Naprotek: Building a Successful EMS in Silicon Valley with a Woman's Touch

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Recently, I had the privilege to visit Naprotek Inc., an EMS provider in the heart of the Silicon Valley, where I was able to spend some time speaking with CEO Najat Badriyeh, and two of her team members: VP of Marketing Liz Davidson, and Director of Business Development Mike Brown.

Judy Warner: Najat, please tell me a little bit about Naprotek, how you got started, and how you came to start and run an EMS company.

Najat Badriyeh: I have always dreamed of starting my own business, without a particular determination of a field or area of expertise. Growing up in Lebanon, my role model was my father, who owned a retail store and succeeded in making it the best one in our city. I loved to visit him in his office and imagine what it would be like to be my own boss.

Eventually, I came to the United States, where I worked in electronics. Multiple business ideas interested me: rework, ECN support and R&D. There was a time when I thought about material and kitting as a potential service. Nonetheless, once I switched from semiconductor work to PCBs and the more experienced I became in electronics, the more I focused on the CM services.

I was working at Fine Pitch Technology, helping it grow and become very successful, when rumors started about its upcoming acquisition by Solectron. It was immediately that I made up my mind. It was about time to make my dream come true and start my own business. Considering that Solectron is a high-volume company, I realized that there is a great opportunity for a business that focuses on small-volume engineering work and prototype. That is when I started Naprotek, in 1995. The rest is history and here we are today.

Warner: What size is the company today, as far as sales, number of employees, and square footage?

Badriyeh: As far as sales are concerned, our goal for this year is to sell just under $20 million. Our model always has been to support prototypes, working with R&D and doing the front end. Over the years, we moved into servicing the low production volume for companies, without advertising this fact enough. More recently, we started moving in a different direction. We plan to grow and expand the business in a manner that will double our production in the next few years, and we are adding the mechanical assembly and ICT test. The road map that we are following is to strengthen the small-volume production. We have installed three new lines in the last three years. This new equipment will boost our capacity and enable us to achieve our growth plan.

At this point, we have 65 employees in a facility that is more than 23,000 square foot. We can meet our growth needs by utilizing swing shift, with an option to add a graveyard shift.


Naprotek's Mike Brown, Director of Business Development; Liz Davidson, VP of Marketing; and Najat Badriyeh, CEO.

Warner: Liz and Mike, tell me a little bit about your backgrounds, and then what you see as the pain-points and challenges for your customers from a sales standpoint? Liz, why don't we start with you.

Liz Davidson: I joined the company when it was still fairly young, in 1997, so I have witnessed and lived through its growth. As Najat said, our focus was primarily on new product introduction, (NPI) and we have built quite a reputation as a premier supplier in this segment. Over the years, we expanded our service offering. Today our model is to support the new product introduction and production. That's why we've brought in the three new lines.

We've also focused heavily in training our employees. Our employees are trained and certified to IPC 610 and J-STD-001. We are positioned for company growth. We have the infrastructure, the facility, and all of the equipment.

Many customers had experienced the pain of doing prototype and low-volume production offshore, and in many cases with no reduced price benefit to them. Local companies still need the support here in the U.S. They want the proximity of someone who can provide the quick-turn prototyping and support some level of production. Naprotek is the ideal solution for them.

Warner: Mike, I imagine you have a lot of competition being right smack in the middle of Silicon Valley. I read that you have a background at Flex. Tell us a little bit about what you see as the pain points and the drivers that you're focusing on as business development director.

Mike Brown: The positive alternative that we offer relies heavily on the expertise of our employees. 62+% have been with Naprotek for 15 to 20 years and they have developed the skillset that is missing from the tier 1 and tier 2 companies. The Naprotek workmanship is consistent and this consistency speeds up the production process.

In contrast with tier 1, where a quote can take five to seven business days to be signed off, we produce a turnkey quote in four hours. You cannot do that at any other place of business. If I had not been part of this team and witnessed it with my own eyes, I would have told you that it is impossible. It is of the utmost importance to the customers that they have someone who can build from NPI to prototype, to low-volume manufacturing, and get the visibility and flexibility that the bigger companies cannot deliver, since they are constrained by a great turnover. From this point of view, we offer a competitive pricing in addition to a service that is unavailable in the large companies.

We have competitors around here, but one of our significant advantages, for our size, is we're very financially viable. We have zero debt, we have new equipment, box build, ICT and solder paste inspection. Medium- to high-volume production typically moves out of this areas in most cases offshore. We've been supporting those customers for those tier 1s for years now, and very successfully. We have some customers that we can't mention that are name brand customers, and we take care of all the front-end work, and we're trying to take on more of the low- to medium-volume production.


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