MJ: RFMW provides products from specialized RF&MW component manufacturers who need to utilize a technical sales and marketing approach combined with premier customer service and delivery. After your first decade in business, how has the company evolved from its early beginnings into a major distributor?
JL: RFMW started in July 2003. We left the MTT-S IMS trade show that year with a very strong and committed supplier base providing some of the best technologies in the industry. We’ve added quite a few companies to our line card, but specifically limited the offering so that we could support each one and give them the focus they deserve. That’s been a winning formula for RFMW and although we’ve had to weed a few suppliers from our line card, we still have the majority of companies who initially put their faith in us. In our early, “start up” days, inventory was at a minimum due to cash flow. Some of our suppliers supported inventory on consignment because they believed in the RFMW management teams’ ability to effectively support customers, technically and commercially. It paid off because our sales team was supporting customers the large distributors wouldn’t or couldn’t due to their lack of focus in the RF and Microwave field. We promoted our suppliers products, the right products for the job, and have grown our business alongside them ever since. Today, inventory management is a major portion of the work done at our headquarters in San Jose, CA. All suppliers have assigned product managers who support our sales team by providing the best intelligence to keep our customers happy. We’ve always chosen to have a knowledgeable sales force and product team to work with customers. Finding talented people that know the industry, know the products and know their customer base has been a secret to our success. For those reasons along with being laser focused on what we know best, RF and Microwave, we’ve become recognized in the industry.
MJ: How have you seen the market for distribution services change over the last 10 years?
JL: One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is the need for information in a quick, efficient manner. RFMW has a wealth of knowledgeable people to serve customers. Our website is continually enhanced to provide valuable content and ease of doing business. As the time frames imposed on engineers and buyers continues to shorten, they need a way to get what they’re looking for fast. Factory / supplier resources are not set up to answer questions from a broad base of non Tier 1 customers, so RFMW steps into the gap and provides access to technical resources and product information that a small company might not get. Since we buy in volume, we become an important “customer” to our suppliers with the same questions and concerns that a Tier 1 customer has. In turn, we have become an aggregated receptacle and conduit of information to help our customers. Similarly to a conduit, we also gather information from our broad customer base and feed our suppliers information on industry trends, new product needs and desired product enhancements. Both customers and suppliers benefit.
MJ:Some distributors such as RFMW offer more value added services than just delivery of product, what has RFMW done in this area?
JL: We’ve always recognized the need to be more than just a place to buy “parts”. Service levels and services are a differentiator from our competitors and the services we offer were brought about by customer requirements as well as supplier desires to outsource expensive operations. Today, RFMW offers tape and reel for small runs, DIE replating, parametric part sorting, tinning, hi-rel screening, custom hybrids, and program management. We consider our people and knowledge base as adding value to both customers and suppliers.
MJ: You have an impressive line card of RF and microwave companies – how do you build up a portfolio of such a wide range of products and services? How do you determine which types of products to carry in your inventory?
JL: Structure and execution follow strategy. RFMW executes a consistent Product and Market focused strategy wherein we hire people with focused RF & Microwave product sales and marketing knowledge. Their backgrounds support the implementation of a Product and Supplier strategy to satisfy as much of a customer’s BOM requirement as possible for any RF components, from antenna to baseband, that belong in an RF/MW block diagram.
Profiling customer usage guides our inventory decisions as does intelligent anticipation of customer needs based on the embedded knowledge within the organization, customer relationships, supplier relationships and maintaining close relationships with supplier representatives. In addition to being a focused distributor of RF and Microwave components, RFMW has product “specialists” focused on various product segments such as RF power devices, signal control/processing, RF passives and RF interconnect products. These specialists are able to analyze trends and anticipate the types of products our customers will need.
MJ: How do you manage all of the inventory and inventory locations to provide quick delivery of products?
JL: We utilize proprietary CDIWEB Technology provided by our sister company Components Distributors plus the above noted human intelligence gives us a great handle on sales, marketing, opportunity management, from inquiry to cash, all connected, via a continuously updated real-time relational data base. All of this adds up to intelligence within our inventory management process.
MJ: What are RFMW’s goals for the next few years to keep growing?
JL: RFMW will continue to focus on new technologies and selective products that support our customers and the evolving technology. Several new suppliers were a result of customer feedback and requests. We listen and we respond. RFMW is also investing in new territory expansion with the goal of supporting customers on a global basis.
MJ: What do you see as future improvements in services/offerings that RF and microwave distributors will need to offer to stay competitive?
JL: As a service oriented company, RFMW strives for continuous improvement in the quality of products and services we provide. Our existing value added programs will continue to grow. We’re planning additional testing capability to meet customer requests. Of course, On Time Delivery (OTD) is an important facet of the distribution industry and ours is exemplary. We have an ever evolving website providing valuable content to visitors and useful tools for both designers and purchasing agents. Investments there will pay off in increased traffic and transactions that support customer. And, a large differentiator is our focus on RF and Microwave technology. Customers recognize that we’re here for the long haul and we’re here to help.