Q: What is the rationale behind the reorganisation? What impact will it have on Avnet’s customers in South Africa?
A (Kuhn): Since 2009, our shared front-end model in South Africa has differed from the rest of our sales organisation in Avnet EMEA, which operates a successful ‘speedboat’ business unit model focused on market segments. The business unit structure, which has proven to deliver higher levels of technical design support and services to customers and suppliers across EMEA, is now being implemented in South Africa.
This separation by specialisation will bring increased efficiency to our customers, delivering the full value of each speedboat line card, with faster response to enquiries, and the highest levels of demand creation and logistic support. Our value-added services include design chain, programming, cable assembly and a wide range of logistic services.
Q: What does the new structure in South Africa look like?
A (Kuhn): Avnet South Africa will have two segmented business units focused on semiconductors (Avnet Silica) and interconnect, passive, electro-mechanical, power and battery products (Avnet Abacus). Each of the business units will be represented by dedicated sales teams.
The segmented businesses will operate alongside complementary Avnet company EBV Elektronik, which already addresses South Africa and functions as a separate business unit also focused on semiconductors, and Avnet’s catalogue electronic component distributor, Premier Farnell.
Q: You have both been part of the existing Avnet South Africa operation. How will your roles change?
A (Stafford): I will head up the sales and marketing team for the Avnet Abacus business unit in the region, as well as retaining my position and duties as managing director of EBV.
A (Kuhn): I have spent the past four years as technical director at Avnet South Africa, and will now take over the position of director of sales and marketing for Avnet Silica in South Africa.
Q: Which countries do you serve?
A (Stafford): Our business units service South Africa, Mauritius and African countries as far as sub-Sahara. North Africa belongs to the Southern Europe region and is covered by our colleagues from the respective regional business units. South Africa is considered as the engine room for southern Africa with the only known volume production of mobile phones and set-top boxes, which are supplied in kit form from Asia and populated in central Africa.
Q: Where are you located in South Africa?
A: We have offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
Q: Tell us more about the ‘speedboats’
A (Stafford): Avnet Abacus offers products and solutions and services from more than 140 IP&E; manufacturers, providing the connection between suppliers and customer to guide projects through the product lifecycle journey. Working with us provides you with market and technology research, interactive design tools and collaboration with experienced and certified technical experts who’ll turn your concept into a tangible product or application. Our supplier relationships ensure our order pipelines and inventory position will keep your products flowing into the market.
A (Kuhn): Avnet Silica is the European semiconductor specialist of Avnet Inc. with a team of more than 200 applications engineers and technical specialists focused on solution-oriented design-in consultation and technical product support. Among the additional services we offer are programming services, prototyping, laser marking, taping procedures, dry packaging and baking, and supply chain solutions.
EBV, also a semiconductor specialist within Avnet, operates as a separate business unit.
Q: Will the business units work together?
A (Stafford): The business units will operate independently, however where there are gaps in product offering in one business unit this can be fulfilled by another Avnet business unit, should this be required by the customer.
Q: Does the customer need to contact each business unit separately?
A (Kuhn): Yes, it is preferred, as they operate separately, but until customers get used to it we will help pass on information between the companies.
Q: Are there any particular focus points in South Africa? What are the market (and technical) priorities in this region?
A (Stafford): We will continue to serve the same various markets across the customer base. Key markets are industrial, security (including aftermarket automotive), IoT, utility metering, lighting and military. IoT presents the greatest opportunity as customers try to improve efficiency in their businesses and add connectivity to their existing products. Our complete IoT offering across the business units also brings in new non-traditional customers we typically haven’t serviced in the past.
Q: What are the special challenges in the region?
A (Kuhn): Local economic conditions are currently quite challenging, with a volatile currency. Our location being far from Europe presents some logistical challenges although we’ve learnt to deal with and accept those. The market is fairly small compared to most European regions and the larger business opportunities linked to government come with legislative and bureaucratic challenges that we as a multi-national company struggle with. Load shedding is hampering production, for example. Skilled engineers are also hard to come by as there is a brain drain in the local high-tech industry.
Q. How do you think engineers will benefit from this reorganisation?
A (Stafford): Engineers will benefit from an enhanced service and better technical focus as well as from more opportunities to work with the appropriate supplier partner for their application as we plan to offer the full breadth of the Avnet Abacus and Avnet Silica linecards to the region, with some exciting additions coming soon.
Q. Does this restructure have any impact on the way you provide technical support to customers? Will there be more or less technical resources available to customers?
A (Kuhn): Customers will have access to even more dedicated technical support. As the business units are focusing on core specialisations − Avnet Silica for semiconductors and Avnet Abacus for interconnect, passives, electromechanical, power and battery products − the teams become specialists in product and application areas that lead to a better market specific knowledge and understanding as well as give them access to extended resources and support from other regions. The specialisation of the teams will enable us to offer a more consultative approach to meet customer requirements.
Q. How are your suppliers/customers reacting to this news?
A (Stafford): We received the first feedback from our suppliers, customers as well as employees and it’s very positive. They are delighted as they can see the benefits of a stronger engagement on a focused linecard, whilst at the same time leveraging the Avnet global ecosystem, and strengthening our relationships across the board.
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