We caught up with General Manager Paul Mullen to reflect on 2017 and his vision for the coming year.
In 2017 you celebrated Anders 65th birthday. What do you think is the secret to its longevity?.
It is an exceptional milestone, and means that as a company, we’ve seen the birth of most of the display technologies in common use today, and outlived several too! I think the key to the success of Anders is being flexible and adaptable and putting our customers’ needs top of the list.
As displays and the embedded processors that drive them have evolved, we’ve made it our mission to adopt and drive all technologies. We’ve enabled our customers to implement within their designs, first mono then increasingly advanced colour graphic modules and integrated touch. We have helped them overcome the significant issues with EMC and address challenges associated with viewing angles, rugged environments and so on.
We’ve adapted and led the technology whilst sticking to our core values of being innovative, customer focussed and offering solutions rather than relying on standard products from our stock portfolio. We started all those years ago offering custom meters, face plates and dials; today we are still offering our customers, solutions, be it display or embedded, they need to successfully differentiate their end products.
How was 2017 for Anders?
A lot of our business today transacts outside the UK, not because we are a huge multinational company but because of our domain expertise in HMI, display and embedded design. Customers seek out our product experts. In 2017, we invested heavily in engineering to improve our ability to deliver the optimised module for a specific application, that best fit within the end product.
We want to ensure that our customers certification requirements will be achieved successfully first time, when launching new products.
What challenges do you see for 2018?
Continuing to stay relevant and in tune with the ever-developing technology landscape; from a purely revenue perspective, 2018 will be more challenging for us as a company due to the design cycle lengthening. Five years ago, it would’ve been 18 months from conception to full production. Today, in some cases we see cycles of more than 24 months. This is because the end products are more sophisticated and the design engineers have more certification criteria and other challenges to address to get their product to market. There’s also more pressure on product upgrades, with the cost of failure as high as it’s ever been and with this comes a level of caution that adds to an already extended design cycle. Displays are also much more sophisticated than 5 years ago. For example, we now provide AMOLED and high end TFT PCAPs, as well as the extensive mono LCD products
Have you seen a change in how you work with your manufacturing partners?
The biggest change has been moving from the traditional supplier/re-seller model to a manufacturing partner model, a program we have worked on for a number of years. For a while now, we have had the internal capability to design the entire module and choose the optimal manufacturing partner from a small cohort to deliver the best product for the customer’s design. I believe this sets Anders apart from our competitors who in general source displays from Asian manufacturers providing very limited design input, and generally resell them as standard items.We work with our manufacturing partners to build our design and engage at a deep level from directly interacting with Touch IC manufacturers for tuning the IC for touch, right up to how the display will embed in the finished product.
What about working with customers?
Our relationship has evolved from a supplier to design and logistics partner. We are now brought into discussions right at the start of new product development and not only with the display, but with the overall product design in many cases. We have continued to work closely with our manufacturing partners to be able to take on board the newest technologies (often driven by the high-volume consumer market) and offer our customers, predominantly in the Industrial, Medical and Automotive space the latest innovations for their products.
What are your predictions for the market in 2018?
From a new project, new design perspective, I’m positive, there’s a lot of buzz around IoT but its broader, it’s really a combination of different interactive technologies which optimise the use of data to enable performance enhancement.
People want to see and interact with data instantly whether that’s on a small handheld display or on a large piece of industrial machinery. We have seen, and continue to see, a real need to be able to interpret data quickly to enable an instant reaction.
This is particularly apparent in automotive, medical and industrial areas where data driven decisions are key. Artificial Intelligence is another developing area, but that all depends again on feeding data for the AI to learn relevant responses.
What are the Anders goals for 2018?
We have one primary focus and that is to continue to improve our performance across all service levels and cement our mission as an integral design partner. We see ourselves as an extension of our customers’ teams and are adding significant value for them by being involved in the overall product design, right from the beginning of the concept stage.
We will continue to improve our knowledge and focus on areas such as EMC and mechanical design to ensure we deliver the ideal display for the finished product. We really are focused on the all-round, value proposition rather than just selling a product.
Finally, do you have any personal New Year’s resolutions?
I’m a qualified PFA coach level 1 and Anders sponsors our own under 12 football team. We’ve not had a bad season to date, but in 2018, I’d like to see more goals! We want to win more games this season and finish top.