May 31, 2012

Dynamic Memory Serves Commodity Manager Well

Want to gain a better understanding of the memory market? Then Paul Zecher is your man.

Zecher is the memory commodity manager for Converge – a position he has held since flash memory components erupted into the consumer electronics industry in the nineties. “Around 1995, I started to follow the cellular market,” Zecher recalls. “Remember that basic gray cell phone we all used to have? They were just starting to mass produce those at a price that was affordable, and I noticed there was a specific type of memory called NOR flash that went inside them. No one else was paying particular attention to flash, so I decided to focus on this new component and become an expert on it.” Flash memory quickly became an essential part of the technology landscape.

As Zecher explains, tracking NOR trends soon led him to closely follow other types of memory, like NAND flash and DRAM (dynamic random access memory). So when Converge decided to create a memory commodity manager position, it only made sense for Zecher to lead the way. Many years later, his obsessive knowledge continues to make him an invaluable resource to Converge buyers and sellers, as well as their customers.

“The memory market is difficult to follow,” says Zecher. “At least one type of memory goes into almost everything – PCs, notebooks, tablets, phones, digital cameras, printers, TVs, DVRs – you name it. That makes it the most volatile of all the commodity markets. With memory, the market could go up and down five times in a week.”

So when the market changes dramatically, and OEM or CM customers suddenly find themselves with a shortage or surplus of memory, they know that their best chance of getting the problem resolved quickly is by working with an independent distributor with market intelligence and commodity experts at the helm. “You can’t predict the DRAM market, just like nobody can predict the stock market six months from now,” says Zecher. “So my job is really just to stay on top of developments in the market and help buyers and sellers get what they need when they need it.”

It helps that Zecher has a dynamic memory of his own. Not only does he remember and recognize most memory part numbers instantly, but he also leads a team that strives to know every product and company using those parts around the world. “If a customer needs something that’s gone on allocation, we know who might have extra. When another customer needs to unload some excess, we know who might be interested in buying. That’s the kind of information manufacturers just don’t have access to, because it’s not what they do.”

While Zecher says it’s impossible to predict the future of the memory market, he can easily reflect on how much it has changed in the past 15 years. “DRAM modules are the sticks that go inside computers and notebooks, and DRAM chips can be used in just about anything. That used to be our primary type of memory, hands down. But in the last few years, we have started selling an equal amount of NAND flash, which is what goes inside most of your wireless devices. So the market has completely changed, and the one thing I can predict is that it will continue to change.”

At the end of the day, who do you want helping your company navigate changes in the memory market? The broker that has to look up DRAM part numbers or the independent distributor that has a veteran commodity manager with global insights and a dynamic memory?

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