Reading time ( words)
Located in New England, Intelligent Manufacturing Solutions (IMS) has now kicked into a new phase with CEO Nate Doemling, who came on board in January 2020 after serving on the IMS board of directors for several months. Here, I talk with Nate about his new role at the company and the outlook for the future.
Dan Beaulieu: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, Nate. First, tell us a little more about the company.
Nate Doemling: It’s my pleasure. IMS is based in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was founded in 2005 by Bob Monaco (board chairman) and Ray Marshall (board member). Bob and Ray have a long history in the electronics industry in New England. In December 2018, Lineage Capital (a Boston-based private equity firm) made a strategic investment in IMS to help accelerate its growth trajectory and position the company for long-term success. We believe that we have a unique and differentiated service model focused on rapid prototypes and small lot PCBA manufacturing.
Beaulieu: When did you come to IMS?
Doemling: After serving on the IMS board of directors for several months, I joined the company in January 2020 as the CEO. I look forward to leveraging my expertise and industry knowledge to support the existing leadership team in accelerating the growth of the business. I have nearly 25 years of experience in electronics manufacturing, both on the EMS and OEM side of things. In my experience, I believe a significant unmet need exists in the marketplace to support the OEM product development process with rapid prototype PCBAs. It takes the big EMS players weeks to turn a board, but we can do it hours.
Overall, we are a provider of electronics manufacturing services with a unique specialization in the quick-turn assembly of prototype, ultra-high-mix PCBs, and build-to-order assemblies for customers primarily located in the Northeastern United States. We service a wide range of industries and assist customers with new electronics product prototyping and production assembly, inspection, and testing.
Beaulieu: Let’s talk some more about technology for the future and how it is needed.
Doemling: There are a lot of technological changes going on right now. For one, the component package sizes continue to get smaller and smaller. Therefore, it is critical for any company to keep the capital equipment updated, especially with pick-and-place machines. We pride ourselves on continually updating our capital equipment to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology.
From a broader perspective, we strongly believe that the macro-trends of the internet of things (IoT), Industry 4.0, and smart technology will eventually converge and continue to drive exceptional demand for electronics and aggressive time to market requirements from the OEMs to meet the needs of the market. We are well-positioned to collaborate with customers and deliver to meet these challenges.
Beaulieu: What are your thoughts on quality?
Doemling: In today’s world, quality is absolutely a given; a company can’t survive without perfect quality. We have a strong quality-focused culture within our workforce. We have all the latest test and inspection equipment, including AOI and X-ray, and all our production associates are certified to IPC-610 and J-STD-001. In addition, we maintain all the relevant quality certifications, such as ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 13485.
Beaulieu: Can you talk about your rapid prototype services?
Doemling: Our business model is all about speed. We have purpose-built our factory and associated processes to be fast and nimble. For example, on a typical day, we change over our surface-mount technology (SMT) lines 8–10 times.
Customers’ R&D engineers greatly value our ability to help them accelerate their time to market for new products. We’ve developed operating expertise that positions us as a problem solver for customers’ expanding product lines. The ideal customer is often the one that other contract manufacturers turn away due to the size, complexity, and/or short timeline of their projects.
Our quick-turn capabilities have been refined over years of operation. As I mentioned earlier, it often takes the big EMS players weeks to turn a board, but we can do it hours.
Beaulieu: Do you have plans for acquisitions in the near future?
Doemling: We are actively in the acquisition mode right now. Since we focus on rapid electronics prototyping, we would like to have locations in the technology clusters in the U.S. where R&D/product development takes place. We cover the Boston region from Manchester. However, we would eventually like to have locations in Silicon Valley, California; Austin, Texas; and Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, to name a few.
Beaulieu: Where do you want the company to be in five years?
Doemling: In five years, we expect to replicate the business model that we have in Manchester and expand to several locations across the USA. We believe that proximity is important to our business model. As discussed, we expect to have locations in the major R&D/product development clusters across the USA.
Beaulieu: How about service?
Doemling: For our business, it is all about speed and responsiveness. During the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, we received a call from one of the large ventilator manufacturers. They were in a line-down situation, as their existing Chinese PCBA supplier let them down. They called us on a Tuesday morning, and we had a quote to them by Tuesday afternoon. We hand-delivered 50 turnkey PCBAs to them by Friday morning. I think you’ll agree that not too many folks in EMS could accomplish this.
Beaulieu: As a salesperson, I always have to ask this question: How do you sell at IMS?
Doemling: Historically, we relied on word-of-mouth advertising. We believed that if you did a great job for your customers, your market share would increase, and they would tell others. That worked well for our first 15 years until our growth rate expectations increased. Recently, we have doubled our sales and marketing team and have invested heavily in digital marketing. Today, our sales funnel is derived from both strategic targets as well as referrals. Again, we sell speed. For OEMs to be successful in the new economy, they need to get new products to market faster. Time to market is critical. Our rapid prototyping service model enables R&D engineers to improve their design cycles and get products to market faster.
Beaulieu: What are your thoughts in terms of the pandemic?
Doemling: As we all know, no playbook existed for how to deal with a pandemic. Like many other companies, we have done a lot of learning throughout this crisis. First and foremost, our number one priority has been related to protecting the health and wellness of our employees and their families. To that end, we have instituted strict respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, social distancing, and temperature measurement policies and escalated our daily sanitation program within our factory.
We have also adapted our systems and process to allow employees to work from home and shifted our business development processes to be virtual. But I would be remiss if I did not say that we extend our heartfelt support to all those who are suffering as a result of the current situation and share with you our firm belief in brighter days are to come. Some of what we are doing today is probably going to be the “new normal.”
Beaulieu: I could not agree more. Thanks for talking to me today, and I wish you well in the future.
Doemling: Thank you.