As part of a recent I-Connect007 supply chain survey, we found that RF laminate material can be very difficult to obtain. Rogers Corporation was named specifically in our survey as one supplier with a limited amount of material available. In fact, their delivery time was reported as being as high as 55 days for some materials at one point. In an industry where quick turnaround time is critical, this is one supply line that killed any hope of being quick.

Because Rogers was noted by name in our findings, we decided to go to them to learn about the current situation, and the short answer is that there has been improvement on delivery lead time with the promise of continued improvement.

The following interview is with John Pavlak, the director of global operations at Rogers Corporation.

Barry Matties: John, can you please give us an idea of what happened to your supply line and explain what you are doing to improve.

Pavlak: I can give you the story as I know it from my two years so far at Rogers. When I started in mid-2013, we had a plan to increase capacity because our market intelligence said that there was significant demand coming and it was primarily tied to the China 4G roll-out.

The only difference between our plan and what actually happened, the 4G roll-out actually came in sooner than our original marketing intelligence. Fortunately, we had already kicked off projects to increase our global capacity. The challenge was that those were long lead-time and very expensive projects. We’ve invested more than $30 million in the past three years into global capacity projects.

We had ourselves locked in tightly with different OEMs and fabricators, but the wave of demand came sooner than expected, so we spent the latter half of 2013, and almost all of 2014, working very hard to increase capacity in other ways before that additional capacity came online. Every one of our locations in the global regions added capacity through internal improvements on throughput and figured out how to get more lamination press loads per week. All of our teams pushed very hard and each of the regions were able to demonstrate at least another 20% of additional capacity, even without the new equipment.