Arrow: the importance of engineering for Europe

Arrow: the importance of engineering for Europe

Interviews |
By Nick Flaherty

Margit Tischler joined global distributor Arrow Electronics in January from Intel where she was director of corporate and worldwide channel sales for PSG (the Programmable Solutions Group). She spent seven years with Altera and managed the EMEA channel teams prior to its acquisition by Intel in 2015. Before this, she spent almost 15 years with Xilinx and led a team of account managers and field applications engineers (FAEs).

What are the plans for engineering support across Europe for Arrow?

In the past decade we have seen Arrow Electronics’ role transforming from a pure distributor of electronic components towards becoming a technology solution provider. Arrow spans the full technology spectrum, by serving both components for edge devices all the way up through the network and into enterprise IT, security and cloud. This is particularly important in the area of IoT. Distribution and engineering support for electronic components are, and will remain, at the heart of Arrow’s components business.

We are seeing the speed of technology adoption accelerate and the complexity of our customers´ designs increase. The role of the field applications engineer (FAE) is evolving to being the trusted advisors for our customers, consulting them on solution architecture and system design. In addition, they are still providing all the technical support required to get customers to market as fast as possible. Areas of specialization include analogue, embedded, FPGA, power, wireless, IP&E and RF through our Richardson RFPD business.

Our FAEs are educating our customers on new and existing technologies to help them be successful in their end markets. But it is not only our customers who appreciate our technical resources and specialization areas; our suppliers also value this as it is helping them to reach more customers in a shorter period of time. Beyond our technical sales and support resource we have a very large engineering services organization that then executes design and development on behalf of the client. These services serve both our core OEM customers in addition to design in key segments within EMEA.

OEMs in automotive, pharmaceutical, medical and industrial segments are increasingly collaborating with Arrow. Our engineers become an extension of their R&D teams to accelerate new product introductions, augment critical skills or support digital innovation on AI, cloud-based analytics or IoT device security. Companies like our approach here because we guide both the design and the supply chain, ensuring that we can supply what we design and managing the supply chain as production ramps.

More and more of our customers want to innovate, transform or scale. Innovation is the life blood of a business. However, the adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning or 5G can initially be a challenge. We help our customers to acquire knowledge and skills through outsourced engineering. Digital transformation is a complex topic, but we see many customers looking to make this shift. This can require a completely new product range to support new businesses or markets. Finally, we can help customers scale their engineering teams, either short or longer term.

How do the engineering needs differ across the region? Are there particular areas of technology for different regions?

Germany, as one of the key motors of the European economy, is very strong in automotive, industrial and medical. Due to the pandemic, medical has seen an increased focus throughout Europe. There is a strong increase in electronic vehicles, both on the charging and powertrain designs, and companies are exploring 5G adoption. Then there are the fast-growing emerging markets, particularly in Eastern Europe, and in Israel. We are balancing our investments to make sure we have a good mix in terms of being able to address established and emerging markets.

What is also interesting is the degree to which new technology is encroaching across all segments and all at the same time. Artificial Intelligence is a great example of this. Vision-based AI is proliferating, and our software engineering capability must now guide customers on the application stack and modeling they need for data-based outcomes.

How does this impact on recruitment?

ecruitment in engineering is absolutely key to Arrow and we have a strong focus on this within our overall recruiting programs. In 2019 we started a new Arrow Graduate Program in EMEA, a 12-month programme, training university graduates to become sales and engineering professionals. Adapting to new technologies and new market trends starts at the point of recruitment. In this context, we also work closer than ever before with technical universities. But we are always looking to hire experienced design and application engineers, to even better serve our customers and suppliers. We encourage interested candidates to reach out to us and to apply.

Is there a change in the balance of hardware and software expertise required?

his is a key point for our engineering strategy moving forward. Software is becoming a dominant decision factor in hardware selection. From an engineering services standpoint, digital engineering, which spans from embedded software to AI to cloud to IoT security to mobile applications, is the fastest growing element of the market. It’s also an area where our customers do not always have all the resources and skills they need inhouse and where we can complement and do development on their behalf. You can also see this trend in our supplier alliances.

As embedded suppliers are unifying the data flow experience we are capable of assisting the client on both the device and software stack design and development. In the light of this, we are looking very closely at addressing the change in design effort towards software. Arrow has recognized that over the last two years software effort has increased in projects by a factor of eight, while customers’ skills and resources may not increase at the same rate.

Design complexity has increased significantly, for example, in the areas of high-speed MCUs and multimedia processors, FPGAs, IoT and edge computing, artificial intelligence and the cloud, to name a few. Another level that affects all these components equally and encloses them like a bracket is security. In all of these areas, software has become a critical factor that can no longer be viewed separately from hardware sales. Thus, customers are faced with increasingly complex software designs. For Arrow, we are currently expanding our software team to support this. However, we should not underestimate the importance of good hardware design. RF and power are two examples where the hardware design is critical to the performance of the product. We have dedicated support teams for both of these areas.

How does Arrow see manufacturing in Europe of its own boards?

We have built a great ecosystem of SOM partners and they form a critical bridge between our suppliers and our customer needs, often giving them a buy versus make option. I would like to emphasize that we don´t compete with our suppliers when it comes to the creation of boards or marketing Arrow-branded products. We enable our customers through supplier reference designs, development boards and sysmte-on-modules (SOMs) created by our partner network, to create a proof of concept and help them to accelerate time to market.

What impact will Brexit have? Is Arrow seeing an impact from border controls as a result of Brexit? Is this temporary or a longer term issue and do you expect any tariff issues?

We have established a cross-functional team at Arrow which has operated for a few years now observing the developments and preparing for the day of Brexit. As everybody knows, in particular in the early days, the general situation saw some hiccups at customer and border controls resulting in delays. Some carriers were struggling with a flawless delivery even on alternative routes. Arrow decided to go via air freight and consolidated deliveries to mitigate expected delays on the road. Due to this we are keeping standard delivery to pre-Brexit levels.

We continue to manage all challenges that occur on the carrier-side for our customers, such as limited transportation of specific products. VAT and financial flows are more complex requiring a dedicated, knowledgeable expert team to manage properly for customers also – which we have.

Whilst Arrow is well prepared, more corner-scenarios and special supply chains still require intense review and system adaptation. We continue to observe the situation, potentially moving back to standard shipping routes (e.g. road) if applicable. Tariffs in general are still under review, as only EU and GB-based products fall under the trade deal. Arrow is one of the largest technology solutions providers in the world, and we have offices, partners and trade all over the globe. We also have a well-established system and dedicated, expert team to manage tariffs.

What is Arrow doing in Europe to plan for the Covid-19 recovery?

While business conditions in our industry are dynamic, we are cautiously optimistic that the demand environments for Americas and Europe components have returned to growth. Customers are ramping to prior production levels across many industries. This leads to supply shortages in some segments, and Arrow helping its customers to find alternative products, with re-design activities, or help with design on behalf of the customers. Looking back to last year, as a supplier and manager of the entire electronics supply chain, Arrow supported the UK Ventilator Challenge consortium and all companies involved in the consortium in manufacturing more than 13,000 ventilators within a few months, in addition to similar projects in Europe.

Arrow, under its AspenCore division, also owns a number of electronics publications, including EETimes, EETimes Europe, EDN and Electronic Products

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