Schoeller Electronics Presenting a New Organizational Structure in North America


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At the recent SMTA International show in Rosemont, Illinois, I met Padraig McCabe at Schoeller Electronics Systems’ booth. It was obvious that they had a lot going on so it was good to be able to sit down and get the full story of their new organizational structure, name change and the recent acquisitions of PCB companies.

Patty Goldman: Good morning Padraig, it’s great to meet you. I’m looking forward to learning more about you and Schoeller Electronic Systems. Schoeller is based in Germany, correct?

Padraig McCabe: Good morning, Patty. That's correct. Schoeller Electronics Systems is a company based close to Frankfurt in the small town of Wetter in Hessen. We have been producing printed circuit boards for more than 50 years—an organization that is very well known in Germany. One of the reasons we're at the show is to present our new organizational structure for the first time in the North American market.

European Electronic Systems (EES) was founded in the spring of 2016. This is an umbrella organization to which Schoeller Electronics Systems now belongs.

Goldman: So there are other members then, shall we say?

McCabe: There are, yes. That's the important point that we're trying to present here in North America. Schoeller Electronics Systems emerged from a restructuring program in spring of this year. Through that managed process we acquired a new investor and we have restructured the company and re-branded it. Formally, what was  Schoeller Electronics is now Schoeller Electronics Systems, (SES) with a new investor and new ownership. The EES organization has also acquired two additional PCB facilities in Germany. These are facilities that are very well known in the European marketplace, but less well known here in North America, but which we feel will also enhance the scope of services that EES can bring to the marketplace.

Let me tell you about each of those companies, if that's okay. The first facility that I'd like to speak about is Hans Brockstedt. This is a small, quick turnaround facility in the Northern Germany town of Kiel. It's an organization with about 50 people and 40 years’ production experience, specializing in the production of boards to military standard-approval levels. This facility has what you could describe as a ‘super QTA capability;’ they can produce boards in as few as 18 hours all the way up to regular 20-day turnarounds. We see this as a strategic enhancement to the activity that SES has been traditionally involved in.

A further acquisition that took place just recently is the acquisition of GGPeters now GGP−Electronics. Again, another PCB board shop based in Germany which was very well known in the German speaking marketplace but less well known internationally. They've specialized in medium volume board production, particularly of rigid boards including HDI, thick copper and heatsinks. Again, they didn't have any promotion to the rest of the marketplace outside of Europe. What this trilogy of factories now represents together is a new, enhanced group which can offer services to our customers right throughout the product design cycle. When a customer is considering a product design at the outset, SES and the applications engineers that we have there can go deep into that customer's design process and we facilitate decisions from a PCB perspective on materials, on layups, on panelizations, on aspects of interconnected structures, so that we assist customers to mature and optimize their designs.

Now with the acquisition of Hans Brockstedt (HBL) we can also provide them with rapid prototyping. This allows us to facilitate those design discussions with proof of design concept boards rather quickly. Then as the design matures and reaches a point where it might need to undergo regulatory or end use approval testing, for example FDA approval, then we can move the board into production in the mainstream SES facility in Wetter and take it through to volume and industrialization. If a specific product, that develops into even higher volume with perhaps a lower cost target, we have the option to migrate that further to the GGPeters facility (GGP) so that we can handle the entire product life cycle within our group of companies.

Goldman: Those two companies have been folded into Schoeller Electronics Systems, correct?

McCabe: Not exactly. They're all part of the umbrella group, European Electronic Systems.

Goldman: So everybody retains their own name.

McCabe: They retain their own name, with some slight enhancements. These companies have gone through a restructuring process over the last six months and they've emerged from that process together with the main investor that is behind the EES organization, which is a company based here in the USA in New York, in fact. Their name is AIAC, American Industrial Acquisitions Corporation. This is a corporation with revenue in excess of a billion dollars. They have investments in 61 manufacturing locations worldwide, including here in the USA, 20 in Europe, and a number in Asia. This overall group, AIAC, invests in organizations globally, but primarily on manufacturing organizations. It then builds strategic subgroups of like-minded companies that can create additional services for that market.

Goldman: Very interesting. Does AIAC own other printed circuit board facilities?

McCabe: No, they don't. This is their first activity in the printed circuit board market. What they've done in other markets, for example in metal, in castings and in plastics and in other core carve outs from companies like Raytheon, Boeing, Smiths, etc, they've carved out activities where production was being done within one of those larger organizations, they've taken the organisations that were providing that core competence, and then helped those facilities to grow by investing in the skillset, in machinery, and in the facilities of those companies.

Getting involved in the PCB industry in Europe for AIAC was important because there is a consolidation happening anyway in the PCB industry worldwide. Perhaps the most obvious example of that would have been the TTM acquisition of Viasystems here in North America last year. That's on the top end of the scale in terms of the sizes of the companies. Acquisitions are occurring everywhere by necessity. There were, you could argue, too many players in this $60–65 billion market and it was becoming increasingly difficult for companies to continue at the level of investment to continue to support themselves and to keep pace with technology developments, and to grow organically.

Acquisitions are occurring throughout the industry and we're seeing that in Europe. For example, today there are maybe in excess of 250 PCB organizations of one type or another that are registered in Europe, but actually there are only a small number, less than 40 of those, that have revenues in excess of 10 million euro per year. There is a need for those smaller groups to either grow and combine or unfortunately they will continue to struggle and face the challenges of the market, and in some cases with poor outcomes.

By investing, as AIAC have done in Schoeller Electronics Systems first, they have created a nucleus company that has a wide range of technical capabilities, but which already had an international sales organization to which I belong. Now in adding Hans Brockstedt and adding GGPeters we have enhanced services and we can now use the sales network of Schoeller Electronics Systems to bring these additional capabilities to market, to new customers, and indeed to provide additional support to our traditional customers.

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