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News from the USA

27 January 2016

Ventec International Group grow US Technical Team with the appointment of Mark Nemecek

Ventec have announced the appointment of Mark Nemecek to their United States technical team.

 Mark Nemecek joins the US team as Technical Sales Engineer and will be providing engineering support activities to Ventec’s growing US customer base. Mark is widely recognized for his strong track record and over 30 years’ experience with material and chemistry aspects of the printed circuits industry.

Mark developed his extensive knowledge of PCB base materials during his 7-year employment at Polyclad Laminates – a manufacturer of laminate and prepreg materials to the PWB and electronics packaging industry – first as Technical Service Engineer and then as Process Engineer. His in-depth technical understanding of Ventec products was built through his role as Technical Manager at Global Laminates where he oversaw all technical aspects of the introduction of the Ventec product line to North America, set up and maintained the prepreg fab operation, sheeting, tooling and packaging at the Global Laminate’s warehouse, and defined & policed all corresponding operational procedures.

Among his previous roles, Mark worked on a plating line for Photocircuits and holds a Six Sigma Green Belt Certification. He has also completed Lean Manufacturing training.

Jack Pattie, President, Ventec USA, commented: “Ventec’s technical team is one of the best in the industry. We set a stringent standard when it comes to our technical engineers and carefully select them to ensure we offer our customers the most up-to-date and concise technical information and support which is fundamental to their business success.

We look forward to seeing this service continue to grow.”

 

Apple’s Iron Grip on Our Smartphone World

Ewan Spence – Forbes.

I look at the impact of mobile technology and online media.

How much influence does Apple have over not just its own supply chain, but the supply chains that cover the major smartphone manufacturing lines? What leverage does that offer Apple over the mobile ecosystem? Recent financial guidance from a number of component manufacturers highlight Apple’s potential.

Chip manufacturer TSMC’s quarterly guidance is suggesting an 11 percent drop in profits. Smartphone camera manufacturer Largan Precision is expecting a “weak first quarter”. Metal casing manufactuer Catcher Technology is looking at flat results year-on-year for the first half of the year.

Much of the Q1 guidance from suppliers suggests a slowdown in manufacturing by a major player such as Apple. This ties in with the report that lower demand for the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus at the end of last year has left an over-supply in Apple’s supply chain that means production has to be scaled back .

All of these component manufacturers are expecting a stronger second half of the year with increased demand for their components in ‘high-end smartphones’. Given the common company name in all of these companies (and many more) is Apple, you can see that the presumptively titled iPhone 7 is not only a key part of Apple’s annual revenue, but also that of many companies in the supply chain.

That hands a tremendous amount of power and leverage to Apple.

It has been acknowledged that Tim Cook’s mastery of supply chain magic was one of the key features that helped Apple become established as the company that claims the lion’s share of profits from the smartphone ecosystem. Implementations of just-in-time delivery and removing as much slack in the system as possible delivered increased margins and profits under Steve Jobs. Now that Cook is CEO, the supply chain control has increased, and that makes many companies vulnerable to the whims and decisions of Apple.

TSMC is expecting demand for its silicon to rise up again the second half of the year, driven in part by its new InFO technology which allows tighter packaging of chips on a circuit board, allowing for thinner circuit boards. Indications are that Apple has chosen TSMC to supply the A10 chips for the iPhone 7 over Samsung, allowing TSMC’s numbers to rise. It also means Samsung can expect ‘tougher trading conditions’ for its chip business because of the loss of this order.

While there are other smartphone manufacturers out there, the volume of Apple’s buying power is significant. If Cook wished to distort the market he would have the economic levers to do so.

It certainly gives Apple power over new technology, how it is implemented, and the demands that are placed on the component manufacturers. The saga over the manufacturing capabilities of GT Advanced and Apple’s order for high-quality sapphire glass is one such example of the demands that Cupertino can make and the lengths that suppliers must go to in such a deal. As smartphone handset prices are driven towards commodity levels, Apple’s volume and higher retail price offers larger and more attractive deals to many companies. These can have a significant impact on balance sheets, and unbalance any negotiations heavily into Apple’s favour.

When you talk about the power to define a market such as the smartphone market, this is the sort of power that needs to be recognised. Apple has the power to shape the market, reduce its bill of materials, and weaken the competition.

Apple is going to come up with designs and ideas that component manufacturers have to accommodate to get the big orders required for their own financial growth. That leaves component manufacturers more focused on Apple’s deliverables, so Apple’s ideas invariably are those that shape the market and will be offered to other devices.

Apple can drive its own costs down through the competitive market far more effectively than any other smartphone manufacturer (perhaps with the exception of Samsung in certain areas). The volume it offers is incredibly tempting, and there will always be competition in the bids from suppliers in the same area eager to land the order.

And the use of any new technology is likely to have a period of exclusivity applied to it. That means Apple can limit the appearance of certain technologies on rival handsets, or force the competition to look at spending budget R&D budgets to design weaker alternatives in terms of capability or usability.

 

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