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Going physical By Nick Flaherty Does a distributor that pioneered sales over the Web need a physical presence? In the last year, Digi-Key has expanded in Europe, adding a new office in Munich and moving into China with an office in Shanghai. “A year has made a lot of difference and it’s the beginning of a process,” said Mark Larson, founder and chief executive of Digi-Key. “We started in Israel 14 months ago because we wanted to make sure we were comfortable with how we could resource it ourselves and be self- contained. Moving into Europe was the next logical move because there’s a lot of individual activity that aligns with our production model.” “In the last four to five years in the US we have rolled out our higher mix, lower volume business and this is the entry for the UK and Europe and we now have 25 people in Germany,” he said. “The fact is there are a lot of good people that are available from franchised distributors but the people that we took on were still employed. We gained a lot of really sharp sales guys that were enlightened – that the mode of the traditional distributor doesn’t have a lot of potential for growth.” The physical offices are there to support the centralised web business which stocks nearly 1m products in a central warehouse executive interview Mark Larson, founder and chief executive of Digi-Key. in Minnesota with worldwide delivery. Digi-Key now has over 500,000 customers making $3.4m orders a year with an average of four items per order from 13 million line items. “Most of our customers still choose to use the Web but to have a couple of guys handling sales in the UK really helps,” he said. “At this point we are not stocking in Europe. It’s just a matter of a few months that we have had a physical presence in Europe but it gives our customers additional comfort. You have a real live person, but just as important is the way it’s viewed by suppliers who are rapidly becoming supportive.” “We are now opening in Shanghai and that’s a big deal for us because we can finally deal in the local currency” he said. “We have done great business in China but it’s all in US and Hong Kong dollars.” The breadth of customers has been vital to supporting the industry through the downturn and is a key element of the Digi-Key business model, says Larson. He points to the different investment models for distributors – because the company is privately held it can stock a broader range. This helps when products go into allocation and customers are looking everywhere for their parts. “A strong inventory is integral to the Digi- Key model and it is differentiated by being aggregated across the worldwide demand,” he said. “With the Digi-Key model, our 500,000 customers give us more latitude to stock more parts. It’s a circular business – as Digi-Key has the broadest engineering base we can justify the widest product line” “The growth in 2010 was because of allocation,” he said, “and mid-sized companies were the biggest losers. I think that we have been able to hold onto that business by giving them access to a broader inventory.” The same thing is starting to happen again, he says. “There is some spot allocation at the moment and I feel we are seeing a strengthening in the market,” he said. “The year is strengthening as we go on,” he said. “The first half of 2013 saw a 6% growth compared to 1% for the larger distributors and if we take out the Raspberry Pi they are actually down.” One of the things that have made a difference this year has been the rise of the Raspberry Pi. Larson says he has no plans to stock the product, but has other boards. “We are seeing a lot of activity on the TI beagle boards and there a lot of boards out there,” he said The breadth of products and customers also gives Digi-Key a tremendous database of transactions that can be mined for information and trends from its 3.4m orders a year. However the data isn’t quite making sense. “With what we are doing right now the associations are so strange it’s just not relevant,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s any disbenefits if you are using all the data anonymously.” IMEC uses CCD-in-CMOS for image sensor By Peter Clarke belgian nanoelectronics research centre IMEC has developed an embedded CCD-in- CMOS time-delay integration (TDI) image sensor linear array for space applications. A TDI imager synchronizes linear motion of the scene with multiple samplings of the same object to obtain an increased signal-to-noise ratio. The image sensor is based on IMEC’s proprietary embedded charge-coupled device (CCD) technology and it was developed by IMEC for the French Space Agency, CNES, which plans to utilize the technology for spacebased earth observation. The sensor combines a light sensitive CCD-based TDI pixel array with CMOS readout electronics. The CCD pixel structure delivers low-noise TDI performance in the charge domain, while CMOS technology enables low-power, on-chip integration of fast and complex circuitry readouts. The CMOS technology enables on-chip readout electronics, such as clock drivers and analogue-to-digital convertors (ADCs), operating at higher speeds and lower power consumption not possible with traditional CCD technology. The prototypes were fabricated using a 130nm CMOS manufacturing process with an additional CCD process module at IMEC’s 200-mm wafer fab. A charge transfer efficiency of 99.9987 percent has been measured ensuring almost lossless transport of charges in the TDI array, and guaranteeing high image quality. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe December 2013 19


EETE DEC 2013
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