Vol. 11, No. 5: May 2001
Table of Contents
China Gaining Ground in EMS Competition
As a location for contract manufacturing, China has been around since the 1980s. But lately, the region has seen a surge in EMS activity. In a survey of 16 EMS providers, MMI found that four of them have come into China since 1999. And despite the downturn, at least nine have expansion projects underway or planned (see tables, below).
Why is China growing more popular among OEMs with products to outsource? The answer, or at least a big part of it, comes down to cost. According to SCI Systems, the landed cost of goods made in China is now competitive in major global markets versus more localized sources. “Cost in almost all manufacturing locations including the low-cost locations is higher than it used to be,” explains Gene Sapp, SCI’s chairman and CEO. “So there have been some increases in cost in some of the more traditional locations such as Central Europe, Mexico and others.” Sapp confirms that labor costs in Central Europe and Mexico have gone up relative to those in China.
In the past, the knock on China had always been that although China had one of the world’s lowest labor rates, the cost of landing a product in the US or Europe would often tip the scales against sourcing in China. In addition to shipping charges from China, one would have to figure in hidden costs such as the need to put more inventory in the pipeline. Now “when you add the landing cost, China has gotten more competitive because the relative cost almost anywhere in the world is such that the cost of manufacturing in China is just that low,” says Sapp.
Manufacturers’ Services Ltd. attributes China’s rising popularity to one thing – direct labor (DL) cost. “If you look at Central Europe, which was pretty hot for awhile, and you look at Mexico, which was pretty hot, the DL labor costs have risen exponentially in both of those locations. Pretty soon, Central Europe and even potentially parts of Eastern Europe and Mexico will be pricing themselves out of the game,” says Steve Schultz, MSL’s VP of marketing and communications.
“We’ve found that the DL labor [cost] difference between Mexico and the US and between Central Europe and Western Europe is not as significant as it used to be. China is one of the few places right now where you can still find a significantly lower direct labor price,” Schultz remarks.
Locally supplied materials also present another source of cost savings in China, if they too can be produced at lower costs. Clearly, the supply base infrastructure in China has improved as capabilities grow for the production of such items as bare PCBs, plastics, enclosures, battery packs, LCDs and wireless components (see tables).
Not only have the economics of manufacturing in China changed, but so has the product mix. For years, China was a haven for the manufacture of consumer electronics. Now one finds a greater variety of products contract manufactured there (tables). In particular, nine providers in the MMI survey reported that they support some sort of telecom product from operations in China.
Indeed, the overall market for telecommunications in China is growing, according to Elcoteq Network. To develop telecom business in China in the most effective way, most OEMs in Europe and Japan are eager to outsource their production and materials purchasing activities in China, reports Elcoteq.
For Sanmina, the growth of its business in China can be attributed to its design and manufacturing expertise in the telecom sector and its customers’ growing requirements for local manufacturing and design solutions, according to PK Chan, senior VP, Sanmina Asia. “As the western part of China continues to be developed, the need for telecommunications infrastructure equipment will grow and create additional opportunities for Sanmina,” says Chan.
But exporting contract manufactured goods is still the main mission at providers such as Flextronics. More than 85% of the company’s total output in China is exported to the US, Europe and Asia.
The ability to build a wider array of products in China rests on having the technology to accommodate them. Manufacturing technology in China has come a long way and in some cases is state of the art. Nam Tai Electronics’ new building in Shenzhen includes a cleanroom to house its chip on glass and chip on board equipment. And Surface Mount Technology (Holdings) Ltd. plans to install flip-chip assembly lines this year at its Dongguan site.
Of course, not every product is a good fit for China. Bulky products with higher shipping costs make China less competitive, as do products with lots of engineering changes.
Still, as China gains EMS customers and outsourced products, the rules about product sourcing are being rewritten. OEMs will no longer assume that a short pipeline combined with a low-cost manufacturing site will yield the lowest landed cost.
Editors note: Companies in the tables are those who participated in the China survey. They do not represent a complete list of EMS providers with manufacturing in China.
Japan Restarts Cycle of OEMs in Contract Mfg.
Has another US-based OEM reached the end of the cycle?
