Our Advanced Circuit Materials group is pleased to announce the availability of ULTRALAM® 3850/3850HT PCB laminates. These adhesiveless circuit materials use temperature resistant liquid crystalline polymer (LCP) as the dielectric film. They are designed for single layer and multilayer substrate constructions, and are well suited for high speed and high frequency applications, including:
- Telecommunication network equipment, such as high speed routers
- High-speed computer data links
The ULTRALAM 3850/3850HT laminates feature a high temperature LCP material to facilitate more robust, high temperature, multi-layer designs. The higher melt temperature provides improved dimensional stability.
Find out more about the ULTRALAM® 3850/3850HT PCB laminates. Samples available.
“Survival of the fittest” describes a form of natural selection that occurs in the face of some real world challenge. For product designers, the challenge is to create new products that have clear market demand and can be affordably produced. That can be easier said than done. So the question is, can we better prepare students so they hit the ground running after they graduate and join a company?
“We asked ourselves, how can we involve students in the conceptual stage of product development,” said Shawn Williams, VP R&D at Rogers Corp. “Traditional collaborations between corporations and educational institutions use sponsored research and experiential, co-op opportunities for students. That’s good, but we need to take the next step. We need to find a way to facilitate and reward creative product design within the academic environment and connect it to real, commercially viable products.”
A logical starting point was the Rogers Corporation Innovation Center, located in Northeastern University’s George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security. Launched in 2014, the Innovation Center is a unique academic-industry partnership that builds closer connections between academic research, industry know-how, and technology commercialization. The Center’s goal is to develop commercially-viable breakthrough innovations in advanced materials to address global challenges for clean energy, internet connectivity, safety and security
A conversation between Williams and Dr. Sara Wadia-Fascetti, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, led to the creation of a new course at Northeastern – Survival of the Fittest – focused on product development and commercialization. The course brings together interdisciplinary teams of engineering and business students supported by Northeastern faculty and Rogers’ scientists, engineers, designers, and product managers. For the first class this spring, 83 students applied for 16 positions.
The student teams are challenged to select a technical/commercial opportunity and develop it into a workable business plan. Rogers provided a list of product ideas that are of commercial interest to the company, from high level concepts to application specific products. Employees brainstormed across divisions and came up with 50 different ideas for the students, including:
• Consumer robotics
• Next generation materials for integrated circuit packaging
• New materials for home and automotive applications
• Large format sensors
Student teams choose an idea from the list and then learn about Rogers, it’s technical expertise in high performance materials, and its diverse range of customers and their applications. The teams then define, refine, and validate opportunities through market and technical analyses, modeling, and prototyping.
At defined points in the course, “product reckonings” occur where teams pitch their ideas, advocating for continued development of their ideas. A panel of industry and academic experts determine whether the idea should receive additional resources for further development (“persist” according to Eric Ries’ lean startup model), whether it should be modified for a better “fit” between the product and market (“pivot”), or whether it should be discontinued (“perish”). Team members from discontinued opportunities join the teams working on surviving opportunities.
At the end of the course, the “fittest opportunity” moves over to Rogers for potential commercialization. Along the way, students learn about project management, team dynamics, building successful teams, intellectual property, cost and financial modeling, technology commercialization, and product development in high technology.
“Students are used to mastering material, but this course teaches them to also rely on teammates for crucial pieces of the business plan,” said Williams. “Each team is a mix of majors and backgrounds. An electrical engineering major on the team turns to the finance major for calculation of Net Present Value, for instance.”
Williams continued, “The beauty is that we know this process works because we use it every day within Rogers. Now we’re developing a way for it to work in the classroom, to better prepare the product designers and business managers of tomorrow.”
A message from Bruce Hoechner, CEO, Rogers Corporation:
Read the corporate financials news release: Rogers Corporation Reports 2014 Fourth Quarter and Year-End Result.
I am pleased to report that Rogers achieved record fourth-quarter sales to finish an outstanding year. We attribute our strong performance in 2014 to favorable tailwinds in our global growth markets, as well as our focus on critical elements of Rogers’ profitable growth strategy.
Three years ago, we began to transform Rogers by introducing initiatives to streamline the organization, while increasing our investments in R&D, marketing, and operational improvements. Throughout 2014, we saw those efforts pay off. In addition, we are particularly pleased with our recent acquisition of Arlon. Which is a great fit with our stated M&A vision. Our approach is delivering profitable growth. We believe that the strength in our key megatrend markets will continue to drive strong revenue and profit performance into the future.
