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Brad Albing

Demanding More From Analog Takes Work

Brad Albing
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DaeJ
DaeJ
5/25/2013 2:56:31 PM
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Master
Re: Doesn't ROI factor into it?
Application/design engineer from IC vendor might have a contract with customer for a specific project in condition of NDA agreement.  In the business perspective, any agreement is possible, regardless of customer volume size. IC vendor might look at not only the volume, but also potential profit margin in the future.

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Brad Albing
Brad Albing
4/30/2013 3:21:32 PM
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Re: Small is Profitable
Sometimes it does pay to pursue the small clients. You just don't know if it will pay off....

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JAYARAMAN KIRUTHI VASAN
JAYARAMAN KIRUTHI VASAN
4/23/2013 5:01:58 AM
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Master
Re: Small is Profitable
Brad,

I remember introducing a small firm owner to several Field App Engrs (FAE) I know. This small firm owner - we could call him as Design Engr (DE) - was talking about an exciting product used for some solar applications and his volume at that point was very very low. All except one FAE gave up on him. This FAE persistently supported him though his chip was costlier than the others in small quantities.

After the design was complete, its performance was found to be excellent by the prospective clients. Overnight the DE bagged an order for 2500 units. As on date this DE is a very successful business man and has refused to change to any other chip other than the one he is using, just to support the FAE.

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Jason Bowden
Jason Bowden
2/28/2013 10:56:45 PM
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Newbie
Re: Doesn't ROI factor into it?
I always say, never assume in the beginning the potential of a customer.  I see many people all the time jumping over buckets of quarters just to grab a dollar that is being share with 50 other people.

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Brad Albing
Brad Albing
2/27/2013 10:00:02 AM
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Re: Small is Profitable
This is the point of which I tried to convince other folks years ago. You often don't know how some good business leads may develop.

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jkvasan
jkvasan
2/27/2013 6:40:57 AM
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Newbie
Small is Profitable
In my opinion, "large volume customers give more ROI" is not true in all cases. This big guy could change loyalties just like that.

Small volume customers are the ones who talk good about your product and give you references. They work on your component more intensively than the big guy. They talk to their peers on how well this component suited their applications and why it should be used for the peers' projects. THEY do the marketing for you.

Also, as RedDerek aptly put, the variety of field data you get from such varied applications enable you to make your product robust.

Small Volumes X Many such Customers > Large Volumes X Less number of customers.

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RedDerek
RedDerek
2/20/2013 11:06:54 AM
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Master
Re: Doesn't ROI factor into it?
When I was an app engineer, I found the small companies had the most interesting problems to solve. I may have poor ROI for their volume, but it allowed me to find that extra creative bug to expand and help others even more. It allows an app engineer to write that extra app note that others may read and use the product in more creative ways. Thus increasing volume even more.

For the small customer that keeps having a problem, I would support them just as equally. As an engineer, we should live for problems. For without them we would not have a job / purpose. I had one customer that would call about once every 2 to 3 weeks with a failed part. I would ask for it to be returned and we would analyze it to find the classic EOS failure (Electric Over Stress). Which meant nothing to me. But I pushed more for the application and soon figured out a postential problem. I went to our product engineer and asked for some additional screening beyond the specification sheet test parameters. What soon came about is that there was not enough margin between the part and the data sheet. The part went back to design and they soon found a mistake in the mask set. This was quickly resolved. New parts sent out. And the customer never came back with problems.

So, even the small customer can help identify a potential problem that can help all others. I believe the ROI I initially did was very poor. But it ended up being very key to the product line life.

Recently I had a problem with a large manufacturer's part. It seemed to be an oddity of performance that I still believe is a flaw. However, after numerous attempts and even posting on their support board, I never got a response. On several calls and posts, I offered to send a board that exhibited the problem consistently, even newer parts obtained showed the problem. Because the problem never got resolved, I ended up using a different manufacturer's part. From now on, if I need a similar part I will know where not to go to first. This will have a future effect on my part selection, even when I do future designs where large volume potentials exist. A shame that app engineers today do not see the value of even these small quirks.

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Bill_Jaffa
Bill_Jaffa
2/18/2013 9:16:57 AM
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Blogger
Re: Doesn't ROI factor into it?
Pretty much all of the top- and mid-tier analog vendors offer lots of notes and back-up collateral such as reference designs--just make sure they have actually been built and tested! I'd say you should assume, at first, that's all you'll get for support--unless you are a major customer. Start with those--because if you do have a problem, as least you have a frame of refrecen to begin the "I need help" discussion. But if you are doing a unique design, circuit, or layout, it will be tough to get help, even of the vendor wants to provide it.

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Kerry Lacanette
Kerry Lacanette
2/16/2013 11:05:33 AM
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Blogger
Re: Doesn't ROI factor into it?
My suggestion: If your IC vendor won't provide applications support for their products, find a vendor who will. That applies regardless of your annual volumes. Don't expect the vendor to design your whole system for you. But if a chip isn't working the way you expect it to, or if you need some advice on how to get the best performance from a component, or if you need a quick schematic review, talk to your FAE or the factory applications group. If they don't know the answers, they should be able to get you to someone from the product group who does.

 

In the semiconductor companies I've worked for, the direction to the applications teams has always been to help our customers succeed when using our products.  The individual applications engineers' reviews are affected by the help they provide, and by customer feedback, regardless of the size of the customer.

 

Smart companies know that applications support for small customers isn't altruistic behavior. It's good business. Small customers often become big customers. Even when they don't, engineers at small companies often move to bigger companies. When they trust a vendor to provide good applications support when needed, they take that trust with them when they change employers.

 

So expect applications support, and tell your vendors how they're doing.

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Brad Albing
Brad Albing
2/14/2013 10:56:00 PM
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Blogger
Re: Doesn't ROI factor into it?
At volumes of < 500k-units/year of a wireles chipset device, unless it was substantially less than 500k/year (like 495k less), that's terrible customer service.

Sometimes, for the very low volumes of the inexpensive devices, an arrangement can be set up for the distributor to provide some level of technical support.

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Page 1 / 2   >   >>
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