An OEM’s willingness to try contract manufacturing says a lot about where its region stands with respect to outsourcing. When the US EMS market was in its formative stages, a number of OEMs entered the EMS business, only to withdraw or sell out later. Some OEM managers believed that if they could load up their plants with outside work, there would be no need to sell their operations. Now this is happening again, but in Japan.
Japan’s NEC recently made news by announcing plans to utilize plants for outside work. But Kimio Inagaki, VP and GM of the Corporate Planning Division at NEC America, says inaccurate or incomplete news articles have created a lot of misunderstanding about NEC’s plans.
For one thing, NEC has not set up an EMS subsidiary. “NEC has announced that it will try to transform NEC Nagano into an EMS [facility], but that has not happened yet. NEC Production Systems is not an EMS [subsidiary]; it is a consulting company to improve manufacturing competitiveness,” says Inagaki.
He adds, “NEC has recently announced that it will combine four PC design and manufacturing subsidiaries into one DMS (design and manufacturing services) company that will try to get business from outside of NEC as well. This new company will have 2000 employees and sales of over 5 billion USD. The plan is for this new company to get 10% of its revenue from outside of NEC by 2003.”
So far, NEC has made no public statements about divesting any of its plants, according to Inagaki. He says “NEC is looking at all sorts of possibilities for its plants, including divestiture and spin-offs.”
In Europe, another OEM may be hatching plans to start contract manufacturing. Earlier this year, a leading European electronics company tested names for the launch of an EMS business.
But that is not the case in the more mature US market. Indeed, questions have arisen about the status of Lexmark International’s contract manufacturing business. The printer company is transferring most of its manufacturing in Lexington, KY, to Asia and Latin America. Lexington had been the home base of the company’s EMS business operating under the name Lexmark Electronics. Lexmark will neither confirm nor deny that it is leaving the contract manufacturing business.
In 1998, Lexmark set up Lexmark Electronics as a unit to include board assembly operations for both Lexmark and external customers (Feb. ’98, p. 10).
International Game Technology (Reno, NY), a former customer of Lexmark Electronics, changed providers with the understanding that Lexmark had sold or was in the process of selling its Lexmark Electronics unit. According to another source, Lexmark had shopped the unit around. But no sale has taken place because Lexmark confirms that Lexmark Electronics is still part of the company. Nonetheless, this source reports that Lexmark Electronics is disengaging with external customers.
Poll Confirms More Outsourcing
A new poll finds that 85% of OEM respondents plan to increase their use of a contract manufacturer over the next 12 months. So the despite the downturn, this result indicates that the outsourcing trend remains in tact. For the Annual EMS Outsourcing Survey, Bear, Stearns & Co. (New York, NY) obtained data from 105 OEMs accounting for $576 billion in cost of goods (COGS), or 73% of the total available market, according to Bear Stearns. The firm sent surveys to 150 OEMs in computers and peripherals, datacom, telecom, consumer and other electronics.
This is the fourth such poll conducted by Bear Stearns. In last year’s survey, 90% of the respondents expected to increase their use of EMS (June ’00, p. 9). Although this year’s result of 85% is down slightly from last year, it is in line with the 1999 figure of 84%. All of the survey’s participants currently use a CM.
After weighting responses by COGS, Bear Stearns also determined that 28% of participants’ manufacturing is outsourced. This result is somewhat below the 31% penetration found in the 2000 survey. Bear Stearns says this dip results from an increase in responses from European and Japanese OEMs. Seven European companies participated this year, compared with four in 2000. The number of Japanese OEMs doubled to four from two last year. Again based on COGS-weighted responses, the survey found that 32% of manufacturing is outsourced in North America versus 22% in Europe. The Japanese result of 16% was not statistically meaningful, according to Bear Stearns. The firm concludes that the poll’s 28% penetration rate is upwardly biased because of the limited participation of Asian OEMs.
What’s more, the survey asked OEMs to give their long-term outsourcing goal as a percentage of their total manufactured product. Their average response was 72%, same as last year. This year, though, Bear Stearns also calculated a final outsourcing level by COGS weighting. The result is a COGS-weighted goal of 49%, which may call into question higher estimates for terminal outsourcing.
The poll also found that 81% of participants preferred to outsource by transferring production to a CM as opposed to divesting plants. This result corresponds with 84% of responses in 2000. Bear Stearns says the OEM preference for transferring production merely reflects greater numbers of conventional outsourcing programs as compared with large OEM divestitures.
