Note to self: when visiting a class 10 clean room that requires full clean room attire (bonnet, booties, coverall, hood and boots) don’t wear a skirt! It can be most embarrassing. That aside, these past few days visiting EV Group’s headquarters in Schärding, Austria – ok, really St. Florian – reminds me of what I like best about my job.
Once again I realize that it doesn’t matter how many press releases I read, or how many times I interview executives and technology experts at various trade shows and conferences; there’s no better way to thoroughly understand what and who a particular company is than a visit to their home. And for a privately owned company like EVG, with the founders still in the company’s executive board, “home” is the appropriate word.
Case in point: a few minutes after I arrive and am escorted inside by Clemens Schütte, director of marketing and communications, we literally almost bump into Frau Aya Maria Thallner, one of the owners. Our re-introduction is casual (we met a few years ago a SEMICON Europa, and she remembers) and later, when we cross paths again as we head to the clean room, this time accompanied by Thorsten Matthias (director of business development) and Markus Wimplinger (director, business unit technology development and IP) we all gather in impromptu fashion to snap a quick group photo.
After some introductory presentations by executive sales and customer support director, Hermann Waltl, which go on a bit longer because I’m constantly interrupting and Thorsten and Markus are interjecting their comments (like I said – it’s casual) we’re off to lunch; a lovely catered affair in a private dining room on site – I get my requisite Wiener schnitzel and frites. We talk about some business topics; the future of media in this industry, trade shows, etc. Conversation is easy, because we’ve all met before.
Then it’s down to business; Thorsten provides a thorough business update, and the rest of the day is spent touring the facility. Markus had arrived that morning from Taiwan (by way of SEMICON West in San Francisco) and I marvel at his ability to be fully functioning on almost no sleep, as he gives a thorough tour from the machine room where system components are custom-milled all the way to the class 10 clean room where the latest 300mm equipment is in operation.
Dinner is in a local biergarten and our group has grown to include Paul Lindner, executive technology director, EVG; and Jürgen Wolf, manager of Fraunhofer IZM All Silicon System Integration Dresden, who has taken a detour on his return trip from San Francisco to Berlin in order to join us for dinner and spend the morning talking about the joint development agreement this research institute has with EVG. (I am starting to feel very important)
I order Aperol spritz (a refreshing concoction of white wine, Aperol aperitif, and seltzer), pork and beef medallions in mushroom cream sauce with spätzle, and marillen palachinken (apricot marmalade filled crepes) for dessert. We talk about non-business topics like this year’s World Cup, Paul the Octopus, the effectiveness of speed cameras for moving violations in Germany and Arizona, the Sound of Music topic comes up of course, ( are my Austrian roots showing yet?). And here’s an interesting tidbit Hermann shared with me on the ride back to my hotel in the lovely and quintessentially Austrian town of Schärding: the buildings in the alte stadt (old town) have been restored to their original paint colors; coded by type of establishment.
Thursday morning, we reconvene for a walk through history via the new timeline wall created in honor of the 30th anniversary being celebrated all year long, featuring Paul Lindner as our guide. Today, we’re joined by Dr. Werner Thallner, executive operations and finance director; and Gerald Silberer, regional sales manager for Europe. Markus is back on stage, presenting on 3D business drivers, focused on EVG’s involvement especially in ultrathin wafer handling and advanced die-to-wafer stacking. To wrap up the visit, he turns the floor over to Jürgen Wolf, who presents an overview of the Fraunhofer IZM ASSID project – quite a story in itself. By lunchtime, I’m in information overload, having gathered enough notes, presentations, photos and video footage for a 3D InCites media extravaganza. So stay tuned, this is just the beginning of the EVG story. — F.V.T.