the direct imaging market, Orbotech always had unique technologies based on multiwave lasers and large scan optics that defined our direction. We're focused on the depth of focus (DoF), which is critical in printing PCBs, and of course, the throughput and the quality of imaging. We do have competitors and most of them are pretty comparable as they all use the same technology. Our solutions are based on different proprietary technologies which we believe are better. We have the SolderFast technology on the Diamond, and the LSO on the Nuvogos. We took the Orbotech power, so to speak, and implemented it into much higher throughput in the solder mask. But all in all, we're focusing on our unique technologies, which form the basis of our competitive advantage in the past, today, and into the future. That is clear to us from our sales and implementation.
Matties: The fact that you have multiple disciplines, from inspection, to the Precise, to the solder mask, and direct imaging, gives an advantage as well; people can buy a package of technology from a single source.
Cohen: It's true, but it's actually much more than that. With the focus today on Industry 4.0, and the connection between the different parts of manufacturing into one central database, there are interfaces and interconnections between the different departments. The fact that Orbotech is part of so many processes in the plant, in the manufacturing line, gives us a huge advantage to help our customers implement Industry 4.0 capabilities. That's part of our focus here at the show as well, because we offer our own solution for Industry 4.0.
Matties: What advice would you give a fabricator who is really looking to bring in Industry 4.0, and improve the yields in their factory?
Cohen: First of all, the best advice is to consult with a company that implements those solutions, and understand what is available today and what can be implemented. As with any other technology, Industry 4.0 is picking up. Every year, we see more and more options available. So, it's not only important to know what's available today, but also which direction is most suitable for that fabricator. I think that we at Orbotech have enough experience to be that partner. I'm sure there are others, but we're very proud of what we're offering.
Matties: There are many interpretations and definitions of 4.0, as you know. From your perspective, what does the term mean?
Cohen: I agree, there are different interpretations. What we're focusing on is smart data management, automation, and the connection with the automation. We’re really looking at the entire process as a whole to enable better manufacturing decisions at every point. We've invested in reports, in tools, and in communication channels to improve the yield and to improve/increase the quality. Of course, all this is with an emphasis on traceability, 2D barcoding, and all the other elements that are a part of that. But in the end, we're focusing and providing high quality data in a useful way.
Matties: What's your background, Sharon?
Cohen: My background is marketing. I started with an electronic defense company, then I moved to 3M, and joined Orbotech, this industry is fascinating.
Matties: What's the favorite part of your job?
Cohen: Meeting new people, I would say. This industry is amazing, and the show is a great opportunity to meet so many people from so many different facilities, different languages, different cultures, all trying to do one thing, and that's to provide the best service to their customers. It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to spend time with those people, and I enjoy every minute of it.
Matties: It is amazing. I've been in this industry for 35 years now. It's hard to believe. So, after one year, what's your general impression about the industry?
Cohen: That it's a very committed industry. People in this industry are in it for the long run. They've done this for years, and they're going to do it for years to come. That's what we do. And it's inspiring to see the relationships. I'm looking at Orbotech people. Most of our engineers, and the Orbotech employees in the West have been with us for more than 15 years. It says a lot about them and about us. And they're still enthusiastic about what they're doing. It's remarkable.
Matties: Part of it though is, when you're in a company that's stagnant, if you will, it’s boring. But Orbotech is constantly innovating. Constantly bringing new concepts, and a friendlier and more partner-oriented strategy. I think that was a welcome change, because our surveys indicated there were a lot of upset people who felt like the only choice was Orbotech, and it was a bittersweet decision kind of thing. I'm glad to hear that you guys are working on that aspect of it.
Cohen: And I can share with you that we see the results and we're getting very positive feedback. I personally receive emails and phone calls from CEOs of companies that are thankful for the change. They see the commitment. They see the different mindset. And it's a change in focus. We’ve always had the people. We’ve always had the technology. I think what we missed was the focus on that aspect, and I'm happy that that's what we're doing today.
Matties: Well, it comes down to the leadership. The leadership has to make that decision to be this type of company.
Cohen: True, but I think it's part of the Orbotech way, because Orbotech’s direction is to work from the design phase to production, to be partners from the beginning of the process until the end of it. To do that, there's no other way but to be better partners. And this is, as we say, the language of electronics. We read, write, and connect, that's what we do. We're everywhere from the beginning to the end, and that's true partnership for us.
Matties: It seems like good things are happening for Orbotech.
Cohen: It is exciting times for Orbotech. We had a fantastic year, by the way. Orbotech, in general, just did very well.
Matties: Let me ask you, getting back to the monitoring center. That got my attention. How does that work? Is it 24-hour monitoring of a process, and you're actually monitoring how effectively the machine is working, how their yields are, and then you're giving them feedback?
Cohen: Not just that. So, for several years, I would say three or four years, we had the ability to look into the history of a machine, into the log files, and see what went wrong. So for instance, a direct imaging machine is able to send a report to a server every night. When there was a problem, for example a drop in efficiency, we used to look back into the log, understand what went wrong, and then come and fix it. That's what we used to do.
What we decided to do different this year in Orbotech West, was to take the data and look at it proactively. Not to wait until something went wrong and only then look at it, but to read the logs all the time on a continuous basis, automatically, based on our proprietary software, and identify problems before they have actual impact in the field. We have people in Boston reviewing the data for all of our customers, all of our machines, that are connected to the service. And that enables us to anticipate reactions, so we can say, "Okay, if X is happening now, then in three or four weeks we should anticipate that Y will happen, so we need to work on that right now." And that's what we're doing.
Matties: So, it becomes predictive.
Cohen: Predictive analytics. That's exactly what it is.
Matties: That's a really valuable service for your customers.
Cohen: I agree. It has tremendous value, and it looks good, too.
Matties: Sharon, thank you so much for spending time with us today. I appreciate it.
Cohen: Thank you very much.