Ventec Shares Their Insights on the Laminate Market, Part II


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Editor's Note: To read the Part I of this interview, click here.

Matties: What's the key to Ventec's success in Europe?

Goodwin: Quite simply it's the tunnel vision of others. They thought they were in the material business, I recognized that the world would change and we were in the service business. And the world now follows our model, not the ‘old’ model, which was all about square meters.

Now it's all about delivering what the customer needs, in the batch size they need, within the lead time they need it, managing supply chains, making them efficient, and keeping people's stocks to a minimum, keeping costs down. We're in a very competitive business and you had to get out of this mindset of square meters at least in the non-Asian business. I used to look after the biggest accounts in the UK. One of the biggest accounts in the UK back in 1999/2000 would consume more laminate in a month than we sell in a year now. But those days are gone, it's a different business, and if you think they're coming back in Europe, forget it.

It's now about beginning of life, end of life, specialty products, getting the customer what they need, when they need it without them giving you any information, you need to know their business as well as they do, if not better. That's it. Service, service, service.

ventec-editorial-inventory-racks.jpgMatties: Let’s talk about the UK market—what’s your share?

Goodwin: I don't know the exact size of the UK market; it's very difficult to estimate. When I started in this business 10 years ago, I thought it was about 12−15 million pounds. I think it's significantly smaller than that now. I think at best it's 12, probably closer to 10. If I am right, and you take out the business that this business unit does in other markets, we're at least 50% of the UK market, possibly more. And our mix is more towards thin core and prepreg than it is towards rigid. In the UK, the chances of growth for us in the laminate business now are limited. We're generally defending what we’ve got, whilst always pointing out to new and existing customers the benefits in service, quality and low overall cost of ownership of working with us.

ventec-editorial-cleanroom-FOD.jpg

There are some chances particularly in thermal management, but a lot of that business isn't here in the UK. Some of it is controlled from the UK, so a lot of the OEM activity is here, but the sales are made in other markets. It’s another reason to be present in all markets, by the way, and another reason to be a laminator, not a distributor. There's still a lot of OEM activity and where products get made now is to some degree secondary. You need to get all the approval work done and you need to get the prototypes made. So even having a small business unit in a relatively small market, still makes a lot of sense for us because it drives sales activity in Asia. A lot of the big volume thermal management products for automotive are manufactured in Asia. Small and medium quantities are manufactured here, but all the other activity, all the OEM specified activity, happens here in the UK and mainland Europe.ventec-editorial-cleanroom-suit.jpg

We’ve got an OEM team, who more and more have a hybrid role with some of the big Asian volume PCB shops, and our sales guys who are servicing the PCB shops here are having to do more OEM activity with some of the local OEMs in Europe.

The roles are becoming hybrid with a lot of crossover and I think that's again one of Ventec's advantages. We're small enough and nimble enough and have a small enough management team to have this matrix management and we bring the information to the center and react to it in a quick way.

Matties: If you're at 50% market share, where do you go from here?

Goodwin: Well, we’re set up for continued growth. Okay, so there was a shortage in copper foil and everybody said to me that it was all bullshit and it was all made up and all this kind of stuff. I had customers who six months earlier, when I told them I was planning on bringing copper foil to the market, told me I would never get started with copper foil. And I've got several now that are our customers because they were let down by their distributors of copper foil. I've also got several that bought off me because they were in deep trouble, and I'm having discussions with them now saying this really isn't over, the shortage will come again.

So for me the question is… do you want to work with a guy who buys his copper foil on the back of buying 450−500 tons a month for his manufacturing plant in China? Or do you want to buy it from a distributor who buys 7−8 tons a month just for their distribution business? Who's got the clout in the supply chain? Who can guarantee continuity of supply? The fact is that when others had no foil to supply, we did, and we are the new kids on the block here. For our customers it’s our focus on supply chain and supply chain management and security that makes us a reliable partner.

There's a bit of a lull, but the storm is coming back. Nothing has fundamentally changed on the copper foil capacity side for supply, and we all know the demand for copper foil for batteries is only going one direction.

Matties: On a rocket ship, it's going off.

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