Necessity: Truly the Mother of Invention

When tech firms consider supply-chain risks, a pandemic rarely tops the list. Yet here we are, eight months into one. And even for companies that thrive on inventing technologies that solve intractable problems, maintaining manufacturing momentum during a global pandemic can challenge their innovation capacity. By “innovation”, we mean thinking differently, challenging the status quo, and identifying new ways of working.

Kateeva is no exception.

When COVID-19 first hit we moved fast thanks to early feedback from our Asia-based customer service teams. We focused first on implementing stringent health and safety protocols, then finding ways to safely resume manufacturing at our California headquarters. Along the way, we were frequently reminded that necessity truly is the mother of invention.

It takes a world to build complex manufacturing systems

Our inkjet printing manufacturing systems exemplify the maxim. They were invented after all to help customers cross a challenging manufacturing frontier and enable a new generation of displays.

Necessity, meet invention!

Today, they represent 90% of the inkjet printing systems mass producing OLED displays found in high-end smartphones, laptops, and other consumer products.

Every Kateeva YIELDjet™ system consists of two printers, each containing more than 5000 unique precision parts, and featuring seriously smart automation.

Kateeva's YIELDjet FLEX system for OLED TFE mass production

Building and installing such complex systems takes a global network of OEMs and other key suppliers. At Kateeva, we call them strategic partners. While we manufacture our core technologies in California, it’s our critical local partners who step in with the peripheral technologies and expertise so that we can seamlessly integrate our systems into customers’ mass-production lines. Thanks to our strong relationships, the journey from our manufacturing facility to customer fabs is usually orchestrated with predictability.

Until we faced a challenge with no modern precedent: a global pandemic.

Maintaining manufacturing momentum while preserving the quality mandate

With the threat of temporary shut-downs and supply-chain interruptions, Kateeva moved quickly to maintain manufacturing momentum within a strict safety framework. Our guiding imperative was to meet commitments to our customers in multiple regions with minimal delays and no quality compromises. We’re known for innovating equipment that is enabling, enduring and reliable. This is made possible by our Quality Mandate that influences every step of our product life cycle — from production and installation, to service and support.

Nevertheless, necessity galvanized fresh thinking.

Not surprisingly, we found that the unusual conditions only rallied our capacity to adapt. In the early days of the outbreak as manufacturers confronted the sudden uncertainties, our service teams were at customer sites as soon as local regulations permitted, safely partnering to meet installation milestones and adjusting strategies in real time to minimize pandemic-induced delays. The diligence and trademark attention to quality demonstrated by our team in China during this time was saluted by display leader Tianma when this valued customer presented Kateeva with an award for “Best TFE Installation”.

When orders for spares increased as customers reacted to the market uncertainties, we mobilized fast to build and ship high-quality parts.

Kateeva China team accepts award for “Best TFE Installation” from Tianma

The pandemic presented a formidable dilemma for manufacturers worldwide. For Kateeva, it challenged us to devise and implement novel ways to minimize disruption. Take shipment, for example. To mitigate potential supply-chain logistics disruptions and meet delivery timelines, we had to be supremely flexible, adaptable and nimble. No small challenge when the shipment involves a system the size of a small house that’s broken down into more than 70 individual crates for transportation to customer sites!

The pandemic conditions emboldened us to test and evaluate new strategies to safeguard and strengthen our global network of strategic partners. Even as it persists, we have found new ways to streamline efficiencies, reduce costs and further strengthen our infrastructure.

Market necessity inspired our early innovation efforts at Kateeva. It continues to drive our mission to enable display leaders with unique manufacturing equipment solutions that are differentiated by performance, quality, reliability, and cost-of-ownership benefits. Equipment solutions for today and emerging applications to enable the displays of the future.