Voices: Avnet’s Jeff Ittel: Think board to go broad
By Suzanne Deffree, Managing Editor - June 25, 2009
Jeff Ittel serves as senior vice president of business development and marketing at Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas, a division of components distributor Avnet Inc. Previously, Ittel served for two years as president of the former Avnet Cilicon division of Avnet Electronics Marketing, where he and his management team led successful efforts throughout a previous industry downturn. Ittel spoke with EDN about the changing role of distributors and the support they can offer to board-level designing engineers and suppliers.
An Avnet exec once told me that “designing across the board” was the biggest opportunity for distributors. Do you agree?
Yes, I do. As a distributor, we see across a whole technology or commodity, so we’ve developed some expertise in which products might optimize certain applications in certain uses. Probably one of the biggest things we see more and more now is that we are not just asked to go in and design in a chip. Customers want [to know] how everything else works together. We’ve been asked and are required to provide more overall solutions. That’s all from a design point. From a supply-chain point, if the product is designed-in off our line card, it’s much easier to support from our vantage point, whichever way that customer wants to be supported in the supply chain or how they set it up. Supply chains are getting more and more complex, and your design decisions affect your supply-chain decisions more than ever these days.
Why is that?
You’ve got to have product that is going to be around for a while for manufacturability—for lifetime. The guys that are designing in one room and building in another room are becoming fewer and farther between. They are outsourcing their manufacturing. It’s easy if they are outsourcing in the same city to a customer we already call on; it’s a little more difficult when they are outsourcing out of their state or region. More and more is getting outsourced overseas. And most [customers] have a combination of all of these [scenarios]. They want to be able to pick someone who can support the supply chain and move wherever they want to move it and keep the support ongoing.
Can you share an example of designing across the full board?
Lighting is a good example of a solution that is much more than having a neat, high-tech LED that is the brightest one on the market. You’ve got to have drivers, you’ve got to have thermal management, and you’ve got to have optics on virtually every single application. To be able to deliver the product and our ability to have expertise in each one of those areas, coupled with leading suppliers in each one of those areas, allows us to bring a solution to an engineer that is more than just the latest high-brightness LED. ... It’s an exciting area that requires system-level knowledge.
There’s now a $10 million stimulus prize for the first company or engineer that can design a screw-in LED-based replacement for the standard Edison 60W light bulb. The new bulb would have to be dimmable and include LEDs, as well as driver circuitry, and have efficacy greater than 90 lumens per watt. This is no easy feat.
It’s a great recognition just for the future of LEDs for somebody to put that much money out there. It says that this is a real technology, and we encourage you to try to adapt to it. For us, it’s also very clear that, even in your description, it’s not as simple as just plugging in an LED. It is much more complex. It is not just a component sale. It is a system sell to be able to deliver the end state that people are looking for there. Again, it’s not only a latest-technology, high-end LED, but drivers, thermal management, optics, everything involved to be able to deliver the concept there. For us, that’s a really nice testimonial to the fact that system knowledge and innovative technologies are going to be two key factors, and those are two things we think we bring to the market.
While we are on the topic of power-saving LEDs, why is “green” more than a buzzword for components distributors?
When you look at the way industries have been forced to go with ROHS [restriction-of-hazardous-substances] directives and everything, the new technologies that come out are more energy-efficient; they are more environmentally sustainable and cost-effective. When you look at that [scenario], ... everybody wins. There’s less throw-away [product], and product life is lengthened. Our customers’ customers, especially if they work with government, are telling us they are required to start designing more green, and that [trend] is not just smaller, faster, and cheaper; it’s all the different things I just mentioned: energy efficient, sustainable, cost-effective, that type of thing. Customers really have to keep up on it. There’s a lot of new technology coming out. They can stick with what they know and try to figure this all out, or they can reach out to people who have maybe more marketing insights and technical training and that can offer support. That’s an area we like to think is one of our places in the whole supply and design chain.
Are you seeing supplier relationships changing with these green efforts and the impact of the economy? Are suppliers now more open to the design chain in reference to using distribution?
Absolutely, for a couple of different reasons: One, they have all had cutbacks [and have] fewer feet on the street in many cases and fewer technical resources to answer questions from the customers, so we are viewed as an extension of their sales force there. Also, when you look across the different markets to go after and service, they want to reach a wide spread. The mass market becomes more important when their big customers slow down, and they don’t have the reach to all the mass customers that we can—even things like which start-up customers [to watch] and getting to those customers earlier before they are a known entity. We are trying to bolster our Web presence and build our central technical support center to reach lots of customers through the channel.