Another question asked OEMs to state their primary reason for outsourcing. Cost reduction, in one form or another, was the answer for 61% of respondents. Last year, this answer garnered a 50% response rate. Bear Stearns saw the 11% increase as intriguing given the layoffs and restructuring that OEMs have announced recently.
Plexus Buys Qtron
Plexus (Neenah, WI) has acquired Qtron (San Diego, CA), a privately held EMS provider, for about $30 million in cash, subject to adjustments.
With this deal, Plexus will obtain a manufacturing base in Southern California as well as adding technical expertise and customers in the wireless infrastructure market.
Employing over 300, Qtron enjoys an annual revenue run rate of between $70 and $80 million. Sales in 1999 amounted to $35 million. The provider offers quick-turn and volume production for PCB assemblies and box build.
At the end of this month, Qtron will move from its existing buildings at 72,000-ft2 into two new leased facilities with a total of about 163,000 ft2, also in San Diego. At the outset, Qtron will not occupy the new buildings’ entire space, which is 200,000 ft2. The company has changed plans in that it will not retain any of its existing facilities (April, p. 10).
In an interview late last year, Qtron reported that about 70% of its business comes from RF and RF wireless products (Nov. ’00, p. 5-6). The company’s San Diego location is emerging as a hub for wireless start-ups.
Plexus assumed about $17 million in debt, in addition to ordinary payables.
MATCO Operation Sold to PEMSTAR
The MATCO Electronics Group (Vestal, NY), a privately held EMS provider, just sold its New England operation, U.S. Assemblies New England, to another provider, publicly held PEMSTAR (Rochester, MN). At the time of the sale, the operation employed 98 people within a 85,000-ft2 plant located in Taunton, MA. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The sale is part of a company-wide restructuring effort that MATCO began last year after it ran into trouble with three of its customers, which either defaulted on contracts or went into bankruptcy. Two of the customers have been identified. One of them, Smith Corona, filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in May 2000, the second time it had done so. The name of the second customer is General Datacom.
In 1997, MATCO acquired a Smith Corona operation with a leased 252,000-ft2 facility in Tijuana, Mexico, and warehouse space in San Diego. The two companies entered into a five-year supply agreement for typewriters and related products.
The contracts that went bad put MATCO into a tight situation financially. Then the downturn complicated matters. But MATCO believes it will come out of restructuring a stronger company with the ability to grow.
For PEMSTAR, this deal gives it a presence in New England, an area that the provider has had its eye on (Dec. ’00, p. 6).
MATCO’s New England operation originated from its acquisition of SMT Group, formerly SMT East, in 1996. The operation was moved to its current location in Taunton in 1997.
The New England operation becomes the second facility that MATCO has reported closed or sold in recent months. In December 2000, the company closed its U.S. Assemblies Georgia operation in Alpharetta, GA.
EFTC-K*TEC Merger in the Works
The proposed merger of EFTC (Phoenix, AZ) and K*TEC Electronics (Sugar Land, TX) has taken a big step forward (Mar., p. 8). The two EMS companies have signed a definitive merger agreement to combine their businesses.
Under this agreement, a newly-formed Delaware holding company will exchange its stock for all the outstanding stock of EFTC and K*TEC. The two companies will then become wholly-owned subsidiaries of the as- yet unnamed holding company, whose common stock is expected to be traded on the Nasdaq exchange. Based on the agreement’s exchange ratios, K*TEC shareholders are expected to receive about 55% of the holding company’s capital stock, while EFTC stockholders will get about 45% of the shares.
Together, Thayer Capital Partners (Washington, DC) and BLUM Capital Partners (San Francisco, CA) bought K*TEC last year and own a controlling interest in EFTC (Oct. ’00, p. 6-7).
Jim Bass, president and CEO of EFTC, will become president and CEO of the new holding company, and the current directors of EFTC will serve as the directors of the new company.
Both EFTC and K*TEC offer high-mix manufacturing services. But K*TEC is more vertically integrated. “K*TEC’s core competencies in program management, cable assembly and electromechanical assembly, as well as its focus on final integration, will allow EFTC to expand its product offerings to include a complete array of EMS services,” states EFTC’s Jim Bass.
