14 August 2012
Implementing change: Interview with Dr Carsten Suckrow, vp of sales for EMEA, Analog Devices
The days of semiconductor companies manufacturing and selling discrete products are passing. Today, companies involved in the electronics supply chain have to offer more to the customer.
Analog Devices is no exception. According to the company's recently appointed vp of sales for EMEA, the company is undergoing a transformation process in Europe. "We are moving from a component sell to a solutions sell," said Dr Carsten Suckrow. The reason? "Customers are looking for more integration," he said.
Europe contributes a significant part of Analog's $3billion global revenues. "Sales in Europe are strong," he pointed out, "but there is still an opportunity for growth." One of the reasons for optimism is that Europe tends to play towards Analog's strengths. "The consumer sector represents about 20% of revenues," Dr Suckrow explained, "while industrial revenues are much larger." And Europe is typified by companies developing 'industrial' products.
"European sales are currently growing at around 8 or 9% a year, compared to about 6% globally, and we want this to continue; we're looking for double digit growth in the short term."
Where will this growth come from? "Communications infrastructure is one sector, where data loading is driving the development of pico and femtocells. Automotive is another, where the focus continues to be on active and passive safety, infotainment, battery management and energy efficiency," he said.
And it's with what Dr Suckrow admits is an 'aggressive growth target' in mind that Analog is transforming how it relates with its European customers. "In moving from a component sell to a solutions sell, we need to present a clear value proposition; making it clear where the differentiation is. It's also about working with a range of different people, but offering them the same service."
This change in approach, combined with an aim to reach new customers, has required a new channel strategy to be put in place. "We have appointed partners to help us to expand into markets where we haven't been before," he said, "including addressing small and medium sized innovative companies."
The industrial sector in Europe is typically a 'long tail'. How will Analog address this? "Where the potential is large," he noted, "we will engage directly. Broadliners will handle some of the long tail, but there is a large group of companies which are small, but still of interest. Partners such as Anglia will help us to reach them."
Recently, Analog appointed Anglia as UK and Ireland distributor in order to help grow European sales. "Anglia has exceptionally strong relationships with UK customers and its technical support is particularly impressive," said Dr Suckrow.
He also believes the approach requires solutions, rather than silicon. And that means Analog has to build its supply chain services and to have an earlier engagement with quality departments from major customers – particularly automotive – to make sure products meet their requirements.
He believes Analog's signal chain expertise will be a major factor in building European sales – it holds almost half of the data converter market, for example. "Customers have tough signal chain issues to be solved and we need to help them to design and deliver solutions. Dialogue with customers is most important and we need to bring in expertise from market segments – automotive, health, industrial – to help define those solutions."
Dr Suckrow implied this hasn't always been the case. "We are creating a triangle; a relationship between strategic market segments with a long term perspective, our core product development plans and our sales people. Balancing these three driving forces will help us to focus on applications where the best return can be made. That wasn't there in the past."
One area where the previous Analog approach may see modification is in reacting to customer needs. One requirement is for more product integration; stepping up from discrete solutions. "Analog has a large product portfolio," he noted, "and some of these products could be integrated. But we need to know the challenges in terms of power, cost and effectiveness."
This is spawning a platform based approach addressing the more common applications. "We're getting together with, for example, fpga suppliers to create reference designs, evaluation boards and test specs so engineers spend less time developing solutions. And we are moving into software provision, including drivers and integration code."
Along with integration, Analog is looking to become involved with companies earlier in the product design cycle. "The perfect situation would be the lead engineer for a next generation product at a whiteboard alongside an Analog engineer, working out how Analog can contribute, including meeting the cost targets."
And that means improving skills. "The team has to be trained at the highest level. Every account manager will need to improve their executive selling skills so they can have a conversation with people who want to know how we can solve their problems. It's a very different discussion the one you would have with an R&D engineer."
Another reason for Analog to offer solutions is the decline in what Dr Suckrow calls 'analogue talent'. However, he realises that providing a higher level of service will require domain expertise. "We've hired a lot of domain experts recently, so we have the understanding in place. Our challenge for the future is to bring in people who want to work on the most complex issues, but who are willing to have a sales orientation to their careers.
"We're working with leading European universities to make sure there's a stream of new engineers coming," he concluded.
Dr Carsten Suckrow is vice president of sales, EMEA, for Analog Devices. In this role, he manages a network providing both technical support and customer service across the region.
He joined Analog Devices from Nokia Siemens Networks, where he headed the Solution Sales Force across Europe. He has also held senior positions at Philips, BenQ and Siemens, as well as sales and marketing positions with companies in the industrial and fibre optic markets.
He holds a PhD in Marketing and Business Management from the University of the Federal Armed Forces, Germany.