While there are many Chinese companies now selling in the United States, I wanted to find one in Taiwan that is penetrating the U.S. market. I was delighted to come across EISO Enterprise Co. Ltd., a printed circuit board fabricator located in Taiwan. I know that the American companies are usually looking for PCB global partners in countries other than China, which made my conversation with Gary (Jung Kun) Chien all the more interesting, especially when he shared his thoughts on the U.S-China trade wars.
Dan Beaulieu: Gary, thank you for talking with me today. I have been wanting to interview the president of a Taiwanese PCB company, so I’m happy that you stepped up to talk about your company.
Gary Chien: My pleasure, Dan. It is always a pleasure to talk about my company.
Beaulieu: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you come to be the owner of EISO Enterprises?
Chien: My background is in chemical and electrical engineering. When I was younger, I was anxious to make a mark for myself in the printed circuit board industry. I was very ambitious and, if I may say, a little bit aggressive. You must remember that in the early ‘80s, the PCB industry was one of the most promising and lucrative businesses and I wanted to be part of it. I started off in sales, but then I became more interested in the actual manufacturing processes so I spent my off hours in the factory learning everything I could about all the details of PCB processes and techniques. Later, I started my own company.
Beaulieu: When was that exactly?
Chien: I started EISO in 1984 with three other partners.
Beaulieu: What was the start up like? I know that can be very difficult.
Chien: Yes of course, it was very difficult in the beginning; the capital ran out very quickly, as you know. Starting any company from scratch can be very expensive, especially an equipment-heavy company like a PCB company. So, with money running out we had significant losses during the first six months. That caused my co-founders to walk away from the company. I came in one morning and they had left me a note saying, “The company is yours now…sorry brother.” They had all resigned, leaving me with the company, the bills, and the problems. But I was determined to make a go of it. My dream was to have a successful PCB company, so I stayed and fought for the company’s survival. I worked day and night to make the company successful and, eventually, I worked my way through the debt and the crises to build the company to where it is today.
Beaulieu: Tell me about your company as it stands today.
Chien: EISO is a publicly listed company based in Taoyuan, Taiwan (a PCB hub with a full and complete value chain). We are a leading expert in multilayer rigid board (2L-24L) and HDI used across many industries, predominantly industrial computers, communication electronics, automotive, and medical. Our vision is to become a PCB fabricator that can be flexible and adjustable to meet all our customers’ needs both today and the future. Our motto is “If there is EISO, there is a way.”
Beaulieu: What is the size of the company today?
Chien: We finished FY 2021 at US$53 million, and we have a very wide customer base. Our clients are across the world and many of them are global conglomerates.
Beaulieu: Congratulations. Now let’s move to the technology. Please discuss the technology at EISO.
Chien: As you know the PCB is the fundament for all electronical products and EISO takes great pride in being a key contributor in this value chain. At EISO we have three main capabilities: production, machinery, and material. Please allow me to explain each one.
Production capability is advance multilayers board (up to 24L)/HDI (three stacked microvia already in mass production), copper-filled plating, high aspect ratio, thin line/spacing, ±8% impedance control. Machinery capability is auto and semi-auto production facilities, IOT cloud software to monitor machinery on real-time basis, and continue capital investment on upgrading/ buying advanced facilities. Material capability is basic plus advance plus high frequency (5G) materials. We have been working with most of the CCL companies to acquire new/advanced materials at competitive price. Engineering will assist on finding equivalent/substitute materials to meet your target and timeline.
We also have an SMT and assembly facilities so we can offer a one-stop solution for our customers, thus streamlining the process and eliminating the hassle of our customers having to handle numerous suppliers.
Beaulieu: Please list some things that make EISO an outstanding company?
Chien: One of the key capabilities is our R&D team. Most of our R&D engineers have over 20 years of experiences in PCBs and need to attend regular offsite trainings. They are heavily involved in the use of new materials, especially in the field of 5G, IOT, low orbit satellite, and RF.
