My guest today is Stephan Haferl, CEO of Comet. Comet is a global leader in the RF power and X-ray technology field, focusing on the semiconductor and electronics industry. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the company and today we will be discussing the milestones along the way and the plans for the future. Welcome Stephan.
I enjoyed reading your profile on LinkedIn. One thing that stood out was that among other things, you describe yourself as ‘curious’. Is curiosity a critical component needed by today’s technology leaders?
Absolutely! A curious mindset is essential for technology leaders and anyone seeking to drive innovation. Curiosity leads to better decision-making by allowing individuals to go beyond stereotypes and biases, embracing facts that may challenge their own ideas. Acquiring information and gathering facts takes precedence over always being right.
And above all curiosity empowers individuals to explore deeply and develop unique solutions for complex challenges. That’s why, at Comet, we are actively fostering a culture that celebrates curiosity. It is not only reflected in our motto, “Led by experience. Driven by curiosity,” but also serves as a guiding principle in how we build and develop our teams. For the past 75 years, we have embraced our curiosity, which has propelled us to become and remain innovative.
You have worked for Comet since 2007, which means you must surely be immersed in the Comet culture. Is this an advantage against, for example, bringing in a new CEO from outside the organization?
Since 2021, Comet has a program for the continuous and systematic identification and development of in-house talents. Given the global shortage of talent, it is key that we leverage this program – in addition to offering personal growth opportunities (which is an expectation of talent), it does indeed speed up time-to-performance when it comes to understanding our business and company culture. That being said, all new employees – including those joining the executive team – go through a formal onboarding program that introduces them to our company culture. One of the key components of our culture is curiosity – new team members who are curious about our culture, business and industry will be successfully integrated into Comet.
As you celebrate your 75th Jubilee what have been the major milestones along the way and what have been the key drivers that have enabled you to maintain sustainable growth?
It’s so much to tell. Comet has never been comfortable in the status quo.
Constantly reinventing ourselves, we embrace new ways of doing things which contributes to our sustainable growth.
From our humble beginnings in 1948, Comet, founded by Gerhard Steck in Berne, Switzerland, has come a long way. Perfecting high vacuum brazing technology enabled the expansion into vacuum capacitor manufacturing technology in 1965. This paved the path for our entry into the semiconductor industry in the 90s. This courageous move remains today sill and more than ever a core focus for our entire company.
Acquiring Stolberg HF-Technik AG to pave the way to launch Synertia®, our innovative RF power delivery platform in 2022, further solidified our position in the semiconductor arena. In addition, our x-ray divisions play a vital role in meeting the technological challenges and opportunities presented by the demand for powerful chips.
Therefore, the acquisition of Yxlon International GmbH, one of the world›s leading x-ray system manufacturers, in 2007 was a pivotal moment in our evolution. In focusing on the same markets, Comet has become ONE team and is unleashing its full potential.
Today, with over 1,700 dedicated employees across 12 global locations, Comet has transformed from a component and systems manufacturer into a solution provider for the digital world. Throughout our journey, one thing remains unchanged: our unwavering focus on innovation and technology leadership. To delve deeper into our history, visit our annual Report, where you’ll find many intriguing stories. https://reports.comet-group.com/22/en/ history-timeline/
I understand that you are opening a large new plant in San Jose on August 23rd, but you are also closing 3 smaller facilities, so is this an expansion or a contraction and what can we expect to see in this new location?
The new facility is 50 percent larger than our previous facility. With close to 100,000 sq. ft., we have combined three locations into one facility, incorporated Comet’s smartLab technology for our expanded RF product portfolio and a Comet Yxlon X-ray Systems’ advanced lab, showcasing our latest device imaging technologies and image processing capabilities with deep learning AI. So, we see this more as an expansion, although
I would call it an optimization: The new building in San Jose will accommodate all employees from the other smaller sites.
We will offer our employees new, state-of-the-art workplaces there and bring all our colleagues together in San Jose. This is definitely the right move to support our ambition of being the employer of choice for those who want to shape the future.
The relocation will not only help to intensify the exchange between our employees, but also to improve the cooperation with our customers. Ultimately, we are investing where our customers are. This applies to this new facility in San Jose, US as well as the one in Penang (Malaysia).
Last year at Semicon West you launched a major new RF generator called Synertia®. How has that performed since its launch and what has been the feedback from the industry?
Synertia® is not only a new generator. To succeed in the future, it won’t be enough to offer a good RF generator, a good matching network or good vacuum capacitors. Superior performance of the entire RF subsystem can only be achieved if these individual products are not just optimally matched but also communicate ultra-fast with each other. That’s what Synertia® is all about: highly synergized RF power delivery subsystems to control atomic-scale plasma processes are real performance accelerators. But Synertia is not only about the product. It’s about helping customers innovate and solve their problems – at an ever-rising level of complexity. That’s why a multidisciplinary team of specialists provides support out of R&D to our customers around the clock and, if needed, on site. The digitalized lab environment allows automated test runs and the analysis of huge amounts of data streams what in return gets our customers to faster qualify new functionalities. New functionalities of Synertia® and its data driven abilities will help to identify and solve problems faster and therefore save time, improve yield, reduce downtime and allow to launch processes faster. So far, feedback from our test customers is overwhelmingly positive. The market introduction in close collaboration with them is progressing well, Synertia® performs in all the tests we did and are doing in the field.
– TREVOR GALBRAITH