Interview with Barbara Duvall, General Manager and Vice-President Seica SpA
Seica SPA celebrates its anniversary this year. For 25 years Seica developed and produced ATE Systems and Software in Strambino, Italy. It was founded as a private company to supply innovative and new solutions to the ATE market - truly pioneers in their industry. We talked to Barbara Duvall, General Manager of Seica worldwide about their success story.
How did Seica start and can you tell us a bit more about Antonio Grassino’s founding ideas for this new company ?
Antonio started his career in the electrical test department of Olivetti, and in 1986 decided to change paths, putting his 12 years of test experience to work into what was, at the time, a “test house” specialized in the development of complex functional test programs mainly for customers in the avionic and telecom industries. The successful development of this business led to the next step for the company – the development of our own line of test systems.
Technical Leadership – Seica’s developments - where did you start?
In 1990 Seica started development of the first in-circuit test system, based on a modular, building block concept, which was a radical approach at the time, if you consider that the standard approach of the leading ATE companies which had dominated the market until then was a specific model of system for each type of test (in-circuit, functional), with “model specific” hardware and software platforms. The advantage of this new approach was agility, flexibility and cost effectiveness – for Seica and for our customers. The hardware and software platform, which resulted from this development, became the basis for our first in-circuit bed-of-nails tester. As we added more modules, we were able to offer full functional test; in 1994 we grew the platform even more, adding an innovative mechanical dimension which enabled us, in 1995, to present the first flying probe system in the world with true in-circuit capability. Of course, we have continued to develop new technology, but our VIP platform of today is based on the same modular concept. The flexibility of our approach has also proven key: the intrinsically open hardware and software architecture of our platform has enabled us to easily integrate third party software and/or hardware modules, which have become widely adopted as standard by our customers in specific industries, such as automotive and avionic electronics, and has also enabled us to become a leader in legacy replacement solutions for obsolete ATE.
From Italy to the world - when and where offices were opened?
Seica started as an “international” company; right from the beginning several of our customers were located in different European countries, we had a close working relationship, first with Computer Automation, then GenRad and Teradyne in the U.S. As our customer base has grown in different areas, we have opened local offices to offer direct support to our customers and sales force, the first two, Seica France (one office located near Paris) and Seica Inc. (two offices near Boston and in Dallas) were opened in 2000, the third was opened in 2004 in Suzhou, China and the latest in 2008 in Munich, Germany.
The China involvement, one of the first companies to start in China - why?
In 1993 we were already working to promote our products in China through a Hong Kong company, which was a distributor of equipment for electronic board manufacturing. When the owner of the company decided to move on to other things, the sales manager asked Seica to participate in a new company, based directly in China, with the same mission. Since we had already seen firsthand the enormous potential, even then, of the Chinese market, we readily agreed, and Smart Technology was founded in Beijing in 1995. Today, Smart (now Smart Team) continues to promote our solutions out of locations throughout China, supported by our technical office and demo center in Suzhou, China
How has the business changed over the last ten years and where do you see the future focus for Seica ?
Our business is directly connected to the electronics industry, and it is common knowledge that there have been major changes in nearly all aspects: technology, geography, product life cycles, manufacturing strategies, etc. We have had to adapt and evolve, just as our customers have, and we believe that our original principles - agility, flexibility and cost effectiveness – have proven and continue to be even more essential today.
Flying probe test will continue to be a focus, since this type of solution is ideal for minimizing test setup time and costs, which have become key elements for customers dealing with shortened product life cycles, smaller production volumes, and continuous product changes.
Another focus will be on completely automated test and soldering solutions, which will become increasingly important to customers looking to increase productivity in order to contain costs as will conformance to internationally recognized guidelines, such as the World Class Manufacturing (WCM) standard aimed at achieving the “lean production” goals necessary to be competitive in a globalized marketplace.
Still pioneers (which products areas etc.) and market leaders?
- Flying Probe Test – The Pilot V8 is the only system in the world with 8 test probes for double-sided probing (4 per side), power probes, double-side capacitive probes, integrated boundary scan, thermal test, bare board test, and reverse-engineering capabilities.
- Completely automated, operator-free flying probe test for bare boards and integrated in-circuit test capabilities for embedded components, and Kelvin-test standard on all probes.
- Legacy replacement solutions, including automatic conversion of existing Computer Automation, L2XX, L3XX,Genrad GR179x and GR275x, Schlumberger S700 test programs and recovery of existing fixtures.
Our loyal customer base - what was your success model?
Our mission statement says that we strive to provide our customers with innovative, technologically advanced test and soldering solutions which are consistently high in quality and cost effective. That is part of the equation, but even more importantly we believe that to build successful relationships, the commitment must be long-term. That means the willingness to listen, to be flexible and to work together with the customer to get to the right solution.