SMT’s strategy revolves around early-stage product design aimed at
reducing manufacturing costs and boosting product quality, said Paul
Vander Maazen, SMT’s sales and marketing vice president. Company
engineers are “designing the labor out” of what are currently
labor-intensive manufacturing processes, he explained.
Hence, the old
conundrum: Does the adoption of flexible design and manufacturing
processes as a way of competing with Chinese manufacturers ultimately
reduce the number of U.S. high-tech manufacturing jobs? Probably. Still,
Vander Maazen said SMT is hiring, acquiring and always looking to
“You can’t be a stagnant company,” a philosophy that the Escatec deal illustrates, Vander Maazen stressed.
catering to smaller customers that larger EMS providers tend to
overlook, SMT’s design engineering arm offers consulting services for
such heavy hitters as Freescale Semiconductor, Microchip and Texas
Instruments. Among the company’s current projects are designs for the
programmable touch screens used to control a McDonald’s smoothie machine
and Kohler bathroom fixtures like controls panels for high-end shower
SMT also claims it has brought back to the U.S. designs for components and products previously made in China.
Greg Burneske, SMT’s chief engineer, said the best (and brightest) example
is a production-ready LED module for high-end flashlights used by police
and firefighters. The assemblies produce more light and less heat than
previous versions, and the flashlights themselves cost about $80 each.
SMT chief engineer Greg Burneske holds LED modules that used to be made in China.
its part, Kingdon said Escatec is helping several western companies
that want to leave China despite the fact that Chinese partners will
retain documentation and other specs for making their products. “Some
are willing to pay the price of redoing their specs” and other penalties
in order to leave China, Kingdon noted.
While U.S. and European
EMS providers probably can’t by themselves compete with the Chinese
electronics manufacturing juggernaut, partnerships between contract
manufacturers like Escatec and Surface Mount Technology appear to be one
viable option for competing in the global electronics manufacturing
Would Kurzarbeit work here?
Manufacturing by design: New skills needed to compete
Time to play hard ball on tech manufacturing