Distribution World – Team players

Distribution World – Team playersA distributor can be more like a football team than first thought, which is why DT Electronics is aiming for the champions league. Mick Elliott
Supporting Coventry City offers a rollercoaster of emotions. So Tony Frere knew what he was getting into when he co-founded component distributor DT Electronics. But so far the company has mostly taken the exhilarating ascents and avoided the sickening descents.
One reason is that when Frere, David Zelkha and Geoffrey Rose formed the distributor 11 years ago they devised a strategy from which they have not deviated. That is to be a focused, design-led distributor, which may not sound much different from a few others in the business except that DTE’s speciality is its market rather than products.
“We started in broadcast and we have expanded our vision into communications including telecoms and data communications,” Frere says.
The direction stems from the founders’ background at Vanderhoff Communications. Frere was also a director of BALComponents, which made specialist communications components.
Frere and Rose’s conclusion was if they knew how to make delay lines, they could make a living designing them in to customers’ equipment. Every line DTElectronics adds to its portfolio must have communications applications. Dallas Semiconductor is a key franchise backed by power supply maker Coutant Lambda. The communications and broadcast filters and delay lines come from Faraday, Elec &Eltek and Rhombus.
Late last year the semiconductor product lines received more muscle in the shape of analogue chip maker Elantec. A real time video filter from Logic Devices followed with an exclusive UK agreement.
And in a scoring rate that would impress Gordon Strachan, DTE has become UK representative for Giga Electronics, a Denmark maker of chipsets for speedy point to point communications.
First new product to hit the UKmarket will be Giga’s 1.485Gbit/s HDTV video transmission chipset, which incorporates cable equaliser, serialiser with onchip cable driver, deserialiser and retimer.
“The company also has a chipset capable of handling telecoms transmissions up to 10Gbit/s,” Frere says. “They give us a stronger hand in our market place.”
He concedes there is a gap in the portfolio and that’s microcontrollers. “It’s a position we need to address and we are in talks with a number of potential lines,” he says.
The line card has grown in step with DTE’s ambitions, which have been translated into a five year growth plan. Sales in 1998 were ?8.5m and Frere is pitching for ?10.5m in the year to March 2000.
He expects similar leaps in profit through the five years. And he feels he has a management team to deliver. It was a position the founders addressed three years ago.
“We needed people with multi-source distribution experience,” he says.
The recruitment campaign attracted Gerry Hewitt and Karl Britton from Future Electronics and Matthew Hum phreys from what was then Polar Electronics. Hewitt is marketing manager, Britton technical manager and Humphreys sales manager.
New business is essential for the plan to succeed and Rose has become business development director. Frere identifies this as a pivotal role in the company’s growth.
“With the lines we are attracting, our aim is to penetrate large OEM and blue chip accounts in broadcast and communications,”he says.
As well as their managerial roles, all managers act as product champions for specific franchises. And the technical team is being bolstered by two more field applications engineers to cover the north west and southern England.
“Because we operate in specific market places we look for our FAEs to have a general knowledge rather than product specific,” says Frere. “They must have communications nous first.”
Frere has also appointed a quality assurance manager whose task will be to devise a company wide training scheme for FAEs and the internal and external sales teams.

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