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24 PCB007 MAGAZINE I JUNE 2020 Feature Interview by the I-Connect007 Editorial Team Alex Stepinski and Whelen Engineering caught everyone's attention a few years ago when they opted to make their own PCBs in an innovative captive facility: GreenSource Fab- rication. Now, with the recent purchase of an equipment manufacturer, Alex is helping to de- sign whole factory solutions for OEMs who are interested in bringing PCB fabrication in-house. Barry Matties: Alex, why don't you give us your take on what's going on with the mindset from captive facilities? Alex Stepinski: Everybody probably knows our story, so I won't rehash it, but we were kind of the prototype. And the reason Whelen did it was that our visionary COO at the time thought there would be a better way; there was, and we did it. But now we have this case study in North America with Whelen and GreenSource, and other people are looking at us. I see a lot of interest from folks in doing something similar, and this is driven primarily by people who can't find a fit for their product in the market. Job shops are jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none, and they have to set up a shop that handles a lot of different customers, in most cases, to provide some safety and diversity to their business. There are some that specialize in broad categories, like flex or microwave. But generally, you see this in Asia more than in the U.S. In the U.S., people tend to do a lot of differ- ent things because there's not enough business. The OEMs in the U.S. market have a tough time finding a fit because they have a lot of specialty products, and there's hardly anybody that's a good fit. In Asia, you can find a bet- ter fit, but there are a lot of OEMs that don't have enough volume to get their attention. Ev- erybody is at the mercy of the supply chain. Having your own captive fab gives you con- trol of your capacity and priority. You get 100% of the attention because you control it. And if you wanted to, you could customize this fab for your product design philosophy and get a lot of efficiencies out of that. That's what we did here, and now that we've taken the next step, we've become a job shop to some ex- tent. We're doing third-party work primarily for the defense and aerospace sector, focusing on technologies that weren't historically repre- sented in the U.S. Rethinking Captive Manufacturing Alex Stepinski

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