Monday, June 1, 2009

Adjusting to the Market: Merix Repositions for Mil/Aero Growth

It’s remarkable how some companies can adjust quickly to take advantage of a changing environment. In 2007, Merix Corp. (Beaverton, OR), saw an opportunity to expand from an under-diversified PCB manufacturer working mainly in networked communications to a company providing high-volume military and aerospace PCB manufacturing. Now, the company, which has been in operation for more than 40 years, has completed the transition to mil/aero PCB manufacturing house.

Michael Burger joined Merix as president and CEO in 2007, bringing with him the experience of many years with Flextronics. “We committed to a strategic realignment with a focus on expanding our technology and manufacturing capability to increase market share in the defense and aerospace sector,” said Burger. Now, the company has completed that phase, which Burger says will position it for long-term growth and profitability.

The military market has remained strong compared to the rest of the PCB market space. Nine percent of overall sales at Merix today come from military contractors, up from two percent in the past. One reason for the deluge in defense/aerospace business is that 16 new and potential clients have pushed the company to get qualifications going in the mil/aero space in just the last quarter. Merix San Jose is MIL-PRF-55110F certified and applying for MIL-PRF-31032 certification. Customer demands and increased business in this area have prompted growth in this market.

Read more about the transition to military/aerospace products in this news story: Merix Strengthens Defense and Aerospace Capability

Merix started as a board house for Tektronix more than 40 years ago. In 2004, the company expanded, buying Data Circuits, a quick-turn (10 days or less) operation in San Jose. Today, quick-turn prototyping of standard and advanced PCB technologies can be performed in 24 hours at Merix’s San Jose facility. A fully reconfigured 250,000-sq.ft. facility in Forest Grove, OR, also offers quick-turn prototyping to full-volume production, handling advanced technology options as high layer counts and high density interconnect (HDI) solutions. The company has always been a PCB manufacturer with a lot of prototyping business around communications (about 40% of sales) with the remainder in auto, computer and peripherals, medical and telecom.

Merix has two Asian facilities. A Huiyang, a 450,000-sq.ft. facility designated for high volume, low-mix PCB assembly and one in Huizhou, at 135,000 square feet. Approximately 40% of its business comes out of the North American customer base, starting out in quick-turn prototypes and then moving to high-volume production in the Asian facilities as designs prove robust enough for high-volumes. “Helping customers go from prototype in North America to volume production in Asia works well for us,” said Mike Zelman, VP of marketing.

Electronics manufacturing suppliers have to listen to what the market demands, relate to a variety of customer concerns, and keep in touch with technology trends to grow larger, no matter the market sector.

Gail Flower, editor-at-large

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