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44 FLEX007 MAGAZINE I APRIL 2018 Goldman: I would have expected it to be higher or to be increasing. Talbot: Agreed. Shaughnessy: I remember it was about 5% when I started writing about PCBs in 1999. Flex was so expensive then that you didn't use it unless you absolutely had to, and now a lot of people look to it first. Talbot: As soon as that percentage starts increas- ing, then our material costs will go down and it will be more in line with circuit board costs, because we're still more expensive than circuit boards. Goldman: Do you do anything else other than flex? Talbot: We also do circuit boards. Everything we do is etched, though. We can put flex on different materials, polyimides and polyesters and that sort of thing, but we're still an etch company. We haven't started any sputtering processes or laser etching or anything like that. Shaughnessy: What about rigid-flex? Talbot: We do, and it's about 5% of our work. Shaughnessy: What do you think is the biggest bottleneck for you as far as flex goes? Or for your customers? Talbot: Materials as of late. You know, a year ago we went through a time when copper wasn't being sourced in as big of quantities as it was earlier. Copper prices go up and down all the time, but material costs too for a while made materials very difficult to get. Now it's not so difficult getting materials, but I think that's kind of cyclic. Right now, I would say our biggest challenge without question is labor. Labor would be number one. Goldman: What do you mean exactly? Talbot: Skilled labor. We actually have a train- ing program at Tramonto for the assembly por- tion. We'll bring people in who have never assembled before and we'll run them through the IPC or the J-standard training program. The thing about bringing people into a training program is some of them have never been in manufacturing before. When they get into the environment, they may find out they don't like it. But trying to find skilled people right now is very difficult. Goldman: I wasn't sure whether you meant dollars and cents, or if you meant like you said skilled and capable people. Talbot: It's both. Like I said, last year our payroll increased 40%, which is a pretty big chunk. And this year we don't see that changing at all. To get the skilled people and retain them, it's going to take that. I've read there are 5 to 8 million men from the ages of 25 to 40 who are just sitting on the sidelines, and they're just not in the workforce like they used to be. That's a lot of people that are capable, trainable, and not available.

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