K*TEC employs about 1800 people at sites in Austin, Dallas and Sugar Land, TX, as well as Fremont, CA. Also employing about 1800, EFTC operates in Newberg, OR; Moses Lake, WA; Phoenix, AZ; Ottawa, KS; Wilmington, MA; Manchester, NH; and Tijuana, Mexico. For 2000, the combined entity would have posted sales of $750 million, which would have placed it 18th in the MMI Top 50.
Baldwin Leaves EMS Business
CDR emerges as a new buyer
Earlier this year, Baldwin Piano & Organ Co. sold its Contract Electronics Division in Fayetteville, AR, to Ayrshire Electronics, a newly formed company and a wholly owned subsidiary of CDR Manufacturing. CDR is a contract manufacturer with two facilities in Kentucky. The price was $9.7 million. The acquired EMS business has been renamed Ayrshire Electronics and is operating as an independent subsidiary of CDR. Milo Bryant, a Louisville, KY businessman, holds a controlling interest in both Ayrshire, which was formed to make this purchase, and CDR.
In Fayetteville, Ayrshire has leased the Baldwin Division’s 176,000-ft2 facility, of which about 160,000 ft2 is manufacturing and warehouse space. Acquired assets include three SMT lines, to which a fourth has already been added. Ayrshire also obtained 325 employees with this deal.
For the nine months ended September 2000, the divested business produced net earnings of $506,000 and operating profit of $1.5 million on sales of $33.1 million. In 1999, the business posted a net loss of $1.3 million on sales of $45.0 million.
Baldwin stated that the sale of its Contract Electronics Division stems from a multiyear plan to deleverage Baldwin’s balance sheet and restore its core piano business to profitability. This transaction returns Baldwin to its roots as a piano manufacturer and marketer.
Ayrshire made this deal for the usual reasons: regional expansion, customer diversification and the acquisition of technical talent, reports Brian Porter, Ayrshire’s CFO and CDR’s VP of Finance. “It also added to our repertoire,” he points out. “CDR is more low mix, high volume, while Ayrshire is more medium mix and volume. Ayrshire serves primarily an industrial customer base that complements CDR’s business that is mainly automotive and to a lesser extent telecom.”
The synergy includes technology since CDR, as opposed to Ayrshire, had been primarily a high-volume through-hole operation. Nonetheless, CDR is adding three SMT lines.
What’s more, CDR will benefit from Ayrshire’s network of sales reps. Relying on word of mouth, CDR did not have an active sales effort.
Ayrshire’s service offering, which includes test capabilities and box build, is broader than CDR’s. “Ayrshire is mostly full service except design. CDR is a PCB assembly house,” says Porter.
Yet both companies serve a rather specialized market segment – vending machines. One of Ayrshire’s customers is Crane National Vendors, while CDR also has a vending industry customer, for whom CDR assembles boards for lottery ticket equipment.
Founded in 1987, CDR operates one facility in Somerset, KY, also company headquarters, and another in Harrodsburg, KY. Each facility is about 20,000 ft2 in size.
According to Porter, CDR intends to make more acquisitions of this kind.
Some deals done…Celestica (Toronto, Canada) has acquired Avaya’s large systems manufacturing operation in Westminster, CO, and its repair and distribution activities in Little Rock, AR. The deal was previously reported (Mar., p. 6-7)….Solectron (Milpitas, CA) has completed its acquisition of Centennial Technologies (Wilmington, MA), a supplier of PC memory cards (Feb., p. 10).
Design moves…Flextronics (Sing-apore) has added a group of about 60 design engineering people in Southern California….Sanmina (San Jose, CA) and Semcon, a design and development company publicly traded in Sweden, have entered into a partnership to turn a customer’s idea into a delivered product….Elcoteq Network (Espoo, Finland) has acquired the mechanical engineering unit of Adtranz Schweiz, which designs electronics for trains and is a customer of Elcoteq’s plant in Baden, Switzerland.
Futronix Not Sold
Contrary to a news article on page 9 of MMI’s April edition, Futronix, a CM in Homosassa, FL, has not been sold. The company reports that it continues to operate as a private concern.
