Making the Most of a Smart Factory Initiative

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Nolan talks with Joel Scutchfield of Koh Young about trends he’s seen in 2021 and what’s ahead in 2022. “We see the expanded use of artificial intelligence in several areas,” Joel says. “We see predictive maintenance as being something that customers are asking for, and continued refinement and reduction of the human element in the programing process, data analytics, etc. Customers are also driving the trend toward more connectivity, and I don’t see that going away. It’s in their control. They’re going to make all of us get there.”

Nolan Johnson: Joel, we are talking about Factory of the Future in a practical sense. But first, from your perspective at Koh Young, how was 2021? What seemed to be the market drivers? And what do you see for 2022?

Joel Scutchfield: There was a lot of uncertainty coming into this year. We still had COVID, and the vaccine rollout was still forthcoming. We were just coming off an election in the U.S. where there was some controversy.

At Koh Young, we were cautiously optimistic, and it has turned out to be a record year for us in both sales and number of units sold. We couldn’t be happier. Some of that was backlog from 2020, which wasn’t a terrible year for us other than Q2 where everybody seemed to experience a little pain from the shutdown. But we rebounded nicely. Quarters two, three, and four of 2021 were explosive. We’re looking to grow in 2022, around 12–14% for the Americas.

There is a very strong focus on EV, mil/aero, and industrial products. Certainly, anything cloud based, 5G server, and the whole Factory of the Future concept that you noted at the beginning. We see all of that remaining strong in 2022. Because of that, our outlook is positive. In addition, if we can get some relief from the chip shortage, maybe toward the end of 2022, we should see some of our traditional automotive activity rebound.

We have a lot of new products and new applications that we are addressing with our core, proven technology, and we can tie all of that together with our KSMART Advanced Process Monitoring and Control smart factory software. We also have IPC APEX EXPO back to a live event, and lots of good things going on with that, so we are certainly looking forward to a good year in 2022.

Johnson: Which is the dog, and which is the tail? Is smart factory causing equipment purchases, or are your customers more likely to be getting new equipment because they need it and, while they’re at it, they decide to add some smart factory features?

Scutchfield: There’s some of both. Folks are starting to look at their purchases not as a single machine purchase as maybe they have in the past. They’re considering, rightly so, everything that the potential providers can bring to the table from an inspection systems perspective, but also, a smart factory perspective. Knowing what those suppliers are doing, what their roadmap looks like from a development, R&D perspective for new systems, application of the technology, and new and better ways to generate the data needed for smart factory attainment, is more important than ever. I like to say, for example, “You might be just looking at an SPI machine right now to address this specific need, but you have to look at the big picture because your selection for that piece of hardware today could affect your ability to do all the things that you potentially may want to do from a smart factory perspective going forward.”

The consumers of our products need to be conscious of that and really be careful who they saddle up with. They need to do their homework, and make sure they’re not looking at things as a singular application. I think that’s the piece that’s changing. It intertwines “the head and the tail,” if you will.

Johnson: What are some of the top trends you’re seeing in inspection?

Scutchfield: We certainly see the expanded use of artificial intelligence in several areas. We see predictive maintenance as being something that customers continue asking for, along with the continued refinement and reduction of the human element in the programing process, and data analytics, etc. Customers are also driving the trend toward more connectivity, and I don’t see that going away. It’s in their control. They’re going to make all of us get there.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the January 2022 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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