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CEO Interview


Europe needs to keep its doors open to new talent


John Heugle, CEO of ams, talks to Neil Tyler about a successful year for the Austrian based designer and manufacturer of high performance analogue ICs but worries that restrictions on immigration may prevent European businesses attracting the talent they need to compete


J


ohn Heugle has been CEO of ams since 2002 and in that time he has helped to transform a business often


perceived as unfocussed and the perennial underachiever in the IC market into an increasingly successful and competitive business. A designer and manufacturer of high performance analogue ICs the company has seen continued revenue growth this year and although this interview will be appearing just before ams reports its full year results for 2012 it is on course to report 40 percent growth over the year. That growth is being driven by smartphone and tablet PC applications and the company’s light sensor products have been shipping strongly as has products from its MEMs microphone business. Other key segments include power management, and its wireless business for RFID and NFC is showing dynamic growth.


I started the interview by asking why ams has been able to perform so strongly in what is a tough European and global marketplace. With projected revenues up 40 per cent in the past twelve months what have been the main challenges for ams in 2012 and how has it overcome them? “We are able to outperform because of the quality of our customer base - our customers are outperforming, which means we get to sell more ICs,” explains Heugle.


“The best, most successful OEMs tend to choose the best components. Our


14 December 2012/January 2013


customers recognise that we have excellent differentiated products in three main areas: sensors and sensor interfaces, power management and wireless. Sensors and sensor interfaces represent about 70% of our business. “Our revenues for the first half of 2012 compared to 2011 were boosted by the acquisition of the TAOS optical sensors business, but a good deal of the total growth in 2012 has been organic, and that can be attributed to our success in winning new business and new customers.” According to Heugle ams has seen continued growth in all three of its main product categories.


“These include sensors and sensor interfaces, power management and wireless. A number of factors combine to support that growth. First, the outstanding analogue design expertise that we have in the company.”


Heugle continues, “The world’s finest analogue engineers choose to work at ams because they get to work, in a supportive environment, on some of the most challenging design problems in the electronics industry. I think it’s incredibly fulfilling work.


Components in Electronics


“Then we can implement these amazing designs in world-class wafer fabrication processes that are renowned for their sensitivity and low noise. That allows us, for instance, to manufacture RFID reader chips with greater RF sensitivity than any competing device, or to make an automotive battery sensor interface that maintains linear current measurements across a dynamic range from 1mA to 2000A.


“The last piece of the puzzle is our understanding of the customer’s application requirements. We built a photo-sensor/signal processing ASIC for Siemens Healthcare that revolutionises medical X-ray scanning – their scanner now offers dramatically higher resolution, using smaller doses of radiation, while consuming less power. That only comes


about through working intimately with the customer.”


Global challenge With the on-going crisis in the Euro area; the threat of the much discussed fiscal cliff in the US as well as new leadership in China and the threat of violence in the Middle East the downside risks to the global economy aren’t insignificant as we go into the new year. So I ask Heugle how he sees 2013 developing, both for ams and for the broader market? He’s surprisingly upbeat. “We see double-digit growth for ams. The market may be tough, but customers who are inventive and innovative will continue to thrive and grow. In addition,


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