“Our potential to grow in India is linked to the growth of local manufacturers”

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Ersa GmbH is a popular name in the selective soldering space, worldwide. Its products are designed to optimise processes in production environments. When it comes to reflow ovens and wave soldering, Ersa is among the top three companies in the world turnover wise as well as in terms of the number of machines sold. When its area sales manager, Tobias van Rossem, was in India recently, he spoke to Srabani Sen of Electronics Bazaar about India’s importance to the company, and how it plans to grow in the country, in tandem with local manufacturing.

Tobias van Rossem

Ersa is a global brand and the Indian market is important for us because it is a growing market, and we can find here good customers for our high-quality products. We make high-quality machines that can deliver the lowest cost of ownership to customers. These machines reduce the cost of production and that is why we think India is important for us. Also, many of our global customers like Bosch have their factories in India. And we have found that many of the Indian manufacturers and sub-contractors require our machines.

EB: You have talked about the potential India has. Is it translating into the opportunities you had expected?

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Yes, we are growing in India. We see that our potential to grow in India is linked to the growth of the local manufacturers.

EB: As you know, India is a cost-sensitive country. Do your machines fulfil the cost requirements of the Indian manufacturers?

India is a cost-driven country, however, it is our job to inform and convince our Indian customers that not only is the cost of the equipment important but also the cost of the product it produces. For example, if you buy a low-cost machine, its consumption of electricity will be high and the product you produce will be expensive. However, if you go for a high-quality machine, which may be costly, it will reduce your cost of operations because you use less nitrogen and less electricity. Therefore, it is our objective to explain to our Indian customers that they can operate at a lower cost with our machines.

EB: What are the maintenance costs for your machines?

I will explain this through an example. Nokia’s India factory has 45 reflow ovens from Ersa. Since they have the lowest cost of ownership and the maintenance time is minimal, these machines at Nokia don’t require downtime and maintenance, which means maintenance can be done while manufacturing is going on. The cleaning is done during production, which lowers the cost of maintenance to a great extent.

EB: Did you launch any new machines in 2012?

Yes, we have launched several new machines. Among the hand soldering tools, we have launched the Vario stations where up to four different tools can be used at the same time. We have also launched the HR600, a fully automated BGA rework station including automatic placement of the component.

We have upgraded our screen printers; S1 has a totally new design and new features now. The third and the most important product we launched last year
was the selective soldering machine, which is very important for the Indian market. Earlier, the machines we made were mainly for the automotive market. But this new machine, Ecoselect 1, is an entry-level machine for the Indian market, which has exactly the same quality as the earlier machines, but it is only a bit slower.

EB: Is there a demand for such machines in India?

Definitely. Ecoselect 1 is for markets like India, Brazil and Russia, and we are promoting it in these countries. This machine has to be loaded manually but the quality is the same as the fully automatic one. This is what the local manufacturers need because they can maintain the quality, lower the cost of ownership, and produce the quantity they want.

EB: Is Bergen Associates your exclusive distributor in India?

Yes, we don’t believe in having multiple distributors. The reason being that we want to ensure the customers get quality and continuity of service. We have been associated with Bergen for more than 15 years. So, if we want to give our customers quality service, we will have to count on our distributor; that is why we have an exclusive agreement with Bergen.

EB: How do you support your distributor in India?

We support it in all possible ways. We like to see it as a partnership. Its not that an Indian customer needs to talk to only Bergen Associates; they can approach us directly as well, and we will support them. But we would prefer them coming through Bergen as they understand the people, language and the business culture better than us. I also visit India to meet our existing customers and explore new possibilities. Besides, Bergen technicians and engineers visit Ersa regularly to get trained on the machines. That is how they remain updated on the latest features and applications of the machines. So this is more of a partnership.

EB: Besides visiting India to meet customers and participating in expos, is there any other marketing strategy you follow?

The main marketing activities are carried out by Bergen Associates as they know the local market better. And I believe that by keeping a customer happy, we will be able to attract more and more customers. So, it is the word of mouth publicity which is very important for us. Besides, we advertise in magazines, participate in expos and seminars.

EB: How much time does it take for Ersa to install a machine ordered in India through Bergen?

We have a very fast production schedule. We have an inline production set-up and we build on orders. Our production line with mixed assembly can produce a machine in as short a time as six weeks, depending on the requirements of the customer. We don’t keep machines in stock and we produce on order only. Therefore it takes us six weeks to make a machine and then shipment takes a few weeks more.

EB: Do you have to customise your machines as per the Indian conditions?

Our machines are the same worldwide. This means we don’t have a different model for the Indian market since we believe that the electronics standards are the same worldwide. However, customers can choose the options they want to buy in a machine, depending on their requirements.

EB: Where do you have your facility?

Our facility is in a small town called Wertheim located 90 km away from Frankfurt, Germany.

Do you face any obstacles while operating in India?
With every territory, we face certain limitations. One of the issues we face in India is the transportation and infrastructure problems that restrict us from transporting our machines faster.

EB: Where do you place yourselves globally in the domain you operate?

We are the leaders in selective soldering, worldwide. This is our main product. When it comes to reflow ovens and wave soldering, we are in the top three in the world, depending on how you calculate—based on turnover or number of machines. In screen printers, we are not the leaders when it comes to volumes.

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