Getting Innovative Power Electronics Designs to Market Faster and Easier: Interview with Graham Maggs of Mouser Electronics


Henning Wriedt, US Correspondent, Bodo's Power at Mouser Electronics

In this interview, US correspondent for Bodo's Power, Henning Wriedt, speaks with Graham Maggs, VP Marketing for Europe at Mouser Electronics, about the company's position in a worldwide distribution environment with a focus on power electronics.

 

Graham Maggs, VP Marketing Europe, Mouser Electronics

Graham Maggs, VP Marketing Europe, Mouser Electronics

 

Henning Wriedt: Mouser was founded in the early 1970s. Could you briefly touch on the major milestones in the company’s history?

Graham Maggs: What began as a small high school electronics program by Physics teacher Jerry Mouser in 1964 in El Cajon, California has grown to become what Mouser Electronics is today. This start-up, originally called Western Components, laid the groundwork from which Mouser Electronics was formed in 1973, the same year Glenn Smith joined the company and began his career with Mouser.

Ten years later, in 1983, Mouser Electronics moved its headquarters and distribution center to Mansfield, Texas. The move placed Mouser in the middle of a growing high-tech industry in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Being only 30 minutes from the DFW International Airport gave Mouser an important distribution advantage for serving North America and extending its reach worldwide.

 

Mouser's global headquarters and distribution center in Mansfield, Texas.

Mouser's global headquarters and distribution center in Mansfield, Texas. Image courtesy of Mouser.

 

In January 2000, Mouser’s success caught the attention of TTI, Inc., the world’s leading authorized distributor specialist offering passive, connector, electromechanical and discrete components. Mouser became a TTI subsidiary and together, the two offer the ideal distribution solution for design engineers and production buyers in the electronics manufacturing industry. With Mouser’s focus on new designs combined with TTI’s expertise in volume distribution, the two companies provide the complete answer from the design chain to the supply chain.

The success of the Mouser/TTI partnership caused Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway’s Chairman of the Board, to take notice of the two companies. In March 2007, the acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. was finalized, positioning TTI and Mouser for the long-term. Both companies gained added recognition and financial strength from one of the most successful companies in the world. Today, Mouser continues to grow globally focusing on providing the widest selection of the newest products that get innovative designs to market faster and easier.

 

HW: Why is Mouser headquartered in Mansfield/Texas and not in the Silicon Valley?

GM: As detailed above, Mouser started in California then moved to Texas to be in the middle of a growing high-tech industry in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Being so close to a major airport complex enables Mouser to service the world from one global warehouse, and there is a ready pool of talent which is always required as Mouser is continually adding to its headcount.

Of course, Texas Instruments, one of Mouser’s key lines, is close by. So is Mouser’s parent company, TTI. Silicon Valley is a fantastic and vibrant center, but most distributors are headquartered in more ‘economically reasonable’ places. It is rare to find a large warehouse facility – for example – in Silicon Valley purely because the value of real estate is so high. Our facility in Texas provides a same day shipping and next day delivery service in the US; 2-3 day delivery service in EMEA.

 

HW: TTI and Mouser “provide the complete answer from design chain to supply chain”. What do you mean by that?

GM: According to a press statement given by my colleagues, Mark Burr-Lonnon, Senior VP Global Service, EMEA & Asia Mouser Electronics and Geoff Breed, TTI’s VP European Marketing at Electronica a couple of years back, the two companies are complementary. Breed: “Under one umbrella we have two organizations that cover the customer’s total needs with complementary structures and solutions. From the supplier‘s perspective it‘s similar: combined we provide a proven vehicle for new product introductions, a complete go-to-market solution - reliable partners who understand the needs of the supplier and can deliver that to the customer.”

Burr-Lonnon explains the different approaches: “Mouser is the Global NPI specialist with great online tools, search engines, e-commerce, broad inventory, high semiconductor, and engineering-based web content. We offer small volumes on a quick turn-around to support design activities. But when the project moves into volume production, it’s more difficult for the high service model to flourish due to the greater depth of inventory needed, sophisticated logistics programs, inside and outside sales support.”

Breed picks up the narrative: “TTI offers engineering support but in a different and again, complementary way. In many cases, the design cycle starts with the Mouser model and then, as the customer project develops, TTI steps in at an engineering level to offer the face-to-face support where an engineer can discuss solutions, or meet with a supplier. This is why we keep TTI and Mouser as separate entities, while some competitors continually try to merge two very complex and different models.”

