Voice of the Modern Manufacturing Economy Since 2013

Advanced Circuits

by Eric Peterson on September 30, 2015, 02:54 pm MDT

www.4pcb.com

Aurora, Colorado

Founded: 1989

Privately owned

Employees: more than 500 (303 in Colorado; the company also owns PCB factories in Arizona and Minnesota that employ more than 200 combined)

CEO John Yacoub has grown the printed circuit board manufacturer to be one of the nation's largest with a focus on quick turnaround time and quality.

In an industry marked by consolidation and offshoring, Advanced Circuits stands out.

The company fabricates and assembles custom and stock printed circuit boards (PCBs) for customers largely in medical, electronics, and defense. Yacoub says it's now the either the second- or third-largest manufacturer of PCBs in the U.S. and one of a increasingly rare breed locally and nationally.

"Thirty years ago, there were maybe 20 PCB manufacturers in Colorado," he says. "Now there are four." Nationally, the trend is even more pronounced: The 1,800 domestic manufacturers in business in 2000 have dwindled to about 250 today.

The largest is TTM Technologies, which acquired the second-largest such company, Viasystems, in 2014. The combined company could shutter several facilities in 2016. "That might create more demand for us," says Yacoub.

But Advanced Circuits will stick to the differentiators that got the company where it is today: "quick turn and quality," says Yacoub. The company is not reinventing the PCB, he adds, it's just making them faster and better than the competition.

Turnaround time is "day and night" compared to foreign PCB manufacturers, he explains. Some orders shipping in 24 hours, at least three days quicker than offshore manufacturers.

If you need it now, says Yacoub, "You have to come here. You can't go to China." He references the theme song to Ghostbusters -- "Who you gonna call? -- and adds, "If you need reliability and on-time delivery, we're known nationwide."

Advanced Circuits has 11,000 customers in just about every industry, he says, and the diverse market allows the company to weather most any recession. "If someone is slow, someone else is busy."

Yacoub joined the company in 1996 when annual revenue was $2 million. He has worked with his brother and Advanced Circuits COO and CFO, Jeff, to grow the company into the biggest player in Colorado's PCB industry for nearly 20 years.

After the company completed an expansion that gave the company about 113,000 square feet of space in 2013, revenue hit $90 million in 2014 and Yacoub's 2015 forecast is about $93 million.

Challenges: Workforce. "That's the biggest one in my mind," says Yacoub. "Unfortunately, we don't have enough good people to hire." In this context, training is critical. "It takes six months, and, if we're lucky, they stick around."

Opportunities: To compete on things beyond price. If margins on PCBs are razor-thin, there will be no money to invest in the company and quality will suffer, says Yacoub. "The strong are going to get stronger and the weak are going to get weaker," he explains. "They cannot invest in capital equipment."

Needs: Advanced Circuits has invested $12 million in capital equipment in the past four years, and there are no plans to stop. Yacoub aims to boost speed, consistency, and redundancy. "For next year, our capital is going to exceed $2.5 million," he says. "We're investing in the future."

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