SAN JOSE -- While most of its competitors are reeling in the downturn, SZ Testsysteme AG of Germany believes it is bucking the worldwide recession in the automation test equipment (ATE) business.
The supplier of mixed-signal ATE systems is actually expanding its business in spite of the severe slump in IC markets. The Amerang-based company has recently broken ground on a new production plant in Germany. It also has expanded its San Jose-based U.S. operations, and the test supplier has reported 44% growth in revenues for the first nine months of its fiscal 2001 compared to last year.
At next week's Semicon West trade in San Jose, the company is planning the U.S. introduction of a new high-end tester for mixed-signal ICs. The new M3900 Kodiak is aimed at advanced analog and mixed-signal devices used in communications, consumer, and automotive systems.
The new tester features a total of 448 pins, including 384 digital pins with 200-MHz pattern rate and 64 analog pins with +/-100 volts. A key feature on the system is the expanded multi-site test capability, which supports up to 32 sites. The company did not provide pricing information on the new system.
SZ Testsysteme has been in the ATE business for 23 years, but the German company is not as well known as its U.S. rivals in North America. The company did not enter the U.S. market until 1993.
"In the beginning, we mainly focused on Europe," said Raj Puri, vice president of marketing for SZ Testsysteme's U.S. subsidiary in San Jose. "We still consider ourselves as newcomers in the U.S.," added Puri in an interview this week.
But still, SZ Testsysteme believes it is quietly making inroads in the U.S. automatic test equipment market. It now claims to derive nearly half of its business form the U.S. market with the rest divided between Europe and Asia.
In the first three months of this year, ended March 31, SZ Testsysteme reported a profit of DM 4.7 million ($2.1) on sales of DM 33.8 million ($14.8 million). This compares to a profit of DM 1.7 million ($746,000) on sales of DM17.3 million ($7.6 million) in the same period last year.
However, SZ Testsysteme remains cautious about the future. Like all other ATE vendors, the company is experiencing a slowdown. SZ Testsysteme reported last week that sales sequentially dropped 17% to DM 28.0 million ($12.3 million) in the fiscal quarter ended June 30, compared to DM 33.8 million in the prior quarter. Orders in the company's just-ended fiscal third quarter were also down from the prior year--DM 5.1 million vs. DM 11.2 million.
But the managers at SZ Testsysteme believe the company's focus on analog and mixed-signal ATE will help pull the company through one of the industry's worst downturns ever. "We've primarily focused on the analog market," Puri said. "The analog market has been relatively stable, as compared to the digital market," he added.
In fact, growth in the analog and mixed-signal ATE business prompted the company to expand its operations. In March, it broke ground on a new 9,500-square-foot manufacturing site in Amerang, near Wasserburg, Germany. Production will begin in 2002.
Recently, it established a new support center in Portland, Ore. It also has similar sites in California, Florida, New Hampshire, and Texas. "We're adding staff," Puri said. "We will continue to make inroads in the U.S."