October 27, 2017
PFC’s founder, Steve Kelly, began his career in the flexible circuit industry in 1983 when he joined the first Canadian flex circuit manufacturing company, BTL. He was the fifth employee and had no idea what a flex circuit was.
After years at BTL, Steve left the company to take a position in a rigid PCB shop that wanted to get into flex manufacturing. When this company later went bankrupt, Steve initiated discussions with potential investors in order to acquire the business. He partnered with Patlon Aircraft, a rep firm and manufacturer, and established Patlon Flexible Circuits Limited.
This new company operated solely at a desk in the Patlon Aircraft office for the first four months. Two employees would secure the orders and then subcontract production to different rigid board manufacturers.
In September of 1997, Steve and his team moved into a 2500 square foot facility at the same address in Toronto that PFC still occupies today. They began purchasing equipment from auctions for part of the manufacturing operations and used subcontractors for what could not be done in-house.
The company’s first customer, Action Manufacturing out of Pennsylvania, still remains a customer twenty years later.
Building the Team
The first five employees from the original Patlon Flexible Circuits are still with the company. Today, PFC has grown to approximately one hundred and twenty employees.
Building the Representative Network
In the early days, Patlon Aircraft’s rep network covered all of Canada while three rep firms covered US territories. Those US rep firms still remain with the company today. Hathaway Electronics, based out of New England, came on board through Patlon Aircraft who represented many of the same lines as Hathaway. Pacific Marketing, based in Oregon, then joined and remains one of PFC’s top producing representatives. At the same time, Patlon Flexible Circuits continued to expand its network in the south with the addition of Glenn Snyder who covered Texas. Subsequently, Glenn retired and sold his business to Jim Eatman and Associates. Jim continues to represent PFC in the south.
Today, PFC is represented by fifteen manufacturers’ representative companies, with a combined forty-five sales people in North America, Europe and Israel.
Patlon Flexible Circuits was regularly using CMT, a local plating and etching shop, as a subcontractor. Recognizing that a more sustained partnership would be mutually beneficial, the shareholders of CMT bought out Patlon Aircraft’s interest in Patlon Flexible Circuits in January 2000. They rebranded the company PFC Flexible Circuits Limited. Anish Somaiya, current COO, brokered the deal between Patlon and the new ownership group. It was then that Anish became part of the PFC team.
In 1999, PFC was contacted by Research in Motion (RIM), a Canadian technology company looking for a flexible circuit manufacturer for their various prototypes. PFC produced prototypes for the first Leap Frog project later that same year. RIM’s next product release was Proton. The plan was for PFC to provide those prototypes and grow its manufacturing operations in order to facilitate volume production by the summer of 2000. In an effort to support local Canadian manufacturing and because of PFC’s superior quality standard, RIM decided to move the volume production to PFC. For the next five years, PFC made a significant portion of RIM’s flex circuits. In 2001, RIM offered PFC the opportunity to take over its flex assembly so that RIM could focus on their rigid board assembly. PFC acquired equipment and hired appropriate staff to begin assembly operations within three months.
Realizing that RIM would outgrow PFC’s capabilities, PFC began to focus its equipment acquisition to move into other markets such as optical telecom, industrial and medical markets. PFC focused on HDI (high density interconnect), high-speed materials, impedance control, and multilayer flexible circuits. In 2008, PFC acquired its ISO 13485 quality standard which allowed for further penetration into the medical market.
Since 2011, the company has experienced an impressive growth rate of 110%. PFC continues to acquire new equipment to service new markets, and to become more efficient and more cost-effective.
The future of PFC lies in continuing to invest in HDI, new materials, new equipment, and R&D in order to advance with market trends and push the manufacturing limits. This methodology has driven the company since 1997 and will continue to do so into the future. PFC’s success is also driven by the remarkable relationships it has developed with its trading partners throughout the years. Thank you to the customers, past and present, who have supported and who continue to support PFC as it looks ahead to the next twenty years.