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Philippines-based EMS support firm reaches milestones, learns lessons

Posted: 21 Feb 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:integrated microelectronics? ems? semiconductor assembly? wireless communication?

On its upcoming twenty-fifth anniversary, Philippines-based electronic manufacturing services (EMS) provider, Integrated Microelectronics Inc. (IMI), plans to step forward from being a leader in the local EMS market to becoming a regional player.

IMI president and CEO Arthur Tan expressed his happiness on how things are going for IMI and Eazix, the design arm of the firm. He expects the company to grow further in the next five years. In the last three to four years, IMI consolidated internally its operations in order to beef up the foundation of what they have been doing for the last 25 years. Eazix grew its manpower from a 20- to a 50-engineer strong design team.

"We struggled in the beginning because we really wasn't sure how we are going to focus the group but in the end, we found our niche that we are very good in being able to supplement our OEM partners in either providing layout services, providing additional engineering services in terms of characterization, software development, firmware development, prototyping and so on."

Starting as a semiconductor assembly company, IMI transitioned out of this to become an EMS provider for OEMs. "The lesson there was that to make sure that the manufacturing activity that you picked allows you to be competitive on a forward basis as the new technologies come into play," said Tan. IMI figured that it was highly capital-intensive operation in order to keep up with all the different packages necessary.

As options for packages increased and become more exotic, it becomes a very hard proposition for a Philippine-based company to keep up with the technology. "It became just a labor-based activity," stated Tan.

In the last five years, pure manufacturing players eventually started to acquire some design capabilities and expertise like IMI. Tan sees it as a natural progression of how electronic products are moving forward as time-to-market becomes more critical and products are becoming more complex.

"People don't care what the brand is as long as it is something simple, but then as the value of the electronic product goes up, the way brand is and how it has been designed and who manufactures it becomes more critical," Tan added. "I think it is just a normal evolution of the manufacturing entities such as us that we want to provide a complete solution, this is no secret. The only thing is that, what we are finding out is that again there is no single solution for everybody."

Tan admitted that other EMS players have their own "niche of expertise that they bring to the party." IMI's own design capability will not address all the products available in the market, and they try to position their company into very specific demands. IMI's forte is in the wireless communications side of the business, as well as integrating their capabilities in the automotive--from GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the industrial side which is the Zigbee.

"We are also looking at complementing that further with other engineering functions, not only on the design side for the product as well as the design side for the manufacturing process, which is now the next iterative process in being able to provide a complete solution. Not only do we have capabilities to help our customer come up with a design concept product and then manufacture it," said Tan.

Tan asserted that if products require customized processes, they have the engineering capability to design a new manufacturing process for a particular product, something unique that IMI offers that not generally everybody could.

"IMI would continue to strive to be a value-added EMS solutions provider and not just a purely manufacturing solutions provider."

Tan ascertained that the company will take support role to the next level to the regional electronic market players.

"I never envisioned my engineering group to be a key driver for new product introduction. I would rather have us work as a support group for the OEMs on how they are going to create their next product, that is where their expertise is and that is where they want to keep their intellectual property," said Tan.

The wireless communication segment will be a dominant force according to Tan. He added that another potential bright-spot for this year is the forthcoming update of majority of the equipment-based IP on the corporate side.

"From an EMS-ODM market point-of-view, I think the market is good, the future looks good. Of course, there's been a lot of cautionary stance being put up by the semiconductor component side, but they are on different criteria than the EMS side," expressed Tan. "From an outsourcing perspective, majority of the products are still built by the OEMs so there is still a significant amount of available market for us," he added.

Tan predicts about 20 percent growth for the company this year. In IMI's 25th year, there is still a huge number of available markets for the firm to serve. "2005 will be a tempered year primarily as a general electronics market, both considering the semiconductor market as well as the EMS market. The EMS market I think is still going to be better than the semiconductor-based market," said Tan.

Reden Mateo

Electronics Engineering Times- Asia

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