Invertrónica is a group of several companies that bring electronics to life. The Medellín-based collective takes concepts from ideas to the design phase then into development before putting it all together into a finished product.
Key to it all is the printed circuit boards (PCBs) that power the various electronics, gadgets, and technology that Invertrónica sells both in Colombia and across the world. As it expands, the company is also currently trying to capitalize on the Internet of Things concepts that have the potential to change the word.
To explain all this and more, Fernando Velez, manager of Grupo Invertrónica, recently sat down to speak with Finance Colombia in Medellín.
Finance Colombia: I know that your core operations center on creating electronics. But your business is also a little bit complicated. Can you tell us what exactly it is that Invertronica does?
Fernando Vélez: We have been making a name for ourselves in the market for the last 13 years when the electronic engineers and companies didn’t develop hardware products. This was because they didn’t know how to do it or why they should do it.
They faced a great number of difficulties. The electronic design is difficult because the electronic components have to be high quality, and they have to be able to get them locally in adequate quantities. So we appeared to gather up all the parts of an electronic product and put them together to offer it on the market.
Today in Colombia, although we may not be the only electronics company, we are really the only company that comprises the whole panorama — from development and design to delivery of a completely finished product.
Finance Colombia: How is the company structured?
The Invertronica Group is made up of several companies, including TECREA for designing and developing made-to-measure products. And there is LosComponentes.com.co, which provides the parts to be able to make, in the first stage, a prototype, but then also production.
And finally there is, let’s say the company that’s the mother hen of the chicks, the biggest company: Colcircuitos. Colcircuitos is in charge of electronic manufacturing. It has a plant made up of close to 70 people using state-of-the-art technology. We are developing prototypes in record time. While an engineer may need a month — or a month-and-a-half — to develop a prototype, today Colcircuitos hands over a printed-circuit prototype in 24 hours, which is a very, very good time for the market.
Previously, with development, in a month you have a prototype — and it’s not operational yet. You have to wait another month, and so the whole development can take six months. In the model that we set up, in a month you can have three or four prototypes and get to work quickly to attend to the urgency that the market demands.
So that’s the Invertronica Group, the three companies, a quantity of allies in the world, in North America, in Europe, in Asia, that allows us to attend to all the immediate needs that a client requires, both in Colombia and in the whole world.
Finance Colombia: How difficult is it to compete with the large Asian manufacturers?
Fernando Vélez: I’m not going to compete with China. Definitely, we’re not going to compete with China. That’s not our idea. We’re going to be offering a much more integrated product with added value, in smaller volumes — but with a much higher value. That’s our idea.
Where they look for us is to try to integrate big software developments and see how we can make the hardware, like with the Internet of Things. In IoT, we’re right in the front row. All those who want to want to make a platform, we’re right there to provide the hardware. In the next three years, that is going to be key.
We’ve already found and inserted alliances with suppliers of parts and electronics specifically for the Internet of Things. We’re going to work hand-in-hand to form a culture, a way of thinking, so that devices can be developed. And we will be the ones delivering hardware because we already have to deliver software. We have already made more or less five processes that we’ve carried out.
Finance Colombia: How is the business going in Colombia?
Fernando Vélez: Today, in Colombia, we are attending to more or less 3% of the market as far as PCBs — printed circuit boards — are concerned, and our projection is in fact to be able to move into 2020 with a greater share. We hope to be able to have 10% of that market. In sales, last year we closed with 5,000 million pesos.
Finance Colombia: What kinds of partnerships have been important to Invertronica?
Fernando Vélez: Thanks to contacts with the people from Social Atom, we got a company from Silicon to “dig us up” as far as the ecosystem goes in the area of software. And they trust us to make hardware for them, to develop their hardware, and we have already closed the deal. We signed the contract.
It’s a highly innovative product to penetrate mainly into the North American market, and they have already invited us to get to know the Chinese manufacturing market.
We are going to close the deal very, very well with a company named Chuy in the Silicon Valley, because there are many actors in the ecosystem waiting to see what will happen there to be able to expand themselves more towards their markets. They’re going to do the basic development with us, the basic prototypes. We’ll get started from there. We’re going to make 100 units as pre-production with field tests. And then we’re going for 1,000 units in the following production. We receive the raw material, crude, copper plate, fiberglass, and we make it into a printed circuit.
Finance Colombia: This is imported? The raw material?
Fernando Vélez: The raw material is imported. It’s all imported. Colombia doesn’t produce anything for what we make. Everything is imported, except for intermediate processes — like chemicals — that are produced locally. But the raw material is imported. We turn this into a printed circuit.
Then we import our electronic components, and we get what you have always seen in one of these gadgets when you take it apart, which is the circuit with all its assembled components.
For one product, for example, we have made it in several versions for the same client — close to six thousand devices, operating today with no problems in the automobile sector. It’s an ABN for monitoring satellites for one of the most important satellite companies in Colombia, and we made this product for them five or six months ago with very robust technology.
Finance Colombia: What are some other examples of the technology you are producing?
Fernando Vélez: In the world of LEDs — another important horizon in electronics — we´re working on LED illumination. Today, for AKT Motorcycles, through a client of ours, we handed over 10,000 explorer lights monthly for top-line AKT motorcycles.
We also developed a module, for a “paisa” company here in Colombia, for electric public illumination. We made a network of lampposts, and all of the posts come with their devices. One of them is the master that reports to a platform and I can remotely control all the public illumination in a city.
Moreover I can get information and also regulate. That means that at six o’clock in the evening, when there’s still light, the lights only operate at 10% of their brightness capacity. But, at eight o’clock at night, 100% of the light is necessary. That has already been done.
Finance Colombia: How will the arrival of “flexibles” affect you? Like the circuits they’re already making in a flexible form?
Fernando Vélez: Yes, we make those too — and multi-layered. That means not only simple ones with only one surface with components but also multi-layered. That means that today we are on the cutting edge of what is happening in the electronics market: in surface-mount, but also in BGA, and micro-BGA. We’re right there.
And when a “flexible” is required, we’re there to offer it. Now, since we are integrators, we have providers all over the world so that we can interact and offer to the market. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we manufacture it here. It could be that we get it from outside, and then we integrate it, and we offer it on the market.
Finance Colombia: How much have you been affected by the peso’s devaluation?
Fernando Vélez: Before it was easier for Colombian industries to import. Today, due to the increase of the dollar, with respect to prices, we are looking for prices in Colombia and we’re being impacted by the question of the NIP (National Internal Product).
But everything is going well. I think that this is the first time that a company with development of high technology trusts a Colombian company to do everything. It´s the first time that Colombia, for example, produces 10,000 monthly in high-profile electronics. That had never happened before in Colombia.