With the recent release of the AS6081 certification playing a significant role in the high reliability electronic components supply chain and Converge being among the first independent distributors to be certified, we thought it would be fitting to introduce our readers to one of our leaders in this market, Francois Schultz. In this interview, Francois discusses his insights and expertise on components in the high reliability industry today.
Q: Hi, Francois. Please tell us a little about yourself. When and how did you start working in the electronic distribution business?
A: I have been in the electronic components distribution business for about 17 years now (since 1998), and started with Converge in 2004. I was attracted to this industry, and more specifically this job, because of the dynamics and challenges that are constantly facing customers.
Q: What is your current role at Converge—specifically within the High Reliability sector?
A: I am the Regional Manager for Southern Europe, which includes France, Greece, Italy, North Africa, and Spain. At present, I am responsible for Converge High Reliability business in EMEA. High reliability components are in strong demand in this region, and especially in France, where the French business structure consists of a large number of military and avionic companies.
In addition to handling all the business opportunities in Southern Europe, my responsibilities include managing a high reliability team made up of specialists from purchasing, sales, operations, commodity management, and quality. The two main focuses of this group are the technical expertise we can provide to customers for cross-references/equivalents and the matching of excess and demand. We also understand the complex and ever-changing marketplace, which enables us to provide strategic supply chain solutions to our customers.
Q: What does Hi-Reliability mean to you?
A: High Reliability signifies very critical components demanding utmost quality; the main reason why this market has experienced a fair amount of obsolescence in addition to other procurement issues that customers may be faced with daily. These challenges are very appealing to me because they create opportunities. And when an opportunity results in being able to provide services and manage a situation as demanding as this, I feel satisfied; I feel like my experience has made a difference and helped in a significant way. It’s not what I would consider sales, but rather a type of consultative partnership. By working together with the customer and others in the supply chain, we can deliver a concise solution to an otherwise complex solution.
Q: Why is Converge strong in the High Reliability market?
A: Converge has the global footprint, market knowledge, and people with the right skills. A big advantage is that Converge is an Arrow company, which ensures a strong financial structure and allows us to make required investments in maintaining first-class quality inspection and testing equipment. Converge also has a very strong network of returning customers. These existing partnerships assist in creating an effective two-way supply chain; often, the excess components from one customer are exactly what another customer needs at that moment.
Q: What do you think are the main obsolescence challenges that our customers experience?
A: Obsolescence is a challenge in and of itself—the manufacturers are shortening the life cycles of components nowadays, forcing even more last-time buys and end-of-life notices, etc. When the parts are no longer being manufactured, there can be increased production delays, resulting in substantial losses in revenue. This is where Converge can help as a valuable partner, because our main goal is to find solutions, whether we offer alternative or equivalent parts, provide technical information and market information, or help with redesign options.
Q: In the past, the industry used the terminology “shortages.” What has changed?
A: A shortage occurs when a part is needed and the manufacturer cannot supply it within the required time frame. Shortages usually refer to active stock, which is typically easier to find. Obsolescence is a kind of shortage, but of non-active stock where components are no longer being manufactured. When obsolescence occurs, the customer usually does not have too many options other than to source the open market. Redesign is always an option for manufacturers, but it’s not a timely solution and can sometimes be very costly.
Q: How do you see the market for High Reliability customers changing?
A: It’s difficult to forecast end-customers and manufacturers’ strategies. There is a lot of consolidation in the market these days, making it essentially unpredictable. Parts generally have a short life cycle and become obsolete quicker than before, which presents a lot of challenges. Manufacturers are focusing on building more generic or standardized parts that can meet the needs of many different markets. One example is a manufacturer that has started building only automotive temperature grades on some popular references.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share? Tell us about your family, favorite hobbies, etc.
A: I am married, and we have three children. We love to travel as a family and spend a lot of time in California (in the USA). I enjoy skiing in the winter, as well as other sports. I also travel quite a bit visiting customers, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures, which is one of the greatest parts of my job. I speak four languages and I am interested in learning a few more!
To learn more about Converge's high reliability services or Francois, drop us a line.