Catching Up With Tom Yang of CEE PCB
30 MAY, 2024

Interviewer: Dan Beaulieu, D.B. Management Group
Interviewee: Tom Yang, CEO of CEE PCB


I was in the Bay Area recently and met with my new friend Tom Yang, CEO of CEE PCB, a $450 million Chinese PCB fabricator. For too long, we have enjoyed the luxury of complaining about Chinese companies without even knowing who they are and what they do. That’s just too easy. My mission was to talk to a real live shop owner in China. I wanted to know more about their values and how they operate and to understand and deliver the message that we are all human beings and good people, trying to do our best for our companies, our people, and our family.

With this interview, you will have a better and more personal understanding of CEE and the rest of the Chinese PCB industry. Like everything else in life, once you can transcend basic, politically-driven ignorance, you will better appreciate our global market: We are all pulling in the same direction.

Dan Beaulieu: Tom, how was the company founded, and what is your role?

Tom Yang: The company was founded in 2000 by my dad, who was the investor, and my uncle, who was the CEO. I’m now the CEO. I am responsible for the operation of the entire company.

CEE started as a small factory. Over the years, we have put together a great team, and our company has steadily grown. Our team is a “family by choice,” whether we are actually related; we operate as one big family, and we have valued their efforts over the years very much. I first joined the purchasing team in 2019 when our Zhuhai factory was in the early stages of construction, and I helped select and install the new production line. 

For the past three years, I have spent most of my time at the headquarters in Huizhou, as well as visiting clients in mainland China or around the world once the COVID restrictions were lifted.


Beaulieu: Tom, what is your background?

Yang: I got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance from California State University. After graduating, I worked in investment banking, and then came to work at CEE, where I have been ever since. As CEO, my activities range from participating and monitoring our high-tech Zhuhai factory, to two years ago searching for a potential site for our new factory in Thailand. I have put myself at the forefront of the industry by seeking new opportunities and developing strategies for investigating new scenarios that will drive the future of CEE. During that time, I have been working with the sales team to develop new strategies and tactics based on the latest market trends.


Beaulieu: What makes CEE stand out?

Yang: I like to think we do many things well. The first is quality assurance: We are strict on quality control and ensure our PCBs can satisfy customer requirements and industry standards. Our goal is to have a less than one percent rejection rate. We do this by:

  • On-time delivery: CEE has complete production planning and raw material inventory management systems to deliver on-time to our customer.
  • Competitive price: We help the customer to lower it costs from beginning of the PCB design. 
  • New advanced technology: CEE continually invests in R&D. We are using new manufacturing processes, equipment, and materials to produce high-performance PCBs that meet market demand.  
  • Excellent customer service: We believe it’s about how we treat our customers. We have many long-term relationships with our customers, and we are proud of that.


Beaulieu: As you turn your efforts on entering the North American marketplace, what are the challenges?

Yang: First, I want to say that the China PCB industry owes a great debt to our friends in North America. As you know, the PCB industry in Asia—first in Japan and then China—was started and encouraged by companies in North America. They came to China, helped us set up our factories, and helped us with our technology, from the very basic to the more technical. All the while, IPC developed, created, and shared global industry standards that we adhere to today. CEE PCB appreciates this, and we owe a debt of gratitude to North America. Thus, our goal is to share our own resources. In fact, we’re not here to compete but to collaborate; we come here not to take but to give. We want to share our resources and our technological abilities with the American PCB industry to work in partnership with American companies: OEMs, fabricators, designers, and contract manufacturers.

We have a global vision that extends beyond our borders in China to other Asian companies, as well as Europe and North America. We are stepping out of our comfort zone to provide an international solution to our global client base.


Beaulieu: That’s very impressive. How can CEE help the North American PCB market?

Yang: We offer instant local sales and FAE service to the North American market. We are bringing our technology and fabrication to strengthen our American customers and beyond. Our goal is to contribute to and participate with organizations like IPC and PCEA to bring a new and international perspective to the American stage.


Beaulieu: How is the company structured?

Yang: We have been a publicly-listed public company since 2011, while the chairman is one of the controlling shareholders. This gives us the flexibility to operate autonomously in deciding and determining our own direction.


Beaulieu: Please list the services and technologies that you provide.

Yang: We provide one-stop PCB service for boards that are multilayer, high-layer count, flex, rigid-flex, and assembly. Our plan is to partner with American companies as well to provide a combination of local and global services.


