In June, Rob DiMatteo was promoted to General Manager at BTU International, a 70plus year old supplier of convection reflow ovens and thermal processing equipment. BTU is located in North Billerica, MA with operations in Shanghai,China. Our editor recently spoke with Rob about his promotion and how it affects BTU moving forward.

Congratulations on the well-deserved promotion, Rob. Can you tell us a little about your background, and what brought you here?

Thank you very much. I’ve worked at BTU for just over 30years in various roles in both sales and marketing. Prior to being named General Manager, I was the Director of Sales for the Americas. When I started, I was in inside sales and was later named the account manager for one of our largest, most demanding international customers. That was a terrifictraining ground to learn the business inside and out. Later on, I served as a product manager for our largest product lines, our SMT reflow ovens. I oversaw the development of the Pyramax line, which has served us well for many years. I think it is somewhat unique to have a top executive come from the front end of the business, but I see my proximity to the customer as an asset.

How does your background make you well suited to lead BTU?

Well, for one thing, I have a very in-depth knowledge of our customers, applications, and products. In sales, I was often the first call for key customers dealing with critical equipment issues. I have tremendous respect for the challenges our customers face on an ongoing basis, keeping their processes under control and production levels up. Factory utilization is extremely high across the industry now, which highlights the need for equipment that can operate with very little downtime.

One of my objectives in leading BTU is to ensure that the customer’s voice is first to be considered in every business situation. While customer requests are not always easy to satisfy, they are always valid and always represent something real – these are the formative inputs we will use to set our organizational goals and objectives. It’s a primary consideration as we look at equipment lead times, business systems and our organizational structure. It is one thing to make the best performing equipment, but another to be aresponsive organization that is easy to do business with – we strive to do both.

What is the current state of BTU?

Like many suppliers in our industry, we are very busy. Our factories in both the United States and Shanghai are operating at capacity. Total stability is never the expectation in a cyclical industry; however, we see the underlying demand in our end markets as sustained, so we expect that these conditions will persist for some time.  

While we still struggle to overcome some of the constraints presented by COVID, employees are working in person at our facilities in the United States and overseas, but cross border travel is still very limited. We have teams working together globally meeting several times a week remotely to collaborate on development projects and customer requests. We are certainly looking forward to working more face to face with our international colleagues and hope we will get back to that again very soon.

How is BTU positioned in the market?

BTU is well known for our Pyramax convection reflow ovens.We were one of the first reflow oven suppliers to pioneer the use of convection for reflow back in the early nineties. Today our Pyramax reflow ovens are used for both SMT processing and for advanced packaging applications. In SMT, we do very well with highvolume automotive EMS companies. In these applications, the oven must perform at very high throughput and with extreme reliability – that is exactly what Pyramaxdelivers. In semiconductor packaging, our Pyramax offers some of the lowest O2 ppm levels in the industry and the Pyramax TrueFlat configuration solves the issue of substrate warpage for very thin substrates.

Unlike many reflow oven suppliers, our expertise doesn’t end at 400°C. Since 1950, we’ve been making custom hightemperature belt furnaces at our factory in the United Statesand still do today. These furnaces have maximum operating temperatures in excess of 1000°C. We see all sorts of applications through this custom work, anything from automotive radiators to implantable medical devices used to treat cancer – it’s very interesting.

We also manufacture horizontal diffusion furnaces used in front-end semiconductor processing through our Bruce Diffusion Furnace division at our factory in the United States.These tube diffusion furnaces operate at temperatures up to 1200°C, making them uniquely suited to serve the growing power semiconductor sector.  

What is the outlook for BTU?

The immediate and long-term outlook for BTU is very good.We are just through a major capacity expansion at our Shanghai facility that should significantly improve our customer lead times. We also are looking forward to a major product announcement later in 2022 – our global teams have been collaborating throughout the pandemic, and I’m tremendously excited to get to market with this new offering. We are working to strengthen our teams across the globe as we grow, and I realize that our success is the result of the hardworking, skilled people across many disciplines within BTU.

Any challenges on the horizon?

There are challenges that we are dealing with now, not just on the horizon, that present significant hurdles. The most severe problem is with logistics, shipping finished goods. The major delays, increased costs and lack of predictability cause lots of headaches at both of our factories. Unfortunately, I don’t see that situation resolving very quickly. Similarly, our suppliers are having difficulty getting their products to us, and we are seeing some cost increases on raw materials.

What are you looking forward to most in the next year?

This is an easy one. I want to see my international colleagues in person while spending time in each of our overseas offices.I want to attend trade shows to show off our innovations and network with my peers. While productivity may remain very high with remote work, the experience is not the same. If that makes me a little old fashioned, that’s alright.