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Distribution I Distribution News

Component distribution providing new opportunities for engineers

According to Martin Brown, a Field Applications Manager (formerly FAE) at Anglia Components, as a result of Europe’s component distributors seeing healthy growth – with billings in the first quarter increasing by 20% - more and more component manufacturers are assigning customers to them that they would previously have supported direct. As a result, distributors are recruiting more HND and graduate level engineers to work as distribution Field Applications Engineers (FAEs).

“Distribution FAEs haven’t historically been accorded the respect of the vendor’s direct Application Engineering team, but the ‘datasheet monkey’ view of the job is overdue a revision. Although there is always a certain amount of the ‘why is pin 17 high in this situation’ level queries, the real challenge is developing relationships with customers. You need to remember that the customer knows his project better than you, and to listen and engage with them. My job is to discuss products with customers at a technical level that takes you well beyond the marketing spin. Sometimes you have to accept that you don’t have the best technical solution and admit this to the customer – but doing this strengthens the relationship, and keeps the door open for the next time. “It is the customer interaction that turns most FAE’s on. Nick Bourne, a member of

Anglia’s FAE team, says, ‘The most interesting part of the process is to be involved in the high level concept phase of design and getting customers going with new technologies. You don’t get involved with the approvals testing, CE marking and the like, which is like pulling teeth.’ “The best distributors actively encourage innovation and forward thinking, and allow you to use your technical expertise to quickly identify new products that fill a specific niche in a project. Peter Wrigley has been an FAE for over four years, and recently encountered a customer facing a demand for a license fee as their design infringed a patent. ‘I saw a new chip come onto the market that provided a fundamentally different way of measuring vertical offset, and avoided the issue with the patent. I was able to combine technical know-how with understanding the customer’s problem and his product to provide a better way forward.’ “Though engineers sometimes worry that their integrity will be compromised by the sales side of the role, I personally haven’t found this to be the case. Occasionally customer engineers have little respect, and you do need to prove yourself. So long as you know your subject I haven’t found this to be a problem. “What attracted me personally to the

FAE role is the opportunity for professional development. In addition to visiting many

Martin Brown

Sales boost: Digi-Key Corporation revealed a substantial sales boost in the second quarter of the year when compared to this time last year. “Total global sales growth increased by over seven percent this quarter thanks in part to our developing customer base in European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries,” said Mark Larson, president and COO of Digi-Key Corporation. “This year European sales in particular have increased by over 22 percent.” Digi-Key’s second quarter sales in Germany rose more than 25 percent when compared to last year and in Italy, sales grew nearly 16 percent over 2010’s April through June recorded revenue. “In the past year, Digi-Key has implemented positive changes to our business strategy,” said Larson. “One of these positive changes was the environmentally proactive decision to discontinue Digi-Key’s print catalogue in favor of a more easily accessible online format.”

Distribution agreement: Solid State Supplies has extended its UK and Ireland distribution agreement with Microsemi Corporation to include the company's low-power and mixed-signal FPGAs. Solid State Supplies, which has been a Microsemi franchised distributor since 1993, will now stock IGLOO and SmartFusion FPGAs.

different customers, you also get to see many different suppliers, who will train you on their latest and greatest. You get your hands on stuff that most desk engineers will only read about. “Now, the best distribution FAEs understand the products in their portfolio at least as well as the vendor’s in-house team that they are increasingly replacing, and are trained to the same level on the same courses, often by the product developers. If you’re currently chained to a bench but looking to broaden your experience and the scope of your role, expose yourself to the latest technologies and travel around a bit, could this be a career move for you?”

Rutronik sets up six “vertical market teams”

Rutronik has announced that it is adding to its service portfolio by offering customer advice and support which will be strictly geared to their respective markets. As a result the distributor has established six “vertical market teams”. Each team looks to pool the knowledge of the company’s various Product Divisions in respect of a vertical market. Currently, customers have access to vertical market teams for lighting, medical, renewable energy, industrial, automotive and home appliance. Each vertical market team comprises of

product engineers and field application engineers (FAEs) from the Active, Passive and Electro- mechanical Divisions, wireless and display product specialists and a sales manager from the existing Rutronik organisation. These are in close contact with each other and regular weekly and monthly meetings supplement co- operation on customer projects and inquiries. As a result, all team members have a uniform and detailed overall understanding of the respective market and the specific applications including the particular requirements, regulations and other specific factors across all product divisions.

