MM: Many of our customers choose to engage with us or our distributors via the web in terms of design support and information. From our viewpoint, the traditional approach of using field sales engineers does remains a valid route - but for only the larger opportunities or clients - it is probably not the most efficient way to address the mass market. The ‘Microchip Direct’ transactional website offers all of our customers a route to our products, however, we still need the reach/service levels provided by all of our distribution partners.
CIE: How strong is enthusiasm from EDE’s to solve their design problems with the help of E-community interaction and how can it help shorten product development times?
LM: The day-to-day benefits of e- communities that are tailored to particular markets or topics are now becoming widely recognised. The level of interaction on the element14 site continues to grow as the concept of an electronics focused e- community as a resource for research, design, development and manufacture catches on. The range of tools and support that can be offered is huge and can take the distributor way beyond the traditional role of just a supplier of small quantities of a wide range of products.
AP:With increasing levels of design specialism, peers cannot always provide the level of help needed, and so design engineers are increasingly turning to communities to converse. Communities remain unbiased to any product, supplier or manufacturer, allowing freedom of information.
MB: The desire to solve design problems online is significant and growing – the launch of the Knode was a direct response to our customers wanting to solve ever- more complex design challenges via the e- community. Ready access to such a vast pool of information can save designers valuable time by enabling them to avoid having to search in multiple locations for information about different components and elements of their new design.
CIE: Is there a generation split in terms of engineers’ adoption of the web for design including the use of E- communities?
LM: Just as the new generation were the early adopters of sites like Facebook, so they were the first to realise the benefits of the same concept in their working lives. Having said that, it is probably fair to say that the technical background and interest among electronics engineers meant that there was not such a generational split in terms of the first adopters.
AP: In our position, as we look to embrace the new generation of design engineers it is vital we communicate our proposition in the media that has the most influence in their day to day lives. With generation Y emerging from greater diversity and a rich media upbringing, the agility of businesses must ensure they remain one step ahead. The divide that exists within the design community generations is more pertinent to how they search for information, with the younger design engineers adopting
smarter and more efficient functionality to their searches. The web provides an instant information portal, whilst for prior generations utilising the depth of research libraries would be the first port of call. The evolution of the platform is rapid, and it is actively promoting a change in the way design engineers search for information and solutions throughout the design cycle.
CIE: Where is electronics design happening – can Europe remain significant as a location for new product design?
AP: Europe will continue to be progressive in new product and innovative electronic design due to the highly skilled engineers and the quality of education they receive. Established applications such as automation will I feel, remain strong in Europe. Newer applications such as solar power, alternative energy and consumer electronics will continue to grow in Asia. specifically.
MM: There is design expertise and activity occurring all over the world. Some countries do have a bias to certain market sectors – as an example, we see a lot of solid state lighting design occurring in Italy. But overall we see a very healthy level of exciting activity and innovation across many countries and regions.
CIE: Are reference designs and development tools. ‘dumbing down’ the skill of electronics design?
LM: I don‘t think so. Historically most new product designs build on successful or core elements of previous designs so there has always been a good starting point for new designs such that working from a blank sheet of paper is rarely the case.
MB: The number and variety of reference designs is increasing rapidly. As a distributor we offer a large range of reference design and development boards to our customers. Reference designs are not ‘dumbing down’ the skill of electronics design but they certainly make things easier and quicker for the design engineer. An Engineer will rarely start a design from scratch and reference designs, evaluation boards and other development tools offer the perfect starting point and can really help with education and training too.
MM: I agree, reference designs and development tools simply offer the potential to accelerate the design process but that they do not reduce the amount of engineering knowledge required of the engineers tasked with developing new products. Development tools have long been part of the support offering from Microchip, and the demand that we see for them underlines their value in helping get new products to market quickly, with fewer iterations and at reduced cost.
Premier Farnell | www.farnell.com
Microchip | www.microchip.com
Alan Patterson is Marketing Director, Farnell Europe; Lynn Ma, Head of Semiconductors & Optoelectronics, Farnell Europe; Mike Buffham is Director of Product & Supply Management, Farnell Europe and Mike McGlade is Sales Channel Manager – Catalogue at Microchip Europe
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