No fools at Simtek, UK based independent CEM

ESUK Apr14 p16_18 Simtek 3Simtek are celebrating 10 years as a totally independent CEM this April. It was in fact April fool’s day 2004 when Lee Boulton and Richard Samuel took the plunge by orchestrating a management buyout from the Simrad group of companies.

Way back in 2004, the company existed in what was in essence a tin shed equipped with the surface mount equivalent of two bicycles, 18 employees, a £900k turnover and an overwhelming reliance on the seasonal marine electronics market.

Looking at the company now, the differences are striking.

Following relocation to an 18,000 sq. ft. purpose built facility in 2007, followed by significant investment in surface mount machinery, the company now has the SM equivalent of three F1 racing cars!

The number of personnel now stands at 42, and the turnover is set to be in excess of £3.6M in 2014. It is interesting to note that of that original team of employees over half of them are still with the company today.

Seasonal demand for product has been smoothed by the diversification into a host of other markets which has in turn increased the turnover four fold.

This growth has been achieved despite some very difficult trading conditions seen over the last few years. The investment in machinery has meant that Simtek can remain competitive in the UK, but also on a global scale. This competitiveness leaves the way clear to concentrate upon customer service which has resulted in 93% of the current customer base being gained through recommendation by others alone.

The whole Simtek operation is controlled by a SAP database system incorporating MRP coupled with full component and assembly traceability. This system was another timely investment which has more than proved its worth.

The RoHS status of every item can be tracked from raising a Purchase Order right through to delivery. This availability of information can be further expanded for any critical component tracking and traceability requirements.

The SAP system has also been key to the company achieving the ISO9001:2008 quality standard and has led to them attracting major customers from the medical electronics industry.

Medical Electronics now accounts for over half of the company’s turnover and the company has invested heavily in the training and development of key personnel in workmanship standards now demanded within this sector, such as IPC-A-610. Employees are also trained in IPC-7711 rework standards so that a fully controlled and documented service can be offered if any reconfiguring of existing equipment is required.

Simtek are also now offering a “Progress NPI” prototyping service. Recognising the requirement for small prototype runs that need to iron out any potential placement or reflow issues, the company is offering a “wet paste/reflow” service where any chip components are manually placed whilst any no leg components (such as QFNs and BGAs) are machine placed to ensure alignment accuracy and elimination of shorts or opens.

Basic requirements are that the Bill of Materials (BOM) has cross references to standard catalogue part numbers (Farnell, RS, Digikey or Mouser) and that Gerber data is provided for the production of the bare PCB and SM stencil.

Another area where the necessary skill and experience is resident at Simtek is with the ultrasonic welding of plastics. Throughout the company’s existence the production of hermetically sealed assemblies containing electronics has been somewhat a speciality. This process now encompasses assemblies as diverse as GPS tracking units, waterproof connectors, battery packs and even parts for dairy milking machines.

Simtek are an independent, privately owned company offering electronic manufacturing services across the range from prototype to full batch production. Whether the requirement is for a single PCB assembly, a complete turnkey solution or anything in between – with Simtek the delivery is foolproof.