Electronics Production | December 16, 2011

'All is good in Veldhoven'

With a majority stake of Dutch equipment manufacturer Assembleón in the hands of investor H2 Equity, a new CEO took the lead. What does it mean? We a had a little chat with Tonn van de Laar. And he should know.
Tonn van de Laar has been 'The New Guy' for the past 6 months. Does it also mean a significant change of strategic direction for Assembléon?

Simply put I got neither a yes or a no for an answer. To a certain extend we will see changes. Assembléon – as a subsidiary of Philips and being a non-core activity for the company – had a strategy connected to the overall direction of Philips Corporation.

Everything done fitted in with the 'big Philips strategy for Consumer, Lighting and Healthcare activities, not necessarily SMT activities'. The interesting thing however is the fact that Philips continued to spend money on Assembléon’s R&D and innovation – even during the time when Philips was actively searching for a buyer. Something that most other companies tend to overlook.

“We have different ambitions.”

As a smaller company – not being under the umbrella of a giant such as Philips – ambitions also have changed. Not per se the huge market share and the huge market to strive for, which is typically what larger companies tell you about. Assembléon now follows a more careful growth strategy. “It is still based on what we do best – innovation and our competencies – but a little bit more carefully crafted”.

“What we decided to leave as it was is the focus on innovation. That beautiful iFlex machine (Editor's Note: which was presented during the productronica 2011) was preceded by two years of hard work. Only the last 6 months have been under our heading.”

Market share is also a good cue. What are we looking at?

The modest answer of a modest Dutch CEO is: “Our focus here is global.”

Electronics is not all Asia. “The cost advantage is getting smaller, as people in Asia request to have their share of the cake. Furthermore, the continuous innovation in the field of automation makes the impact of labour less and less prominent.”

So, for specific market segments – Manufacturing in Asia is no longer the most logical choice, especially were short delivery times or small batch sizes are essential. –. Manufacturing in relatively small batches, with a certain level of automation while being close to the end consumer is coming back from Asia. A trend that Assembléon finds rather important. As a consequence, the Dutch equipment manufacturer has decided to operate a Sales & Service Office on each continent, while focus is put squarely on R&D and flexibility.

“With the iFlex we've done a very good job. I know everyone is saying that about their own machines. Competition is most often thinking along the same lines. However, this machine can increase manufacturing activities in Europe and the Americas. At the same time, local consumption in Asia is also increasing and in a few years manufacturing in Asia will not be purely for the European or North-American market any longer. So China and South East Asia will become a more focussed and regional manufacturing base. China will eventually become a consumer in its own right.”

When it comes to investments Tonn van de Laar is quite clear. “Our investment pot is spend on R&D. A new facility is not important. Assembléon stands for innovations. Always has and always will.”

So. Nothing has really changed and still everything vibrates on 'newness', growth and excitement.

Thanks for the interview. / © Assembléon
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