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CEO Interview

we are well placed to support some fast- growing markets, such as RFID, which is proliferating into many different end product types, automotive electronics, power management and radically new sensors.”

So as a mid-sized

European business how do you look to differentiate from the competition? “We’re very proud of our Austrian roots, but we are not a European business – we are a global semiconductor company that

Western Europe Heugle is more forthcoming and extremely positive. “I believe there are

“The market may be tough, but customers who are inventive and innovative will continue to thrive and grow.”

happens to be based in Austria. We have design facilities in the US, Italy, India and Austria, manufacturing takes place in the Philippines and Austria, and we maintain direct sales and engineering support operations in every major market in the world. I think people’s perspective of ams depends where you are: to Americans we are an American business, to Koreans we are a Korean company, to Chinese engineers we are a Chinese company. “Differentiation is expressed ultimately

through our products – as I said before, our products are chosen for their superior sensitivity, linearity, dynamic range, accuracy, resolution and so on. “The way you achieve differentiation is

through a relentless commitment to R&D and to innovation. We continued to invest in facilities and in recruiting analogue engineering experts right through the 2008-9 slump, when other semiconductor companies were shedding staff and equipment as fast as they possibly could.”

A European foundry When I ask whether a European foundry service is sustainable in the current climate his reply is swift. “Yes. The ams foundry business is

extremely successful – it contributes 7% of our overall revenues. We provide a specialised service that customers value very highly, and we build close relationships with them. In fact, our relationship with TAOS started when they became a foundry customer!” With the company for ten years Heugle has made considerable changes to the business since arriving, so when I ask him what further changes he intends or plans in the short to medium term I had hoped for a more detailed answer than the one I got.

“Our mission has not changed: to be a high-performance analogue

semiconductor company in the top rank of the industry. We continue to pursue our objectives here without change. “ Whether that means further acquisitions I’m not sure. The company recently acquired the RFID design centre IDS in a move intended to enhance its growing RFID, NFC and wireless offerings. IDS has expertise in wireless and sensing and its purchase means that ams is one of only a few semiconductor companies that is able to offer complete RFID solutions. When the conversation turns to the long-term prospects for electronics in

great long-term prospects for the European market, as Europe is leading much of the innovation in electronics system design. I see some Asian companies with poor business models, chasing volume by making commodity products with no innovation. That generates revenue but no profit. Europe is full of opportunity because innovative companies are

making highly valuable products that require high-quality components from suppliers such as ams.“ So how can European companies become more competitive and innovative in the face of increased competition? “Semiconductor companies need to make decisions that are right for their business, and not just follow fads. The decision to go fabless, for instance, has been disastrous for many analogue semiconductor manufacturers. Not all the supposedly ‘hot’ markets are right for everyone however – we have taken a disciplined decision not to play in the so- called ‘smart’ meter market, for instance, because we see too little opportunity for high-performance sensors and sensor interfaces there. “

Industrial strategy Is there a cohesive industrial strategy in Europe that supports business; do we need a policy for growth in Europe? “We should make immigration easier, so that talented people from anywhere in the world can come and work at Europe’s best companies. We should reduce taxes for businesses and individuals and make it easier to manage the size of the workforce. These are not policies for any one industry – they apply equally to all. These could take the place of subsidies which are often not applied well. “There are always hurdles when it comes to starting a business. You can build a factory, but you cannot always find skilled engineers to operate them. I used to live in Singapore, where a much simpler and smaller bureaucracy made it much easier to take on new staff. “

I close the interview by asking whether

ams are struggling to find sufficiently skilled engineers and, if so, how are they look to overcome this? “We can generally attract the people we want, as we try and make it attractive for engineers to come and work with us at any of our many locations. We ask ourselves certain questions before we choose a location for a design centre, such as ascertaining whether there is a bilingual school nearby that engineers’ children could attend. As I mentioned before though, there are hurdles in Europe when it comes to hiring people, and it would be great if the process could be made easier for companies that are expanding.” ■

ams | Components in Electronics December 2012/January 2013 15

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