I would like to remind you of our strategic roadmap for delivering consistent, profitable growth. There are four critical elements to our strategy. We take a market-driven approach across the Company. We are developing deeper partnerships with our customers through cooperative activities, including innovation days and joint development projects. These efforts help us uncover customer needs and identify ways that Rogers can help our customers win in a competitive market.
In addition, we continue to expand our outside-in focus, understanding and internalizing key market and industry trends and dynamics. We are accelerating our investment in technology innovation. Our new Rogers Innovation Center opened at Northeastern University in March of 2014. Now fully staffed and operational, the dedicated Rogers R&D team at the Center is working with university researchers, as well as Rogers divisional R&D teams, to enable the development of solutions that solve market challenges.
Also in 2014, we completed a comprehensive refresh of our product development or stage gate process, in order to accelerate the commercialization of new technologies and to standardize our approach across all three business segments. Rogers renewed commitment to R&D lead to a 400% increase in the number of patents we filed in 2014.
Our recent acquisition of Arlon is directly aligned with our synergistic M&A approach.
The final element of our strategy is operational excellence, where we are implementing continuous improvement methodologies in manufacturing to increase yields and improve our efficiency around supply and demand planning. A great example of our progress comes from our Printed Circuit Materials segment, where yield improvements and throughput increases resulted in more than $5 million in cost savings in 2014. Arlon has strong expertise in this area and we expect to make even more progress here as we combine our organizations.
I’d like to review Arlon’s fit with our M&A strategy. From a technology perspective, adding Arlon’s capabilities will serve to strengthen the technology leadership position our Printed Circuit Materials business already has in the marketplace. By combining the portfolios and expertise of the Arlon and Rogers’ teams, Rogers can provide a broader range of solutions for customers requiring high frequency and high reliability materials for advanced communications, networks, and systems.
On the silicone side, the Arlon portfolio includes a broad range of capabilities and products that Rogers did not previously possess. For our High Performance Foams business, we see this as essentially a bolt-on opportunity. Adding new product lines, markets, and customers.
Combining Arlon and Rogers will significantly expand our opportunities across a wide range of strategic growing markets. In particular, the communications infrastructure opportunities for connectivity solutions continues to expand with new technology demands continuously emerging and the need for innovative solutions growing. For example, there is still significant opportunity in mobile infrastructure for high frequency materials beyond 2015.
While China is well underway in the 4G LTE rollout, many parts of the world are just starting the first wave of large coverage deployments. In addition, once LTE capacity is in place, there is the second phase, in which capacity is added by increasing power amplifier capacity in existing base stations, as well as by adding small sales to enhance coverage of the macro base stations, all utilizing Rogers current materials.
In addition to the technology and market opportunities we see with Arlon, we believe Arlon will help us advance our financial goals. Providing significant opportunities to leverage our global supply chain, shared services, and operations to maximize our growth and profitability. We have a robust integration plan with work streams that include representation from both organizations. They are working to ensure continued excellent customer support during the integration, identifying and capturing new opportunities, as well as a goal to fully integrate Arlon into Rogers by the end of the year.
We set an all-time fourth quarter sales record to end the year with all-time record annual revenues of $610.9 million. This is a 13.7% improvement over full year 2013, surpassing our stated annual goal of 10% organic sales growth.
In addition, our commitment to operational excellence helped us to attain gross margin improvements. For the full year, we achieved 38.3% in gross margin, an increase of 340 basis points as compared to the full year 2013. In addition, full-year operating margin was 14.4% non-GAAP, an improvement of 290 basis points over 2013, and, on track to our stated three-year goal of 15%.
Return on invested capital in 2014 was 12.6%, an increase of 360 basis points over 2013. This result is tracking well towards our stated three-year goal of 15% ROIC. We also delivered strong earnings at $3.38 non-GAAP EPS. Which is a 29.5% increase over 2013.
Highlights by Business Segment
For the third consecutive quarter, all three of our business segments delivered sales growth, led again by Advanced Circuit Materials. In Q4, ACM achieved 18.1% growth in sales over the prior year. We continue to see significant demand for wireless infrastructure, as well as automotive safety radar applications for advanced driver assistance systems. This strong growth offset lower demand in mobile internet device antenna and satellite TV applications, where customers reduced year-end inventory levels.
