Flex expands Israel activity with new design center

San Jose-based firm’s Haifa facility to host production line from sketch phase all the way to finished goods

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Overhead shot of Flex's Migdal Ha'emek Innovation Center (Courtesy)
Overhead shot of Flex's Migdal Ha'emek Innovation Center (Courtesy)

Flex Ltd., the second-largest global provider of electronics manufacturing services, is expanding its operations in Israel by opening a new design center in Haifa.

The new Haifa center, officially inaugurated last month, is the only Flex center in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region that offers the full range of sketch-to-scale capabilities, the company said.

The new center, which adds to the scope of the company’s present R&D activities in Israel, will allow customers of the San Jose, California-based firm to oversee production — from first design sketch to manufacturing and shipping the goods — at its premises, assisting Flex to meet its aim of becoming an end-to-end supplier of production services.

“The level of innovation we see coming from Israel meant that having a design center located in Haifa was a foregone conclusion to support our strategy of sketch-to-scale,” Michele Monico, Flex vice president of Design & Engineering for the EMEA region, said.

Flex's Michele Monico at inauguration of new design center in Haifa, 28 March 2017 (Courtesy)
Flex’s Michele Monico at the inauguration of a new design center in Haifa, March 28, 2017 (Courtesy)

The company, formerly called Flextronics, employs some 200,000 workers globally and operates in more than 30 countries. Flex manufactures products for thousands of companies around the world and in Israel, making, for example, all the motherboards and network cards for Israel’s Mellanox Technologies Ltd. as well as many components for global multinationals like Intel Corp., GE Healthcare and Strauss Water.

After rebranding as Flex in 2015, the company is looking to work with customers in building smarter products for the connected world. And that is where Israel, with its technological edge, can play a part, said Monico.

Operating in Israel for more than 20 years, mostly under the radar, Flex has today become the nation’s second-largest tech employer after Intel Corp., counting some 4,000 employees in seven locations. Its main manufacturing center is in Israel’s Migdal Ha’emek, with additional plants in Ofakim and Yavneh.

The design center in Haifa currently employs 40 design engineers and this number is expected to rise to 60 by year end, the company said. Originally focused on components for the medical sector, the center has now expanded to support customers in industrial and consumer products. It will offer design and engineering services, new product development, electronic, optical and industrial design and mechanical engineering, among other services.

Half of Flex’s global innovation already stems from Israel, Monico said in an interview with The Times of Israel in November.

The design center will operate in conjunction with the company’s investment arm to develop, incubate and accelerate homegrown technologies. Flex has invested in six Israeli firms to date via its fund, including, recently, CropX Ltd., PointGrab and OriginGPS.

“I am planning to bring 20 factories to Israel by 2020 that combine R&D and production in Israel — just like Flex does,” Ziva Eger, director of Foreign Investment and Industrial Cooperation at Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry, said at the opening ceremony. “We want to see more companies like Flex in Israel.”

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