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Nolan Johnson speaks with Rob DiMatteo of BTU International about the current shift in market drivers, pain points from customers, and what he expects to see in the near future. Chip shortages and port delays are just two of the challenges facing BTU’s customers.
As general manager of BTU, DiMatteo wants his company to excel at customer service despite these challenges. He also previews a new flux management technology for keeping reflow ovens extremely clean, calling it a significant breakthrough.
Nolan Johnson: Rob, I understand there have been some organizational changes at BTU.
Rob DiMatteo: Yes. In June, there was a change in the BTU leadership, and I was promoted from director of sales for our Americas’ market to general manager of BTU.
Johnson: Does this organizational change also show in your response to markets, products, company growth, etc.?
DiMatteo: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been at BTU for over 30 years in various sales, marketing, and product development roles. I have a good handle on the business in terms of who our customers are, our applications, our markets, and the processes. I’ve known the operation for several years. One change we want to bring forth is a more customer-focused organization. We’ve always valued customer input and quality in the products we put up, but we want to get even more focused going forward. Coming from a sales background, this has certainly been part of my experience.
Johnson: With respect to customer focus, what are your plans for increased interaction with your customers?
DiMatteo: We want to delight our customers from the very first interaction; that may be from an inquiry to provide a quotation for a particular process, through the issuing of a purchase order, to the shipment, the installation, and all the ways we support them afterward, such as helping with system maintenance and process development for their new system. We want the end-to-end process to meet and exceed their expectations.
We have always done a very good job of providing a quality product. We have a Pyramax line that has been extremely successful over the past 20 years. We are known for our quality and reliability. We just want to take it to the next level—there are a lot of challenges these days. Our customers are facing significant challenges with their processes, and with their factories being shorthanded. We want to do all we can to help them reduce cost of ownership, make sure our tool is running reliably, and not causing any downtime.
Johnson: Are you seeing any changes in the market drivers? What are the pain points for your customers?
DiMatteo: We have two sides of the business. We have an electronic side of the business, which is primarily driven by our Pyramax platform that serves the SMT, and we have the semiconductor packaging markets. There are a variety of different applications, but primarily it’s either for printed circuit board assembly or packaging applications. Right now, the demand is as high as we have ever seen it. That has to do with the markets we’re in and chip shortages play into that. The automotive market is a very strong driver for those end markets, as well as medical devices, aerospace, military, and consumer electronics as well. There is a significant increase in the demand for that side of the business.
Our customers need the products and they’re faced with, as we are, many challenges in terms of logistics. There’s a worldwide container shortage. So, even when you have the product built and ready to ship, we’ve seen delays. The ports are congested in many cases, depending on where that product is shipping. We have tried to reduce our lead times as much as possible. We moved into a brand-new factory in our Shanghai manufacturing location that is twice the size as we had before, which allows us to increase our throughput even further.
We also have another side of the business where we build diffusion furnaces for the front-end semiconductor market, and custom high temperature belt furnaces that primarily serve the automotive, medical, and electronics markets. This is all done within our Billerica, Massachusetts, factory. I’m delighted to say both of our factories are at capacity, which is, in part, driven by the increase in the power semi market. We can take part in that growth, from the front end to assembly, with the products and product lines that we have here at BTU.
Johnson: What’s just over the horizon regarding product development?
DiMatteo: We have introduced some new products in the last couple years, as we’ve always have done, primarily on the electronics side of the business. We have a vacuum reflow system, which serves our electronics customers. There’s a particular interest in being able to reduce voiding within the solder joints, and we’ve been able to do that with the introduction of a Pyramax vacuum reflow system. The other very large development that’s been in the market a couple of years for us is a flux management system, an Aqua Scrub, that’s really a gas scrubbing type system. For our customers that run printed circuit boards, the biggest source of pain for them is typically the cleaning of the reflow oven. Flux builds up inside the oven, inside the cooling system, and eventually it will take the system down for maintenance and cleaning.
We’ve been able to develop a brand-new technology that virtually eliminates any swapping out of heat exchangers—the filters. It only requires disposal of a waste tank, and that can be done on a weekly basis. It significantly reduces the maintenance, so it keeps the oven up and running. It also keeps the inside of the oven very clean. If the oven is dirty inside, you have the potential of flux dripping on the boards which could shut down the line. We have virtually eliminated that potential issue.
Our previous generation flux management systems worked very well, but they were very paste dependent. Depending on what the customer was running, the efficiency level varied quite a bit. The new Aqua Scrub system has a 90–95% capture rate, regardless of the paste chemistry. This technology breakthrough will help our customers reduce their cost of ownership significantly and reduce the biggest point of pain on the reflow side of the business. Later next year, we will have a much larger announcement in terms of the electronic sector with a new product and our new family of products as well.
Johnson: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Rob.