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European supply chain delivers top quality with short lead times

NCAB Group is growing and so is our Factory Management teams around the world. Today approximately 20 percent of all NCAB employees work in this area. Customers looking to produce PCBs in Europe can count on just as dedicated help to find the right factory for their demands as in Asia, explains Cecilia Snell, Category Manager in NCAB’s Factory Management Europe team.

Cecilia Snell, Category Manager, Factory Management Europe and Ørjan Ødegård, Managing Director NCAB Group Norway during a factory visit in North Macedonia.

How would you describe NCAB’s Factory Management organization in Europe?

“Due to the nature of the current PCB manufacturing in Europe, with much smaller volumes than in China and Taiwan, we are a lean team. This team, however, is supported by a network of local company experts in different European NCAB offices, as well as by our China Factory Management team, enabling us to add disproportionate value to all customers looking to produce in Europe. We are a company that attracts the right competence, giving us excellent and knowledgeable resources with long experience from PCB manufacturing, covering technical aspects, engineering and quality.”

Cecilia Snell | NCAB Group

“We put a lot of effort in making sure that we only cooperate with the best factories”.

Cecilia Snell,
Category Manager Factory Management Europe

How does the Factory Management structure add value to customers?

“Our overall target is to have a number of high performing factories that meet our demands in regards to quality, technology and lead times, enabling us to deliver products with the right quality on time to customers. Factory management covers many areas, for example sourcing, logistics, technical, pre-production engineering and quality. We put a lot of effort into making sure that we only cooperate with the best factories and that the most suitable factory is used for the customer’s production in every particular case. It would be an arduous and time-consuming process for the customer to achieve the same thing. We also continuously monitor the performance of factories when it comes to delivery and quality, so that our customers can get a good night’s sleep.”

What is the process for finding the best partners for the customers’ products?

“Our sourcing process is extensive and takes time, but worth it in the long run. We spend months singling out the top candidates for what we are looking for in order to meet the demand from our customers. Once a factory is approved, it is added to our PSL (Preferred Suppliers List) that indicates exactly which NCAB approved capabilities it has. Every time we get an order or a request for quote from a customer we take a thorough look at what the customer demands and select the best factory to match it, thus ensuring the best possible output. We make sure that our factories get the orders that match their technical capabilities the best. This then translates into good quality.”

How do you work with factories?

“We know our factories and their capabilities well due to visiting them often, performing regular audits and remaining in close contact with their management. Each factory is used for what it is best suited for. We invest a lot in building strong, long-term relationships with our factories and there are constant activities to develop and increase our cooperation. Their management knows our demands well and gives us high attention. As part of our process, we review the capabilities that factories are approved for in our PSL making sure that we are attuned to any changes, for example that a factory makes investments in new equipment or carries out improvements of current processes that our customers can benefit from.”

What are the strong points of the European supply chain?

“Our strong factory base in Europe means that we can offer top-quality factories close to our European customers. We meet the demand for prototypes and other short lead time orders that we are seeing now and expect in the future, within everything from medical and industrial applications to the automotive industry. Furthermore, several of our European factories can support high-tech boards with short lead times, as well. A recent trend connected to sustainability is that customers seek to manufacture close to their markets. There are even some customers looking for mid- to high-volumes in Europe to reduce dependence on the global supply chains that proved sensitive during the pandemic. Some customers with military applications also want to place orders in Europe.”

“We know our factories and their capabilities well due to visiting them often, performing regular audits and remaining in close contact with their management. Each factory is used for what it is best suited for.”

Cecilia Snell,
Category Manager Factory Management Europe

How does the NCAB supply chain differ from competitors?

“NCAB is a global company and wherever we are, we retain a very strong focus on quality and long-term cooperation with our factories. Our factories tell us that we have high demands compared to many others, for example going beyond normal IPC class quality standards. They appreciate it and use NCAB as a benchmark and a help to develop and raise their own standards. Our extensive sourcing process to look for and find the best factories is well-invested time. We will not start up cooperation with a factory that can’t meet our expectations in the long run.”

Where do you see the biggest challenges in the European supply chain?

“Generally speaking, the challenges are the same as elsewhere in the PCB world. Shortages and long lead times on material will continue to be a problem for some time. Supporting high volumes is difficult in Europe. For NCAB, these volumes are nevertheless outside our core business. We aim to stay focused on what we do best, that is working with customers that have high demands on quality in the low- to mid-volume spectrum on a standard to high technology level.”

How do current supply chain trends impact in terms of supply performance?

“Like all our competitors, NCAB is currently impacted by supply chain problems, but due to our size and strategy, we are an important partner to our factories and get priority from them. Our strong relationship to them is key to overcoming these issues.”

Where do you see the future for the European supply chain and the Factory Management team?

“As I mentioned, we have started to see an increased interest for production in Europe. At the same time NCAB is growing in Europe. It is only natural that our supply chain and the team working with Factory Management will also grow gradually.”

NCAB Group Factory Management in Taiwan and China

Interested in knowing more about our Factory Management teams in Taiwan and China? Read our interviews with Kelsen Liu, Director of Operations for NCAB Factory Management team in Taiwan and Jack Kei, Managing Director for NCAB Group China.