The newsletter is retracting the April article, which was largely based on an SEC filing indicating that a purchase had taken place subject to board approvals.
Using Fewer CMs
Hewlett-Packard is consolidating its business PC, home PC and PC server manufacturing in the US with one EMS provider. SCI Systems (Huntsville, AL) reports that HP’s business PC and PC server operations handled by Celestica (Toronto, Canada) in Nashville, TN, will be transferred to SCI in Huntsville over the next four to six months. SCI currently manufactures some HP home PCs and the majority of HP business PCs, but has not been involved with the customer’s PC server business.
“Looking forward, we see slow growth in overall PC demand, but I’m pleased to announce that we are increasing market share with our major PC customers. Several OEMs are consolidating their supply base in this environment, and SCI is benefiting from this consolidation,” said Gene Sapp, SCI’s chairman and CEO, in a recent conference call with analysts.
Also, Sapp reported Nortel has selected SCI for a number of new programs – he estimated three or four – as a result of Nortel’s effort to consolidate its EMS work with fewer providers. These programs, currently being done by one or more competitors, will come on stream probably in the summer and fall, according to Sapp.
In yet another case of supply base consolidation, SCI has landed a contract from McDATA (Broomfield, CO) to manufacture Fibre Channel cards. Sapp said this contract award allows McDATA to move work out of another EMS provider and give SCI a larger share of the OEM’s business. He also mentioned that enterprise computing work from Hitachi, previously done by a couple of SCI’s competitors, “has found its way to us.”
Finally, Nokia has extended its relationship with SCI to another unnamed country where SCI manufactures. Similar to what SCI has already been awarded by Nokia, this new business “was earmarked for one of our competitors and has since been resourced to us,” said Bob Bradshaw, SCI’s president and COO, during the conference call. This work includes 3G products.
Ericsson and Elcoteq in New Pact
In the wake of Ericsson’s decision to use Flextronics for nearly all contract manufacturing of mobile phones, Ericsson and Elcoteq Network (Espoo, Finland) have renegotiated their relationship (see also Feb., p. 7-9). Under a new agreement, Elcoteq’s role as a supplier of infrastructure equipment for communications network systems will grow substantially, and Elcoteq will become Ericsson’s preferred global supplier for certain communications network products.
“We expect this to be a very important agreement to us in the years to come,” says Ilkka Pouttu, president of Elcoteq Inc. (Dallas, TX) and group VP for business development. According to Pouttu, the new agreement this year will not be the size of the handset business that Elcoteq lost. “It’s really happening in years 2002, 2003,” he says.
“Once carriers start investing in their infrastructure business, Ericsson is going to have a very good position in the marketplace,” Pouttu remarks.
To facilitate Elcoteq’s early involvement in the development and manufacture of Ericsson’s communications products, Elcoteq will set up a Technology Center in Sweden. This center will also serve other customers in Sweden.
In addition, this month Elcoteq starts manufacturing base station antennas and cable assemblies for Andrew Corp. (Orland Park, IL). Production is taking place in Elcoteq’s new plant in Tallinn, Estonia. The latest entry in Andrew’s family of base station antennas is designed to meet 3G requirements.
Elcoteq Inc. is the Americas unit of Elcoteq Network.
More new programs…According to Flextronics, it did virtually the entire design for Microsoft’s Tablet PC….PEMSTAR will manufacture SANcastle’s Global Data Fabric Switch for integrating Fibre Channel and Ethernet networks. The CM’s San Jose ProCenter is currently building prototype and preproduction units. Also, PEMSTAR is part of a consortium developing prototype units for Land Warrior, a US Army initiative to create the totally connected solder….Boundless Manufacturing Services (Hauppauge, NY), a subsidiary of Boundless Corp., has landed a two-year contract to build industrial PC and VME board assemblies for Xycom Automation (Saline, MI), which provides computers and software for factory automation. The Boundless unit expects to receive about $10 million from the contract. Also, the EMS unit has received orders from LodgeNet Entertainment for board assemblies. LodgeNet is in the interactive services business.
Outsourcing in Pipeline
At least three major OEMs – Alcatel, Lucent and Nokia – are preparing to farm out more work.