We often have regular meeting with the client’s design team to discuss how their design can be produced more efficiently and cost-effectively by providing the insights from a manufacturer’s perspective. Often with just a tiny bit of modification of design and without changing the original functionality of the PCB we can actually save them a lot of the production costs. Those are the things that typically are neglected by their own engineer, but we help our client to avoid necessary costs. Trust is built through this process, and we become a key partner in their supply chain, creating a long, strong collaboration.
Beaulieu: Now let’s talk about quality.
Chien: Quality is, of course, all important in the PCB industry and with this in mind we have invested in a number of valuable registrations and certifications including the very important certification for automotive: IATF 16949, which is vital for working in the automotive market and is very important to us at EISO. We have our QCO 8000 and ISO, and we are a key member in the Taiwan Printed Circuits Association (TPCA) by participating in monumental industry summit and forum. We are engaging in new trends and equipment, having supply and demand discussions, and learning from one another.
One fun thing about our quality control team is that they are the most loved yet the most hated too. The team is made up of very enthusiastic people, but they can be “annoying” when in the role of “quality police.” They will appear unexpectedly on the production site to check up on the operators to see if they have followed the SOP, from safety wears, equipment, record devise, and packaging. We have set plenty of check points to make sure that our PCBs are made following strict protocols. But with our customers’ always at the front of our minds these are very important to the success of the company.
Beaulieu: Yes, I know exactly what you mean by that. Now, let’s talk about what I think is critical in every business, especially the PCB business: customer service. How do you approach customer service at EISO? Be sure to focus on international service as that is what our reads are especially interested in.
Chien: We understand that sourcing offshore is a pain, not just PCBs but buying anything globally can be hard. This is something we have learned the hard way by stumbling through the collaboration with our international clients during the past five years.
Things like language, culture, time zones, and communication can be a headache for the purchaser. We found that to be successful we need to make the process as easy as possible. Therefore, three years ago EISO restructured its support system, from sales, engineering, quality assurance, customer service, and logistics, to make sure we can cover international clients across main time zones in the United States and Europe.
Our international sales team is fluent in English, experienced in PCBs, with a fun, open mindset, and adequate in international trade logistics. Most of the quotes can be done within 24 hours.
We found that our responsiveness was the key to success with international business. We never want to disappoint the client, and we never want the client to feel being left high and dry. Even if we cannot solve the issue straightaway, at least we inform them on the reception of the message and tell them that we are on it.
Beaulieu: How is EISO better than other companies?
Chien: Although we are a publicly listed company, we do our best to cut out the unnecessary bureaucracy. Our team is nimble and flexible toward requests, making us very important for the medium-size company that is looking for speed and accuracy but at the same time wants to keep costs competitive. Those clients need to find partners who can help them roll out the products fast in order to capture the market opportunity, and EISO has helped them to do that by offering precise engineering suggestions, sample verification, SMT assembly, and rollout to mass production.
Also, we witnessed a PCB production shift from other locations (primarily China) to Taiwan due to political (U.S.-China trade war), security (confidential know-how), and stability (shortage of components) reasons. Maybe these are some of your concerns too. As a Taiwanese company, we advocate integrity and trust. We are prudent in making promises, but once we confirm, we will surely delivery. This is why our clients find us reliable and come to EISO for urgent request and help.
Beaulieu: What types of companies as customers are you best suited to work for?
Chien: We have a wide variety of customers from industrial; computers: industrial computers, embedded computers, vehicle PCs, motherboards, and related accessories; communication electronics; automotive, and many others.
In terms of size, it will be medium to large companies that are needing quality yet very flexible on adjustment. We can also support clients by preparing materials in advance to make sure that they can get their order to them in a timely fashion. Our production lot sizes can vary from prototype to mass production and we are very flexible for clients who have a combination of small to big product portfolio.
