Intellectual visionary

Intellectual visionaryTektronix wants intellectual expertise worldwide. So what action is it taking? asks Melanie Reynolds
The Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan was an appropriate place for US test specialist Tektronix to be talking about its future, according to Rick Wills, president of European operations.  
  Wills… “Turnover is secondary to future possibilities. It’s the visionary part we see as important.”
As Wills stood in the ballroom of a transatlantic cruise liner, rebuilt inside the museum named after the Italian artist and scientist, he made his reasoning clear. “I think of him [Leonardo da Vinci] as someone with a vision,” said Wills. And that is what he believes Tektronix has. “Our vision of the future is to have intellectual expertise all over the world,” Wills continued.
The most recent step in Tektronix’s plan was the acquisition of Necsy Network Control Systems, a subsidiary of Italian company Italtel. The new division, with 120 primarily R&D employees, gives Tektronix the immediate expertise that it wants in the network monitoring and mobile test market.
Financial details of Necsy and the deal with Tektronix were not disclosed. “Turnover is secondary to future possibilities,” explained Wills. “It’s the visionary part we see as important.”
The company is looking to network monitoring and mobile test as a niche market that it wants to move into quickly. Building up the operation piece by piece and getting the right people would take too much time, so buying a ready made operation was the answer. “There is a huge demand for professionals in the field that are not available,” said Hannes Schaedel, communications test equipment manager. “We found a team here that is very much used to the market and could provide expertise that we could not build up quickly enough.”
Tektronix came into being in 1946, when the company’s founders started with the oscilloscope.
Since then Tektronix has managed to expand its position quite substantially, achieving worldwide sales of $2.1bn in 1998.
It now claims to be the number one worldwide leader in oscilloscopes with a market share at least twice that of its competitors.
Tektronix’s product line has expanded somewhat since then numbering over 3,000 and falling into three broad categories: measurement, colour printing, and video and networking. Measurement provides the majority of the business making up 46 per cent of the total worldwide sales. Colour printing provides 35 per cent and video and networking systems the remaining 19 per cent of sales.
A strong commitment to keeping abreast of technological changes is something that the company is proud of, spending ten per cent of its revenue on research and development. “Technology is changing so fast we have to have a continuous flow of products,” said Wills. This attitude is backed up by Kimmo Karhunen, vice-president of the European measurement business division. “We have to be able to provide products that will help deliver the products for the future,” he added.
The company is obviously successful at coming up with new and innovative ideas having gained more than 2,500 patents and continuing to receive nearly 70 new patents per year. The newer products are also the most popular with those less than two years old making up nearly three quarters of the total revenue.
The lion’s share of these sales are made in the United States (52 per cent) but Europe, which currently provides 26 per cent of sales, is the fastest growing market with an expansion rate of around 30 per cent.
Europe is a market that Tektronix says it is very committed to as a company. “It’s important to us as we’ve made a lot of investment,” said Wills.
And the company is keen to have a presence near its customers, particularly targeting the telecoms industry in Europe where it believes the real action is. Wills pointed to the number of worldwide telecom standards that originate in the area as evidence of this.
The acquisition of Necsy adds to Tektronix’s telecoms devoted resources. In 1997 it acquired a communications test equipment group in Berlin from Siemens with the view of extending its telecom test offering.
So Tektronix is adding weight to its words with actions. It remains to be seen what will be its next move in its vision to have ‘intellectual expertise all over the world.’

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