We sat down with industry experts at SEMICON West to cull their best business, trends and marketing insights. Here’s what Steven Chisolm of Pall Corporation had to say.
Pall Corporation is a multinational company headquartered on Long Island, NY. We’re a material science company. Our key products are filtration and purification solutions for a variety of industries. Those industries include microelectronics, biomedical, pharmaceutical; as well as heavy duty machinery equipment, the energy market and aerospace – basically we cover all high tech and heavy industry.
We’re hearing a lot from folks about the cyclical nature of the industry. What are some of the challenges you see ahead on the materials side?
Fundamentally when we look at the market, we look at it from three facets. What’s going on with wafer starts – with IBM, Global Foundries, etc. In addition, we have a heavy presence with the OEMs – so we take a look at what the book to bill is. Lastly, we look at the material suppliers a well.
What we’re seeing is a slowing in CapEx, so that’s affecting some of the equipment buys and affecting some of that revenue associated with OEMs. But, the material market is very strong. You have a lot of new materials coming on board and be utilized in processing – that market is very strong for us.
What do you see as the big technology push and pulls with your customers?
You have to look at IBM and the foundries; it all becomes, for us, about uptime and yield. Our products are the enablers of process, so we make sure that our products don’t add contaminants because we’re suppose to take them out. At the same point and time, we try to make them ergonomically correct so if we’re in a situation where (our customers) have to make change outs on tools, we’re not impacting their downtime.
The R&D side, whether it be directly related to 450 or related to 1X nodes, is still robust.
You’re one of the companies that tells your brand story really well. Who else in the industry has mastered marketing?
I think that of the large companies – the large capital equipment companies – everyone knows those brands. Those brands are very tight. The material companies as well. Anyone who plays in the space wants to have scale and presence do a good job at projecting their brands.
M&A is big the in semiconductor industry right now. As someone who operates across many industries, where do you see opportunities for multi-industry convergence?
The one thing that I’ve talked about for a while is the idea of digital convergence. When we start to take a look at what how these consolidations come about, we look at, for example, the display space on the semiconductor side. People start to talk about how flexible electronics was only a dream 10 or 15 years ago, but is now a reality. We think we’re poised well to take advantage of that because of the presence that we have in displays and also ink jet; marry that into semiconductors and people talk about flexible displays. What is going to drive that is flexible display and flexible electronics and the whole idea of wearable electronics. That’s another area of the industry to look to for growth.
Looking ahead to 2015 – how do things look?
(2014) has been an OK year so far – slightly muted. The jury is still out on 2015. It’s the economy. So much of microelectronics is controlled by the consumer; it’s a consumer business at the end state with the device. What happens with the GDP and consumer confidence will affect things.
This industry is predictably unpredictable. What is your advice for companies look to ride out the down and make hay on the upside?
The most successful companies will keep their R&D turning throughout a down cycle. They should keep their people who are excellent on the street – since it’s about making sure you’re in constant contact with your customer. You have to resist the idea of running your business to the cycle. And, you have to constantly invest because that what this industry is. The people who do those things well will succeed.