As engineers demand more from their suppliers, specialty distributor Symmetry Electronics has stepped up with a sharper focus on providing resources and keen attention to market forecasting to meet changing inventory requirements. California-based Symmetry serves a wide range of customers, with a focus on providing wireless, video, and embedded technologies. Global Purchasing recently asked company President Scott Wing to talk about the distributor’s approach to serving engineers’ changing business needs as well as overall market conditions. Wing says he is optimistic that a stable 2016 will be followed by better growth in 2017, especially as demand for connectivity increases across all end markets. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
Global Purchasing: Symmetry Electronics has a focused, specialized approach to distribution. Please describe this approach and tell us how it differentiates you in the marketplace.
Scott Wing: Symmetry Electronics has a focused line card, which allows us to be experts in the technologies our customers want. Our sales engineers are the best in the industry and are trained to be an important partner in the design cycle. This unique, focused approach is unmatched, and we remain the only electronic distribution company with this model. We are able to develop deep relationships with each customer and add significant value to every wireless and video design customer. We constantly see many examples where technology companies have incredible ideas for the coolest gadgets and need to know about any new technology that is available today. Our line card offers the latest technology, and we are researching new suppliers every day. That brings tremendous value to the customer who has a great idea and wants help through the design cycle. Symmetry ships parts to customers that have the most advanced products in the world, and that has tremendous impact on our future.
GP: How has Symmetry’s customer base changed over the years and what is your primary customer focus today?
Wing: In the past, the engineering teams at many customers had engineers with specific expertise to design a particular block of the project. There were also component engineers, quality engineers and sustaining engineers on staff to complete projects from the design phase to product launch. This is rarely the case today. An individual engineer today will be relied upon to research technologies, design the blocks, and do the testing and sustaining under intense time limits. The resources at most customers today are less robust, and they look to us for support in many areas. Our approach of focusing on wireless, video, and embedded technologies with a strong emphasis on service adds tremendous value to these customers. Our customer base has remained solid because of our hands-on approach to helping our customers throughout the design as a reliable partner. They have tremendous challenges with design resources, technology research, time to market, contract manufacturing, supply chain, and costs of all of this combined. The assistance we offer is valued by the people doing the work, and our focus is on enhancing our ability to work with them at the highest level. We also have an ecommerce division, semiconductorstore.com, which offers online options for buying our products and researching the latest technologies available today. Our site has videos, blogs, articles, development kits created by our applications engineers, and much more. We have a community of engineers that visits our site every day.
GP: What do you see as the greatest market opportunities for your company in 2016?
Wing: 2016 is proving to be a great year for us in terms of growing our market share and customer base. Our line card of technologies continues to strengthen our potential for new and exciting designs. With the future vision of applications like driverless cars and drone technology, our company is well positioned to be a driving force in assisting engineers in the design and development of any IoT invention. Significant markets for us are metering, asset tracking and fleet management. A majority of our IoT customers are developing products for tracking and monitoring millions of things. The possibilities are endless. The dynamic nature of the cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi landscape continues to be our greatest catalyst for opportunity. Our company’s strength in wireless technologies has proven to be a great value to IoT designers. Also, the market for virtual reality has escalated dramatically and we are well positioned with our high-end video portfolio and technical capabilities. We have many customers in that space that are coming out with some very cool products.
GP: What are the greatest customer-facing challenges you are experiencing today?
Wing: Our customers today are designing products in an unpredictable market environment. One problem this creates is their reluctance to hold parts on their shelves for any amount of time. As a distributor, Symmetry Electronics has consistently had the right components in stock at the moment the customer needs them. It is important that we remain agile to the needs of our customer, and this priority is another reason [we are] the chosen distributor for so many engineers. We have had to become very adept in market forecasting to address the difficulties in planning and allocating resources. More than ever, our expertise has incredible value and our efforts are proving to be in the right direction. As our customers’ resources continue to be challenged, their reliance on our resources increase. In the past, they had an engineer for each block in the diagram. Now, one engineer will have many projects to complete and designs to create with limited experience in the necessary technology. Symmetry and semiconductorstore.com take on the challenge of filling in that resource gap by becoming a design partner and a distributor of components.
GP: What is your market outlook for the electronics supply chain this year?
Wing: The supply chain is proving to be stable this year. While we always strive for increasing all of the metrics, I see 2017 as a stronger growth year. Good catalysts for the electronics supply chain are definitely available with opportunities in IoT and VR (virtual reality), which are both propelling us forward. However, China remains weak in many sectors which keeps pressure on the electronics market. Additionally, I think the presidential election has created a “wait and see” environment in markets across the board. Considering these influences, Symmetry Electronics is focused on refining our line card and services this year so we will be stronger than ever when the market shifts towards growth.
Scott Wing is president of Hawthorne, Calif.-based Symmetry Electronics.