Suppliers, apparently, react very well to the synergistic relationship between TTI and Mouser. Breed: “Because the combination offers them the right path to market - whether its small volume, NPI, engineering support, pro-active marketing, breadth and depth of inventory or local sales team support - they really like it. They can work one product program through our two models and achieve their goals.”

Adds Burr-Lonnon: “We provide customers with a seamless ‘design chain to supply chain’ service, and our suppliers see very real benefits. Our model is unique and that’s what customers and suppliers love. Together, our joint approach ensures that customers get what they want - which is, after all, what suppliers want, too.”

 

HW: What kind of impact had the takeover by Berkshire Hathaway in 2007 for your company?

GM: Berkshire Hathaway has a small board and a very flat hierarchy. It has a policy of buying successful businesses that share a common philosophy, but leaving the existing management in place, allowing them to follow the same approach that made them successful in the first place. So, Paul Andrews is still the head of TTI, and Glen Smith is CEO at Mouser. All other key staff stayed after the ‘07 acquisition too.

From Mouser’s point of view, being part of Berkshire Hathaway has enabled us to continue to invest in large, freely-available stocks, which mean that designers can access new technology and components faster than through other distributors. Berkshire Hathaway has enormous resources so we are able to fund significant warehouse expansions as the market demands.

 

HW: You are a distributor for more than 700 manufacturers. How can you and your customers stay current with products and technologies, without overloading the various information channels? Is AI going to help?

GM: We are very anxious to ensure that we only provide information to our customers that is useful to them in their current role. Therefore we try to understand the profile of our customers so that we can better serve them. Our role is to be the ‘New Product Introduction’ (NPI) distributor, offering all the latest technology, therefore we need all the major names as well as the interesting start-ups. Our website is very important in that respect and we spend a great deal of time ensuring that it is easy to use and full of good design-in information.

AI is impacting our lives in so many ways already, and information dissemination is one of the most obvious – eg Siri, Alexis, Google Home, and others. It would be possible to envisage an AI system where engineers could ask specific questions relating to technology, applications or products. The AI system would search the company database and provide answers. But Mouser is not introducing such a system yet.

 

HW: You are a worldwide distributor. How do you manage different countries, different languages, and different locations for same day shipments?

GM: My colleague, Mark Burr-Lonnon, Senior VP Global Service, EMEA & Asia Mouser Electronics, has described Mouser as a ‘marketing company that happens to deal in Electronics’. Our aim is to get parts to our customers in two to three days from one central warehouse, so we have to be very good at logistics. Have a look at the video “Mouser by the numbers”, which provides a lot more stats!

Yet, although we only have one warehouse, we have many other branches worldwide whose task is to be close culturally, linguistically and physically to customers. Currently, we have offices in 23 locations so customers can talk to someone in their own language, in the same time zone, and deal in the local currency.

 

HW: Over time, how important are power electronics components for you and your customers?

GM: As one famous commentator once said: “Everything needs power.” We have separate technology sections on power – low power, power management and power supply – which provide design notes, articles and other resources. As you note in your next question, we have a significant number of power products from all the world’s key manufacturers – including the recent addition of Linear Technology (through Analog Devices), so we consider power to be a very important topic, an opinion that I am sure you share!

 

HW: You are listing more than 56000 power management ICs. How do electronic designers, with just specific interests in power electronics, get through this huge amount of information?

GM: Of course it is a challenge, but our mission is to provide immediate access to as many components as we can, so having all the information clearly presented in one place must be an advantage for engineers. The web site has sophisticated search algorithms which help users to find the best part(s) for their application, and we can cross-reference alternatives too.

 

HW: Which market segments and which regions are right now high in demand for power electronics, and which power products are benefiting from this trend?

GM: As we have said before “everything needs power” so there is high demand across the board. However, the emergence of electric and hybrid vehicles is sucking up huge quantities of every type of power component. Asia is a huge user in this field and others too, especially smartphones. Another significant market for power components of all types is the IoT – (Smart Factory/Industry 4.0, Smart Home, Smart Office, Wearables, Connected Auto, Remote Diagnostics etc. etc.).

 

HW: According to market experts, “power modules are anticipated to exhibit the highest growth”. Do you agree?

GM: We do not have figures for the growth of all types of components, but certainly our website traffic would indicate that power modules are very interesting for our customers. GaN and other wide bandgap devices also attract a lot of interest.

 

HW: How does your new BOM Tool operate, and how is the acceptance of these tools like browser and MS-Office add-ons in the worldwide market?