What’s more, Michael Marks, Flextronics chairman and CEO, recently told analysts that he sees in the pipeline $10 billion worth of outsourcing that “is not business as usual.” He added, “We think all of that is going to get decided in the next six or eight months.” Marks distinguished this new business from regular program wins and said his company would not win all of it.
According to a Reuters report, France’s Alcatel intends to outsource its GSM handset production in Europe to Flextronics. Reportedly, Flextronics will take over Alcatel’s Laval plant with 830 people. A total of 1000 Alcatel employees will join Flextronics, and the transfer of production is scheduled to be finalized in June, writes Reuters.
Lucent has received bids for its operations in Oklahoma City, OK, and Columbus, OH. These operations had been on the block (Feb., p. 9). The company expects to decide by early this summer who the buyer or buyers will be. Lucent is also expanding the scope of its contract manufacturing plans to include locations outside the US.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Flextronics has emerged as the most likely buyer for the plants. Company spokesperson Mary Ward says Lucent is not commenting on who the bidders are.
Then there’s Nokia. The Finnish company says it is on schedule to increase handset outsourcing to 20% by Q3, reports Reuters. Earlier, Nokia said it planned to double the number of mobile phones outsourced this year (Feb., p. 9).
Caterpillar Teams with Midwestern CM
Caterpillar (Peoria, IL) and The Morey Corporation, a CM based in Woodridge, IL, have formed a 50/50 joint venture to support the manufacture of jointly designed control systems for heavy-duty equipment applications.
“The new joint venture will benefit from the vast engineering resources of Caterpillar and the design for manufacturability and assembly expertise of The Morey Corporation,” states Scott Morey, president of Morey Corp. “The joint venture will be able to develop new products, reduce costs, speed time to market and continually improve product performance and reliability by consolidating and integrating the design and manufacturing processes.”
Morey has been a Caterpillar supplier since 1978. The CM has carved a niche in ruggedized electronics for heavy-duty applications (April, p. 3).
New or expanded facilities…At C-MAC Industries (Montreal, Canada), a 100,000-ft2 expansion in Creedmoor, NC is scheduled for completion this month. This project will double the space there, currently at about 100,000 ft2. In Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, an expansion of about 100,000 ft2 is due to be finished in Q3. C-MAC has undertaken both projects to meet the demand for full system assembly. The company also has a small facility being built in Brazil to support its Brazilian business. But C-MAC is revisiting anything it has not started including a 30,000-ft2 expansion in Galway, Ireland….SCI is expanding a Huntsville plant to handle new HP work in PCs and PC servers as mentioned earlier. The provider also has two plants under construction in Mexico. One is located in Guadalajara, and the other, a sheet metal plant, will allow SCI to build enclosures in Monterrey. Finally, SCI has approved a 300,000-ft2 expansion to its plant in Kunshan, China (see p. 1 article)….Elcoteq has completed a 104,737-ft2 expansion of its plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Facility space is now 188,437 ft2, more than double the plant’s original size….Last month, Sanmina opened a high-density interconnect factory in Costa Mesa, CA. Within the 100,000-ft2 PCB fab facility, virtually all manufacturing operations take place in a cleanroom environment….IEC Electronics (Newark, NY) is moving manufacturing operations from Edinburg, TX, to its newly expanded plant in Reynosa, Mexico. The CM has added 62,000 ft2 to the Reynosa facility, which now totals 112,000 ft2.
Name change…Reflecting an increased market presence in the EMS business, Key Tronic Corp. (Spokane, WA) has changed its name to KeyTronicEMS Co. This name change is part of an effort to position the company firmly in the EMS industry. The company reports an EMS growth rate of over 100% per year. For 2000, KeyTronicEMS made the MMI Top 50 with $132.0 million in EMS sales. The company’s keyboard manufacturing and distribution unit will continue to use the name Key Tronic.
Financial news…MCMS (San Jose, CA) has withdrawn its S-1 registration with the SEC for a proposed IPO (see Oct. ’00, p. 12). The company says it has delayed its plans to go public because of current market conditions….On the other hand, Surface Mount Technology Holdings Ltd. (Hong Kong), which performs contract manufacturing in Dongguan, China, will conduct an IPO in Singapore, according to Bloomberg News (see table, p. 2). The offering will raise gross proceeds of S$8.7 million. Reportedly, customers include Sony and Korea’s LG Electronics.