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Talking Defense Market with Avnet

October 7, 2011
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MWJ: For our audience, that may not be very familiar with Avnet, what are some the company’s strengths in RF/microwave components? Who are some of your larger customers in the defense markets?

DM: Avnet Electronics Marketing specializes in providing complete RF and wireless solutions that leverage discrete and/or modular technologies from industry-leading manufacturers. Avnet further supports these solutions with associated design-chain and supply-chain services. Avnet’s wide selection of products and services is complemented by systems-oriented RF field application engineers (FAEs), who can assist our customers from design through end-of-life (EOL). Within the defense market, Avnet supports a very large, diverse defense and aerospace eco-system, including larger sub-contractors such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Raytheon and General Dynamics.

MWJ: Who are some of the notable RF component manufacturers in your line card?

DM: Avnet Electronics Marketing has a large number of industry-leading RF component manufacturers on its line card. These include Analog Devices, Freescale, Maxim, NXP, Infineon, Avago, TI, Skyworks, Macom, Intel, SiLabs, TE Connectivity (formerly Tyco Electronics) and STMicroelectronics.

MWJ: I understand Avnet provides engineering design-chain and supply-chain services to its customers globally. Can you tell us a little bit more about your support team and the kind of services they provide?

DM: Avnet provides a variety of products and services to our diverse set of customers. For example, we provide design assistance to many customers through our local technical sales/application engineering teams. Our supply chain experts can help customers blueprint a safe passage logistics plan to accelerate our customer’s product to market. However, the engineer working in his cubicle well into the evening usually prefers Avnet Express, a user friendly online tool for component search and/or comparison.

MWJ: Distributors such as Avnet are in a great position to see technology trends as they unfold. What kinds of trends are you seeing in the RF semiconductor arena, especially in the defense and aerospace markets?

DM: Being able to see both the supply and demand-sides of the electronics component marketplace is one of the greatest benefits that Avnet offers our customers. Within the RF semiconductor area, we are seeing more customer demand in solutions with higher levels of integration. We’ve also seen more customers looking for modular solutions, such as software defined radios or transceiver modules that are pre-certified. These solutions save RF design engineer time and money – and will ultimately help them to speed their time to market.

Avnet Electronics Marketing Americas produces a monthly market and technology trends report that addresses the entire electronics eco-system; the most recent Market and Technology Trends report can be accessed here.

MWJ: How does Avnet see military procurement likely to change in the pending environment of government austerity and potential defense cut-backs?

DM: In order to reduce our national deficit, defense spending is clearly under the microscope and a number of programs have been restructured and/or eliminated to balance an ever-changing budget. However, retaining military superiority requires continued investment in advanced technologies. Consequently, electronics will continue to consume a higher percentage of every DoD dollar.

MWJ: How has globalization impacted Avnet and its operations?

DM: We believe the global economy has made Avnet stronger. Many companies today want to design and manufacture their products in different regions and they want suppliers that can seamlessly perform world class design and supply chain services aligned with them accordingly. Avnet has repeatedly shown the ability to meet the global objectives of our customers.

MWJ: I would think a global distributor would be right in the thick of export control and ITAR. Does Avnet have a better handle on addressing government regulations than an individual manufacturer?

DM: As a leading international electronics distributor, Avnet recognizes its responsibility to fully comply with U.S. export regulations. Avnet strives to apply the industry’s best compliance practices to safeguard our national interest. In doing so, Avnet confidently and legally exports its products in conformance with the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Maintaining this high standard requires a devoted commitment and vigorous support to sustain Avnet’s export compliance program. Avnet has been registered with the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) since 2002. And Avnet’s export compliance specialists are highly-experienced with EAR and ITAR regulations. Continuing education requirements, which include participation in advanced conferences and seminars, are required to maintain the certification.

MWJ: On a technical level, how closely do you work with the leading manufacturers you represent?

DM: In order to advise our customers on the latest component technologies, we spend considerable time with our supplier community. Our selling and technical teams invest an entire day each week in classroom training sessions from our suppliers. Further, we regularly bring factory-trained, subject matter experts to our customers for advanced design-chain counsel.

MWJ: How can a distributor like Avnet help their customer achieve a shorter time-to-market?

DM: Avnet’s entire service model was built to provide accelerated time to market for our customer’s products. We share the latest technical knowledge during the selection process and identify components to avoid due to suspect availability. In parallel, we profile an inventory of products identified early in the design cycle so they are readily available for prototype and production.

MWJ: Ruggedness, battery efficiency and miniaturization are among the features many defense systems are looking to improve upon. For high volume commercial devices, this is achieved at the integrated semiconductor level. For lower volume defense systems, this must be addressed at the module level using components that are often from different manufacturers. Is this an area where your customer support gets involved to help design teams?

DM: There is no doubt that numerous applications in the defense and aerospace sector require ongoing size, weight and power (SWaP) reduction, with significant consideration to cost (SWaP-C). Options range from the simple reduction of board real estate without component revision to an extreme shrink design involving intricate die attach capabilities. Recently, Avnet introduced it’s Secure Micro Solutions (SMS) offering to assist with SWaP reductions. SMS is a cooperative selling arrangement between Avnet Electronics Marketing, IBM and Endicott Interconnect (EI) that synergizes the respective strengths of our trusted and dependable supply sources for electronics. Manufacturing facilities and logistics centers in the U.S. provide a highly secure solution, while delivering rapid turnaround on applications. IBM and EI products meet ISO, IPC and military specifications, RoHS compliance, ITAR registration and are compatible with lead-free assembly processes. To find out more about Avnet’s SMS program, click here.

MWJ: What are among the most important things to consider when looking for the right distributor to work with? Are some better suited to particular customers than others?

DM: We believe two factors are critical when choosing a distributor. First, the supplier you choose should absolutely be an authorized distributor for the leading global component manufacturers. Not only will an authorized distributor be able to provide knowledgeable counsel on the latest technologies; but also ensure against the threat of counterfeit parts. Second, look to align with a global distributor that can help define the components needed for production early in the design phase and implement a supply chain to deliver these products without fail.

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