Green Circuits' Joe O'Neil and Joe Garcia on the Best Kept Secret


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I recently interviewed CEO Joe O’Neil of Green Circuits as well as Joe Garcia, VP of sales and marketing who is also a new addition to the company. Topics discussed include recruiting new employees, new training and certification requirements, tariffs, and more.

Nolan Johnson: I am here with Joe O'Neil and Joe Garcia talking about what's going on with Green Circuits. Joe Garcia is new to the company, correct?

Joe O’Neil: Yes, he is halfway through his second week.

Joe Garcia: Almost. I’m on my eighth day. 

Johnson: Can you give us some background on yourself, Joe?

Garcia: I began in the EMS industry with Solectron Corporation back in 1999. From there, I changed companies from Solectron to Sanmina, Flextronics, and Viasystems, which is now TTM Technologies. After TTM Technologies, I moved to a smaller Tier-2 and Tier-3 contract manufacturer. Then, I moved to Creation for the past 8 years.

As I said, I just started at Green Circuits eight days ago. I was excited to get into a company that has a great reputation and could serve a diverse group of customers. At Green Circuits, we execute quick turn with good quality. At the same time, we are able to support customers in the direction that outsourcing is going: full production tests, system assembly, direct order fulfillment, and managing returns. We allow the customers to design, develop, and market, and we do the rest. Green Circuits is doing all of that and more.

Johnson: Let's talk about that because broader outsourcing is one of the trends in the industry right now. How are you seeing that change at Green Circuits?

O’Neil: I think you're right. Customers used to want just board level solutions and would consciously choose to figure out the next levels later in the process. Now, successful time-to-market isn't how fast you can get just the board level engineering piece done; it includes achieving agreement with the mechanical and test portions of the development process. There's more of an appreciation of discipline; you can't just put it off to solve that problem later anymore.

We are can engage with our customers at that level—including mechanical—and I think it begets a much more disciplined approach. If you're doing all those things at the front end during development, it's much easier to determine when you want to have the test point, make sure you're okay with the functional piece for that circuit, or identify if they are going to have mechanical issues. It's much more dynamic and allows you to get to the finish line a lot faster with this model, which is where OEMs are driving us.

Johnson: So, you're finding that design teams are pushing on you to do a wider spectrum of work as a contract manufacturer. Their thinking is, “We have our boards being assembled in your house, so why not box build some of this other stuff?”

Joe_O'Neil_GreenCircuits.jpgO’Neil: Yes, and I don't know whether it's discipline and strategy that's leading to it, or if it's something like, “We can't find people to work. Therefore, we need to outsource at a different level. We don't have the people or the place from an OEM perspective to hire a bunch of manufacturing people to do the next level assembly. We'd rather outsource it, which gives us flexibility and scalability.”

Johnson: That's interesting because in PCB fabrication, there's a growing gap of knowledge. It seems like there's a real possibility that there are companies who could shutter the doors because they can't find the staff with industry skills. How do you encourage students just coming out of school to get into this industry, and do you hear similar comments from your customer who are OEMs and design teams?

O’Neil: Yes, definitely in Silicon Valley where labor is a premium, but I hear it across the country. From the IPC perspective, we hear it globally. Again, I think we've contributed to the problem. I say that somewhat sarcastically because we take a lot of talent from the PCB fabrication industry. We do this because that core knowledge helps us be a better EMS provider. Joe Garcia, and most of our program managers as well as our management team, all have bare board experience, so we understand the complexities of signal integrity, stackups, impedance control, and specialty materials. We understand how you need to plan and put the right product in the right factory, which is hard because there's not a one one-size-fits-all partner for all.

From an industry standpoint, we engage deeply with the IPC, and not just for training and certification. Those typically are tools that you can use with your existing workforce to take them up a notch, but it’s rapid entry into the workforce because it's at the top of the mind of most business leaders. It is how you get somebody not from the industry to walk into a factory and not hurt themselves and have some basic understanding so that they can get some work experience, start providing value, and get to a point where they could master a specific skill or area within the shop. I would always get them ready to understand the theory: "What is this flat green thing, and why does it matter?" Those programs are in development.

Johnson: IPC announced some certification changes just last week. What's your opinion on where they're going with that, Joe?

O’Neil: IPC is addressing the needs of the people coming in, and it’s changing the delivery vehicles by giving the next generation training tools and methodologies to learn from. I know one of the challenges that I had in the past was I’d have half a dozen program managers whom I’d want to get certified. We also wanted to become world-class program managers through strong training from the East Coast. That has an impact on the business. Now, training is web-based and interactive. This allows you to give closed-loop feedback on mini quizzes. Are we getting the concept? Is this too simple or too hard? Do we need to reinforce certain areas? Today, we’re using methods and techniques that are being used in other industries, such as higher education, and applying it to our industry. That’s key.

Johnson: Yes, it's going to be interesting to see how that develops. IPC is paying attention to what they need to do for the current training needs.

O’Neil: Yes. IPC made some important hires in the education realm. The IPC organization exists to serve its members, so we should provide aid, or we are not doing our job.

Johnson: I agree entirely. Joe Garcia, build on your eight days of experience here. Walk me through the shop and what you have on the manufacturing floor.

Joe_Garcia_GreenCircuits.jpgGarcia: We have five complete SMT lines. I would say that if you look around at different EMS companies—especially those around our size—ours does not use the typical infrastructure. Our lines are all Juki, so they're built for a changeover. We have a high velocity, and a high number of jobs going through here every day, week, and month. The Juki platform facilitates swapping over lines and keeping them moving.

On the back end is a full suite of test solutions. We have people who run the equipment, and technicians and test engineers to perform the tests. Then, there is the migration towards the screwdriver job. This is where our staff takes a board, tests it structurally and functionally, puts it into a box or system, tests that too, and then puts the finished article into a customer-deliverable box that goes to a distribution center or directly to the customer. That is the back half of our shop. We're doing a lot of that work—more than I anticipated we would be doing when I came in eight days ago—but that's where the industry's going.

There's a certain segment of people that embrace outsourcing—such as the telecommunications sector—and then there are some segments like automotive, medical, and aerospace defense that have been slower to adapt when it comes to box-building. That's where a lot more of our box-build stuff will add value to some of those untapped industries.

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