Partnership and Collaboration

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Dan Beaulieu and Nolan Johnson recently had a conversation with Christopher Kalmus of Aurora Circuits and Brigitte Lawrence of Brigitflex. Joining them was Jeff Brandman of Aismalibar North America. The group discussed the value of partnerships, noting how it has helped them win and keep business. They also describe a recent project for an OEM manufacturer in the automotive industry that served as a case study for this discussion. 

Nolan Johnson: What does partnership mean in your working relationship?

Christopher Kalmus: It means working together, trying to solve a problem that’s of value to all of us.

Brigitte Lawrence: When a customer comes to us, needs something produced, and we don’t have everything at our fingertips, we can work together with others to help the customer. We can work together to accomplish it in the timeframe, money frame, and everything else to get it out to the assembler or our customer.

Johnson: Is this a tactical or a strategic kind of relationship?

Lawrence: Neither. It’s a friendship. In this type of situation, we’re not competing. We are working together underneath an umbrella to keep everything friendly and competitive free. We each have our own niche, we know where it’s at, and we don’t cross each other.

Johnson: So, by having complementary areas of specialty, you can work together, making those component pieces larger than the individual parts?

Lawrence: It’s larger than the industry when we put it together.

Dan Beaulieu: The way I see it, you have some operations that Chris can’t do, and he has some that you can’t do. 

Kalmus: That’s right Dan. These are unusual times. We’re dealing with an industry that’s basically been devastated over the last two decades. You go back three decades, and the U.S./North America produced maybe 50–60% of all the circuit boards in the world. It was a highly resilient industry; it could take some body blows and still be okay. I’ve seen a lot of different estimates that we now produce probably less than 4% of the world’s production, while China currently is probably producing more than 50%.

Beaulieu: Some sources say over 80%.

Kalmus: Our industry is so stretched that it’s not even possible for everybody to have everything that they want, to do everything that they want. Partnerships, from materials to final assembly, help fill the void. 

Lawrence: We must work together. We must trust each other. We must use each other’s machinery. Sometimes we are not allowed to collaborate, but we do it when we can. We do what we can to keep things here and work together as a team, keeping things here in the States. It’s not just building the product. It’s keeping the machinery running and keeping our factories running. It’s what it takes to build the product.

Kalmus: Circuit board innovations have always relied on people who have ideas, who know how to do things, and can extrapolate to other ways of doing things. To me, that’s probably the bigger part of our partnership. Brigitte and Chuck (Lawrence) are two unique people in the printed circuit board world, with their knowledge and what they’re capable of doing. We’ve always been innovative, going all the way back to Kalmus and Associates in the 1950s and 1960s. 

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


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