Beaulieu: What kind of companies do you service?

Yang: We serve companies in various industries, such as automotive, communication, LED displays, IoT, consumer electronics, industry control, and more.


Beaulieu: Why should companies become your customers?

Yang: CEE provides a total solution for PCB production. We offer onsite FAE technical support, a professional sales team, and responsive customer service. CEE continues to create maximum value for our customers.


Beaulieu: What advantages do you have over other similar companies?

Yang: CEE is a technology-driven company. We offer competitive prices with the greatest value. Solving technical problems for customers is our greatest pursuit.   


Beaulieu: What is your reach globally?

Yang: Right now, the bulk of our business is in Asia, but our plan for the next five years is to go global not only in our customer market reach but also as collaborators with other fabricators, assemblers, and designers worldwide. Our goal is to be the first truly global PCB company through sales and collaboration.


Beaulieu: What is your reach in North America, and where do you want to be in three to five years?

Yang: We are just getting started here in North America. We have a few customers, but our focus is to increase our reach in North America to be the first truly global and international PCB company, actively contributing to our industry all over the world. 


Beaulieu: How will you increase your sales in North America and globally?

Yang: Our plan is to establish collaborative partnerships with our customers and partners. We will work with our global partners, using their sales networks to expand both their businesses and ours. Our plan is growth through partnership. 


Beaulieu: How are you marketing in North America? Do you have a sales team?

Yang: We plan to inform the American marketplace through partnerships with American trade magazines, keeping the North American market posted on our latest R&D discoveries and new factory construction processes. Our sales team is small, but we hope to expand. We consider our effort a kind of ambassadorship from Asia to North America. Once again, we come to collaborate, not compete.


Beaulieu: You are actively seeking good salespeople, so why should someone join your company? What are the advantages of selling/working for the company?

Yang: We are looking for salespeople who understand the market, the technology, and the customer base we are seeking. Most importantly, we are seeing people who understand and believe in our mission of developing a global collaborative relationship with other members of the North American PCB community. We want salespeople who will build trust and support our mission of goodwill and partnership with the local PCB market.


Beaulieu: Do you plan to partner with an American PCB company?

Yang: Yes, of course. That would be a great opportunity to help us gain the trust of the North American market and take a significant step toward the global cooperation we are seeking.


Beaulieu: How do you see the market today?

Yang: The PCB market is facing several notable trends that I’d like to mention. The first trend is the use of advanced materials with AI technology and satellite communication that have been developed in the past few years. High-speed and high-frequency materials are starting to be widely used. With high performance and complex features, it will be a huge challenge for a PCB factory’s capability. The next trend is miniaturization, with a strong growing demand for smaller and more compact electronic devices, such as IoT and electronic wearables. The requirements for high-density (HDI) PCBs will grow strongly, and HDI is one of our strengths.

The third trend is automation. PCB factories can improve efficiency, lower costs, and ensure quality to maintain industry competitiveness. The fourth trend is environmental protection. The PCB industry is facing strong environmental regulations that will affect PCB design, lead-free material use, recycling control, and environmentally friendly processes. The final trend I want to mention is digitalization. With the development of Industry 4.0, PCB factories are turning from traditional to smart factories. Using powerful data analysis and real-time monitoring helps the company make better decisions. Overall, the PCB market is dynamic and evolving. Adaptation to these trends can help the company stay competitive and fulfill the needs of the electronic market. 


Beaulieu: There is a lot of controversy about China right now. How does that affect your company?

Yang: Dan, I know what you mean, and it is exactly this controversy that has led us to take this step toward global partnership. We do have some difficulties with new customer development. Due to the China+1 strategy, customers need new overseas factories outside China. It will be a huge challenge for China's PCB supply chain. Our goal is to soften and warm the relationship between China and North America by acting as goodwill ambassadors representing the Chinese PCB community as we reach out to North America in the spirit of partnership. Right now, for example, we will build new plants in Southeast Asia (Thailand) to reduce the impact of customer perception, regulatory challenges, and alternative sourcing strategies. We are also considering M&A of local PCB shops to provide quick-turns or prototypes to provide value-added service to our customers.


Beaulieu: Tom, this is very exciting stuff. I like and respect the direction you and CEE are taking, and I wish you the very best of luck with your mission. Thanks for sharing your time and your throughs with me today.

Yang: My pleasure, Dan. Thank you.