Beaulieu: What are your plans for the future?
Chien: We understand that PCBs, especially advanced boards, are capital intensive. Therefore, typically the capital investment will be planned one to three years ahead of time. Because we are public, we are required to reveal future capital investments in our annual report.
We are aiming to become a smart factory. Combining hardware (production plants) with software (IoT cloud system). Last year, we bought a copper via-filled plating line to cope with increased demand for HDI microvia plating. We have added additional lamination equipment to handle increased need for capacity. Our oxidization line has just been renewed. We are investing in both production and quality equipment as well, including new state of the art testers.
Beaulieu: Do you plan on investing in other business units as well?
Chien: Yes, we are. Besides our core PCB business, EISO has operated as a “group” with many other different business units. The other big business unit is the LED Department, handling LED-related OEM/ODM production. We have an e-bike department as well, which includes electronic bike design, assembly, and sales under our brand named DOSUN.
Beaulieu: Can you talk about the hot issue of today: China vs. Taiwan when it comes to PCBs?
Chien: Yes, of course. Most of the PCB business has been in China, but we have a seen a trend with our Western clients as they have faced a lot of issues when dealing with Chinese suppliers, including, of course, the trade war between the U.S. and China, which has driven many of our Western friends to seek alternative global suppliers, so they come to Taiwan for quality reliable electronics and, frankly, a more comfortable PCB industry to do business with.
We have been working with many U.S. clients, but we have come to a point where we need to start having local sales and support team to service the local clients more effectively. Our goal at EISO is to expand our business into North America and Europe as well. That is our plan for the immediate future.
Beaulieu: How do you sell at EISO? What has worked for you?
Chien: Remember that I come from a sales background myself., so I watch the sales department very carefully. Our salespeople at EISO are very experienced and well-trained. They are able to work both as individual contributors and team players. They are empowered to do what is right for the customer. They have been given the autonomy and the authority to do what is best to get the job done.
Beaulieu: Talk about your marketing. How do you get the word out about EISO. What do you do to make sure you are found?
Chien: To be brutally honest, I think in the past fer years we tended to “bury our head in the sand” and hope that things get done. We didn’t put much focus on broadcasting/marketing because we believed that if we can provide unique and competitive products with excellent quality, clients would come to us. And we have had success with that, up to a point. But we also take great pride in what we do, and we feel that it is time to let more people know about EISO. We want people to know that the product they are using has been built by EISO of Taiwan. We want people globally to know about our company. Therefore, we plan to put much more emphasis on marketing so that people will become more familiar with EISO and what we can offer.
Beaulieu: How do you see things in the future?
Chien: There are still many challenges. Even though the economic recovery continues, we still have many challenges from the pandemic including the havoc it has created on the global supply chain and logistical issues. Plus, the geopolitical issues including Ukraine, economic issues such as inflation, and higher interest rate concerns. We see purchasing trends are changing to combat these challenges, such as “just in case” inventory restocking. Super investment cycles trigger long lead time and future over supply uncertainties.
Therefore, based on these situations, EISO will offer max support on helping clients to manage stock to cope with uncertainty and flexible production to offer quick restocking. We also work with the client to better the order and help organize materials in advance to avoid surging raw material costs.
Beaulieu: Can I ask what EISO is doing to become a better citizen of our world?
Chien: Yes, I am glad you asked that questions. I’d like to emphases that our company has implemented ESG. As a public listed company, social and governance issues have long been addressed and are under strict scrutiny. We are placing more focus on environmental, especially on carbon neutral related topics. Since PCBs use a lot of electricity and water, and can create polluted content, we have the responsibility to make sure that it is something on which we are working. The official ESG report should come out in Q2 2022.
Dan: Gary, this is very good to hear. This has been a very interesting talk. Thank you for spending so much time with me today. Good luck with all of your future plans.
Chien: Thank you, Dan, it has been my pleasure.