GM: FORTE is a comprehensive, intelligent BOM tool that quickly evaluates millions of parts to improve order accuracy, save time and increase confidence in specifying and purchasing semiconductors and electronic components. It is free to anyone with a ‘My Mouser account’, and was created to provide a better experience and help speed up part research and purchasing.

Key Features include:

  • New look featuring an easy-to-understand interface with clear steps for processing ease
  • Time-saving, one-step BOM spreadsheet importer that maintains your original format
  • Access millions of orderable part numbers on online
  • Easily add and delete parts, plus see multiple quantities and prices without exporting
  • Analyzes partial part numbers and descriptions to intelligently suggest parts
  • Part match confidence and design risk indicators help you match and choose the best parts for design
  • Recommends alternative products to reduce design and product lifecycle risks

 

HW: How do you keep the quality of your components high and fake ones out of the delivery system?

GM: That is a very simple question to answer. We NEVER buy from anywhere else apart from our franchise manufacturing partners, who have all the component quality approvals in place.

 

HW: Can electronic designers utilize your website to study up on new technologies and trends, like SiC, GaN, IEGT, and Wide Bandgap? How about tutorials and white papers?

GM: Yes, you can search under products for all those categories and for more detailed information, go to the ‘Applications and Technologies’ part of our website and click on ‘Wide Bandgap’ where you’ll find articles white papers, and other resources from leading manufacturers.

 

HW: How do you stay on top of environmental issues?

GM: At Mouser, our environmental policy encompasses lead-free and RoHS, WEEE, packaging waste, and proper disposal of batteries and chemicals. We also work closely with our manufacturers and customers to support their recycling and disposal efforts and encourage all of our customers to recycle old catalogs.

Mouser Electronics is committed to diligently addressing all environmental issues that face the electronics industry and our customers - both domestically and globally. Our environmental project encompasses not only Lead-Free and RoHS, but also WEEE, Packaging Waste, Batteries and Chemicals and any other directives or legislation that appears in the future.

As a distributor of electronic components, equipment, and supplies, Mouser intends to properly identify all environmental aspects of the products we carry. We are committed to including accurate and traceable identification to part numbers via certified documentation from our producers (a.k.a. manufacturers). In addition, we will prevent the mixing of products with different environmental aspects through strict inventory control and conservative return policies.

Additionally, we want you to know that Mouser and its manufacturers are working together to assure our customers that all products are in compliance with existing directives and legislation.

 

HW: One of your European competitors complains about very thin margins because he sees his company in an unpleasant sandwich position between vendor and end customer. What is your take on this?

GM: That’s an interesting view, and I would love to know which distributor said that (although I have my suspicions). Mouser’s position is that if you provide a valuable service you will be able to charge for it. Let me continue: you say ‘one of our competitors’, but Mouser has very few direct competitors because we only operate in the design fulfillment space.

We do not (by and large) supply high volumes of parts for production orders - I know that for companies that focus in this area are continually under price pressure. We focus on supplying the latest parts to design engineers in small quantities very quickly so they can begin a new project using the latest technology. Our customers and manufacturing partners understand our niche and our business is growing at an extremely fast rate, so we must be doing something right!

 

HW: The World Economic Forum is expecting these technologies in the near future: 2-D electronics, organic electronics, memristors, spintronics, molecular electronics. If this is going to happen, are you prepared for these challenges?

GM: Mouser spends a lot of time researching new companies that are offering real solutions. As soon as a company has an innovative part it can sell, we are interested in stocking it. But more than just stocking it, we will promote, support and bring it to the market supported by technical and application information.

Visitors and customers coming to our site can access a huge wealth of information, application and technology news ... just sign up to receive Mouser’s Newsletters, including our NPI and Electronics Industry Update magazines.

 

About the Interviewee

Maggs, an industry veteran with over 28 years of experience in European and global roles, joined the Mouser team in April 2010 and has been instrumental in building Mouser’s EMEA marketing team that spans supplier marketing, web marketing, advertising, public relations, media, and events.

Maggs has directed, built and elevated the Mouser brand across EMEA into a key industry position, overseeing significant growth since 2010. The global distributor has excelled under his leadership, with highly successful EMEA exhibitions at Embedded World and Electronica in Germany, and more recently the Maker Faire events in Italy and Germany. Maggs is a key industry face of Mouser in EMEA and is invited to speak at many industry events on Mouser’s behalf.

Source: Bodo's Power Systems, November 2018