Navigating the Global Materials Supply Chain: A Roundtable Discussion


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Shaughnessy: Mark, we'll start with you. What would you say are some of the biggest challenges you face in dealing with customers from a varied base?

Goodwin: Really, everything outside of Asia is now a quick-turn, high-mix business. We have to have the right materials in the right place to supply our PCB customers like Schoeller, generally speaking, with a very short lead time. That ranges from a few hours to a couple of days, but not much longer than that. I'm here to provide technical support and backup services to those customers as well. That includes full lab service capability to enable us to verify our products and our customers’ prices.

Keuthen: I absolutely agree with that. What comes out of the industries, specifically out of the automotive industries, logistically is now brought into the supply chain anyway and whatever logistical concepts we need to fulfill for our customers. Things like VMI and managed consignment stops without customers—all of these things actually need to go into our supply chain and be integrated vertically down to our suppliers as well. That's why for us it is very important having more than 1,300 different materials on stock (which sometimes is not even sufficient in daily business), to have reliable suppliers that are able to support our logistical system and have the right materials, of course.

Pattie: Yes, I can see that. Increasingly, with complexities that you have in materials, PCB manufacturers really have to be in partnership with their laminate suppliers. I think for a few reasons. One: we're all in this quick-turn market, so if you don't have material in stock, you lose that opportunity and your competitor may have that. That's very important. We become our customers’ inventories at times.

I think also the partnership with the PCB factory is very important because we need to know what direction you’re going so that we can plan. It's such an increasingly competitive market that if you're going to live on “me too” products, you're not going to be very successful in that company. We're always looking for where to guide the technical direction of our company so that we can plan for not now, but for five years from now. The partnership is really important in many different ways.

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