The vertical market teams supplement the existing product-based organisational structure of Rutronik, which remains unchanged. They are under the management of Gerd Fischer, Director Vertical Markets, who reports to Markus Krieg, the company’s Managing Director Marketing. “With our new teams we are responding to the increased demand of

12 July/August 2011

our customers for complete solutions”, explains Gerd Fischer. “We are positioning ourselves as a solution provider – this means we’re offering our customers complete solutions consisting of well co- ordinated components which are not geared to superficial, product-related aspects but take into consideration the specific approaches of the respective customer whilst looking at the overall application. As a broadliner we’re not restricted by our portfolio but can cover complete solutions exhaustively. In this way we also guarantee fine-tuning between semiconductors and all other components and enable our customers to achieve a short development time and the greatest possible added value”. In addition to support and advice in all phases of product development and production, the vertical market teams also conduct customer- specific training sessions.

Growth markets in their sights The six Rutronik vertical market teams will focus on the medical, lighting, renewable energy, industrial, automotive and home appliance markets. The medical market includes the three sub-markets of sports activity and healthcare as well as consumer and professional medical. In the area of lighting and renewable energies Rutronik collaborates closely with its subsidiary company Rusol, which offers LED and photovoltaic solutions. The parent company concentrates on LED components and modules and components for the main elements in wind

Components in Electronics

According to Solid State Supplies managing director, John Macmichael, "This strengthens an already highly successful partnership with Microsemi. It will enable us to satisfy more of the requirements of our defence and aerospace customers and open new market opportunities across a wide range of industries where low power design is a key requirement." The decision to extend the current agreement follows

Microsemi’s acquisition of Actel last year and forms part of a significant re-alignment of Microsemi and Actel distribution strategy in the UK.

New website: RS Components (RS) has unveiled a new website that will significantly enhance the online experience for its customers. A new intelligent

product search feature and browsing capability will give customers faster and easier access to over 550,000 products as well as access to an array of 3D CAD models. The website’s enhanced search capability will enable

Keith Reville

customers to tailor their results in their own way. Additional major enhancements include clearer pricing, instant stock availability and ‘Compare View’, which delivers a more intuitive product comparison. According to Keith Reville, General Manager,

eCommerce, “Our customers told us that they wanted better search capabilities with minimum fuss. We want to go beyond that requirement and transform their entire online experience with us. The delivery of this strategic milestone dramatically reduces the number of clicks required for customers to find new products, and enhances the look and feel of the site.”

Element14: Premier Farnell has announced a new global distribution agreement with Micriµm, a supplier of embedded RTOS solutions for microprocessor, microcontroller, and DSP-based solutions. Applications include medical, military and aerospace, industrial, consumer and telecom.

Micriµm will extend their product and marketing support Gerd Fischer

power stations, photovoltaic and solar heating plants such as inverters, junction boxes, measuring instruments, battery management and tracking and monitoring solutions. Traditionally, the industrial and car market is one of Rutronik’s strongest markets. In the automotive area, the distributor sees the themes of e-mobility including battery management systems and inverters as well as fuel-saving technologies, safety and infotainment as the market drivers. In industry – as in household appliances – increasing connectivity is to the fore, either wireless or via wired networks. Furthermore, in this area it is also necessary to respond to demands for increased energy efficiency.

to Premier Farnell, and collaborate on new product information via the element14 knode, the online design platform that is able to support the complete design flow from concept to final production and helps support engineers in terms of research, design, development and prototype manufacture in a single environment.

Award: RS Components (RS) has announced that it is sponsoring the 2011 Institution of Engineering & Technology (IET) Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award. The award is presented to the best female engineer under the age of 30 currently working in the UK. Additional prizes include the Mary George Memorial Prize for apprentices and the Women's Engineering Society Prize, which is awarded to a graduate engineer. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony taking place on Thursday 1st December at IET London, Savoy Place. The lack of women in engineering is a significant

problem. At a time when the engineering sector is suffering from considerable skills shortages, according to figures from the IET only 10% of engineering apprentices, 4% of engineering technicians and 5% of professional engineers are female. Attracting more women into engineering would help address skills shortages and boost the UK economy.

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