Real rejuvenation of electronics manufacturing industry in Bulgaria via small and mid-size independent companies

InterviewSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 5/2008

Mr. Kevin Youngs, Territory Manager for Central & Eastern Europe in Omron Electronics for
South-East European INDUSTRIAL Market magazine

Dear Mr. Youngs, for how many years Omron Electronics is presented in Bulgaria and how is your business organized here?
Omron Electronics have been represented in Bulgaria by Gemamex Private Co since 1991. This was originally with Omron Automation and Omron Components products where Gemamex have been instrumental in Omron’s success via both Distribution and also as System Solution Integrator. During the past two and a half years, Omron have successfully introduced Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) products into the Bulgarian market. Our continuing partnership with Gemamex utilizing their already highly skilled engineers to promote and support AOI is a key ingredient to our development in Bulgaria.

Which are the latest market trends and news from Bulgaria? Which are the main customer groups you are targeted at here?
During my visits I’ve been impressed by the wide variety of products manufactured in Bulgaria. I have seen electronics equipment producers who are manufacturing assemblies for both the Automotive and Industrial electronics markets demanding ever higher quality levels. This is very similar to what I have seen in other parts of Europe. The companies I have visited comprise of both large and medium size manufacturers supported with overseas investment right through to local Bulgarian owned companies and it is these local companies both mid and small size that have impressed me most.

Could you point out the most specific features of Bulgarian market, compared to South-Eastern or Western Europe?
In the past, Bulgaria had enjoyed great success within its own electronics manufacturing industry; however I understand there was a gradual decline in electronics production, which started from 1990. On looking forward, I sense a real rejuvenation of this once great industry via small and mid-size independent companies with private investment and cooperation. One of the main features I’ve noticed is high quality manufacturing, but with good flexibility in process and co-operation and collaboration between manufacturing companies.

Where are Omron Electronics current main markets in Europe and what new markets you are targeted at in the near future?
Omron enjoys success in a wide range of markets and countries. This is because Omron has a ‘real- life’ complementary product range comprising ‘bench-top’ to ‘in-line’ solutions. If I had to point out our main market, the area where we are most established, then I would say it’s very much within the ‘automotive’ sector. Omron has a strong affinity with automotive electronics manufacturers where high quality manufacturing is required together with the production concept of ‘Zero Defect, Zero Repair’.
In terms of targeting new markets, Omron will continue to grow within the automotive sector as this has brought us great success in the past and this market is continuing to grow even in these so called recessionary times; but more recently we have seen a big increase in our sales to customers in the ‘industrial’ sector. New applications exist for our products with manufacturers of wind turbines and solar panels. It is within these industries right now where a big focus is being made on both increasing production volumes and the electronics content within ‘green’ energy source systems.

What are the latest technologies of Omron Electronics with the biggest market potential in Bulgaria?
The product with the greatest potential is ‘bench-top’ AOI; this is a low cost solution suitable for low to medium mix products with low to medium production yields. As a complementary product to ‘bench-top’ machines, Omron has a low cost ‘in-line’ solution that can be installed in either a modular system concept suitable for low to medium mix products, with medium to high production yields; but it can also be used as a true ‘in-line’ solution for medium to high production as yields increase. So I’m confident Omron has a complete solution to address the Bulgarian electronics production market.

What are the Omron Electronics key products’ advantages in AIO area?
Omron products are similar to other AOI companies in that we can inspect all component defects; however, where Omron is totally unique is our ability to find solder defects that relate not just to the solder fillet, but to the wetting of the reflow solder. Omron AOI creates a 3D image of a 2D plan in order to measure the shape of the wetted fillet. The key benefit is improved solder quality, resulting in fewer products returned by the end user which, in turn improves customer satisfaction and ultimately drives increases in company profits. Ultimately, this is what quality production is all about, in achieving total customer satisfaction.
What technology and market trends do you think would affect the electronics sector within next years?
There is always a need to increase production cycle times and to reduce costs, but in terms of manufacturing trends, there is an upward trend in high density PCB manufacturing where we see a future requirement for high speed ‘in-line’ X-Ray, mainly for BGA, but also for improved solder quality by inspection of heel fillet. The growth of ‘in-line’ X-Ray may be seen in automotive electronics production and in other mission critical products such as those used in Aerospace and Medical applications.

What are your near future market plans for Bulgaria?
Gemamex have been marketing and supporting Omron products in Bulgaria for over 17 years; however, with regards to AOI we’re still relatively new and we’re regarded as such with local companies.  Through Gemamex, Omron have successfully established a strong installed base in Bulgaria and it’s this that we intend to grow. I heard from one Company saying that AOI is Omron’s greatest secret, I am sincerely working to change this notion.

How is Omron Electronics’ after-sales service organized? Do you offer long-term technical support for your customers in Bulgaria?
This is a good question. Omron realise you can not grow an effective business based on sales only; you need to provide first class local technical support where engineers can react quickly and communicate in the local language. We operate the same support approach within all the countries where we sell Omron AOI equipment. In Bulgaria we have a long and well established relationship with Gemamex, who have trained engineers who are specialist in supporting AOI products. The local engineer is then further supported by our technical staff who are located in two Omron Regional Technical Centre’s. These centres are based in Gyor in Hungary and Den Bosch in The Netherlands. In fact, our Technical Centre in The Netherlands is located within a ‘true’ Omron factory which is also SMT manufacturing facility which produces our Factory Automation Products. Within this factory the output is in turn inspected by VT-RNS ‘in-line’ AOI machines. We like to think that our Den Bosch factory demonstrates that Omron has a great expertise in SMT manufacturing combined with AOI know-how and it’s this combination that makes Omron strong and unique. As we like to give confidence to our customers, we like to re-assure them that ‘we really do know SMT’.