In addition to the mobile infrastructure demand that we discussed previously, we also see significant opportunities in the category of automotive radar systems. This market is expected to continue very rapid growth in 2014 to 2020. With a compounded annual growth rate of more than 30%, from less than 20 million units in 2014 to nearly 96 million units in 2020. Automotive safety radar accounts for approximately 10% of PCM sales today.
In the Power Electronic Solutions segment we achieved record fourth-quarter sales with an increase of 3.2% compared to the prior year, even with the impact of the decline in the Euro. This growth was based on strong demand in rail propulsion and EV/HEV applications, offsetting weaker demand in certain renewable energy applications.
As we look ahead to 2015 and beyond, we see continued opportunities for Rogers’ unique solutions in energy-efficient motor drives, which comprise approximately 40% of PES sales. In 2015 alone, this market is projected to grow 10% to 15%.
In addition, the vehicle electrification market, which is about 11% of the PES business, is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of roughly 15% through 2019. We do want to mention that anticipated fluctuations in exchange rates will likely affect our year-over-year comparisons in the PES business in 2015.
In Q4, our High Performance Foams segment grew year-over-year sales 4.4%, based on higher demand in general industrial, mass transportation, battery applications for HEVs, and consumer comfort and impact protection applications. This offset slightly weaker demand in portable electronics applications. As some customers managed their year-end inventory levels more closely. We expect continued fluctuations in portable electronics sales from quarter to quarter. As design models evolve and inventory adjustments occur.
Our HPF business has updated its strategy and is intensifying its focus on general industrial applications, which now represent roughly 25% of HPF sales. In addition, we are continuing to expand our efforts in the high-growth Consumer Comfort and Impact Protection segment to accelerate our market penetration. We see opportunities for sales and profitability growth at HPF through geographic expansion of these offerings, particularly into Europe and China.
For the fourth quarter, 61% of our sales were in our strategic megatrend categories. We saw significant growth in the mass transit category, and, more moderate gains in Internet connectivity, due in part to the very strong comparative quarter of Q4, 2013.
Sales were essentially fact in clean energy. In Internet connectivity, we continue to see significant demand for wireless base station applications. Mass transit increased 23% overall, based primarily on demand in rail propulsion applications, specifically in Europe and China, as well as sales growth in rail interior foam applications. Our flat performance in the clean energy category was due in part to the very strong comparative quarter of Q4, 2013. As well as lower demand for certain energy applications during Q4, 2014.
As markets evolve, Rogers will adapt with agility in order to make sure that we are directing our attention to the megatrends that are the most important to the Company’s objectives. In recent years, Rogers has experienced significant growth in worldwide demand for innovative solutions for safety and protection. Going forward, safety and protection would become a key megatrend focus for Rogers. Mass transit will continue to be of strategic importance to Rogers. And, those applications will be primarily realigned within our clean energy megatrend.
We believe our megatrend design opportunity pipeline is a helpful indicator of future sales growth prospects, and, in Q4 it continued to strengthen.
Join us at APEX EXPO 2015, February 24-26, 2015, at the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA. Rogers Corp. (booth 1701) and Arlon (booth 2306) will be demonstrating their newest circuit materials and engineered silicones.
In addition, our own John Coonrod will be presenting during the conference:
• Wednesday, Feb 25, 10:30am – 12:00pm: The Effects of PCB Fabrication on High Frequency Electrical Performance. Room 3.
• Thursday, Feb 26, 9:00 – 11:00am: Thermal Management Advantages of Thermally and Electrically Conductive Adhesive. Room 2.
We will announce earnings results for our 2014 Q4 and year-end after the close of trading on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. A copy of the release will be available on the Rogers website at www.rogerscorp.com/news.
All interested parties are invited to participate in Rogers’ quarterly teleconference to be held on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 9:00 am ET. Bruce D. Hoechner, President and CEO, and members of senior management will review the results and then respond to questions.
To participate in the teleconference please call 1-800-574-8929 toll free in the U.S. or 1-973-935-8524 from outside the U.S. There is no pass code for the teleconference.
For interested parties who do not wish to ask questions, the call is being webcast live by Thomson Reuters and may be accessed through a link on the Rogers website at www.rogerscorp.com/ir.
A slide presentation will be made available prior to the start of the call. The slide presentation may be accessed on the Rogers Corporation website under the Investor Relations section of the following web page www.rogerscorp.com/ir.