Interviewees: Andreas Mangler, Director Strategic Marketing, Stephan Menze, Head of Global Innovation Management, and Roxana Nita, Regional Sales Manager Romania, all Rutronik Elektronische Bauelemente GmbH

“Requirements of the future markets and what solutions Rutronik offers”.

E.E: What lessons does Distribution learn as it closes 2021 and enters the coming year?

Andreas Mangler: “From our point of view, there are two main things to observe. On the one hand, we see that the effects of the Corona pandemic are still being felt, but that we are in a recovery phase. Secondly, the transformation of markets, for example in the area of mobility, is in full swing. Both have a massive impact on our actions as a distributor. 

One example is the procurement situation for electronic components, system components and Li-Ion batteries. Both the economic recovery and the transformation mean that demand is enormous and extremely exceeds current supply. In addition, we are faced with a shortage of raw materials and limited production capacities. Increased raw material prices and higher prices of products from upstream suppliers – keyword foundries – also inevitably lead to price increases. 

For us at Rutronik, this means that the flow of information to our customers and the provision of advice will become an even more fundamental part of our work. One of our tasks, for example, is to analyze supply chains in order to know the exact production capacities of manufacturers. This enables us to inform our customers transparently about challenges and dependencies. The aim is to provide our clients with recommendations and a sound basis for decision-making. This may also include offering alternatives that make sense from an economic and technological point of view. In addition, from our point of view, one of the lessons learned from 2021 is how important long-term planning with appropriate advance planning is.” 

Roxana Nita: “In 2020/21 there were so many lessons to learn. One thing is the appreciating, flexible and safe handling of employees. Many people have become accustomed to working remotely and that is one important aspect, which companies have to keep in mind for their future strategy. As we observe in Romania people change their jobs just because some companies do not allow them to work from home, even if it is not necessary to be physically in an office. In times of an increasing shortage of talented employees, the traditional working experience is no longer sustainable.” 

E.E: Is there a focus on specific markets? Where do you see the biggest developments and challenges?

Andreas Mangler: “At Rutronik we are currently focusing on two main segments: Automotive and Industrial. We divide these into eleven Future Markets. These include Future Mobility, IIoT & Internet of Everything, Advanced Robotics, Industry 4.0 and Automation, to name just a few examples.

We see enormous potential here, but also challenges. One example is the “Advanced Materials” future market that we have defined. Innovative and sustainable applications will only be possible if new materials and technologies are used. In other words, we see a conditional dependency here. This includes, for example, the use of polymers in passive areas, the new cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries or silicon carbide and gallium nitride in power semiconductors. These new materials and technologies influence development and are drivers for new markets.” 

Roxana Nita: Not only in Romania we can see an increase that certain products have been developed to meet the current needs of the market: Particularly the medical, industrial, automotive, IT and other sectors developed quite fast. Production processes are increasingly moving towards automation and the need for human interaction in the production process decreases. The switch to automation is one reason, why artificial intelligence is gaining ground in several areas such as production, retail, agriculture, transportation and warehousing, finance and insurance, accommodations and food service. New technologies are being developed to offer solutions to keep up supply chains, even if employees are off duty again. 

E.E: What measures has Rutronik already taken to meet the demands of future markets?

Andreas Mangler: “One of our measures is that we have established an innovation management team headed by Stephan Menze. In this context, we have set up our own R&D center which, among other things, develops proof-of-concepts and can thus support customers in the development or realization of new innovative products.” 

E.E: Why does a distributor like Rutronik need innovation management?

Stephan Menze: “Our claim at Rutronik is to always act in the best interests of our customers and to provide them with the best possible support. Ultimately, a customer is satisfied when he is always one step ahead. This is precisely the goal we pursue by keeping abreast of the latest developments and innovations in Innovation Management and offering customers solutions. However, we go one step further. We drive our own developments and are innovators ourselves in order to provide customers with ideas for the realization of their projects. To do this, we use both internal and external resources and work closely with universities.

Our position as a distributor is perfectly suited for this. We know the strengths of the different manufacturers and know how to combine them. In addition, in our function we can recognize trends and innovations of the manufacturers and the market at an early stage. From this, we derive solutions for our customers. This way, they are always on the cutting edge.”

E.E: What does it mean to bring a product to patent maturity and why are these sensible investments?

Stephan Menze: “Bringing a product to patent maturity involves many steps and is a challenge. The first step is an idea that needs to be realized. In order to be able to declare a technology as novel, it must first be described. Then, technical documents and specifications are created. This is necessary in order to be able to file a patent application. After intensive examinations by our patent attorney and the patent office, the technology is protected under patent law and can be offered exclusively.

These investments are sensible and important in order to be able to offer our customers unique solutions for their applications and specific challenges. In addition, we intensify the exchange with our manufacturers as well as customers, thus creating a win-win-win situation. The advantage for customers is that this keeps them one step ahead.

It is important that we do not intervene in the business model of our customers, but we develop proof-of-concepts in order to offer overarching solutions for complex challenges. This enables us to noticeably accelerate the realization of products.”

E.E: Please briefly outline the HESS project…

Stephan Menze: “Rutronik has patented HESS, a hybrid energy storage system, in cooperation with the University of Zwickau. This enables Rutronik to provide customers with in-depth know-how and to support them in the best possible way in developing appropriate applications. On the one hand, this considerably shortens the customer’s time-to-market, and on the other hand, the patented system gives the customer a considerable competitive advantage. HESS combines the advantages of Li-ion batteries and super capacitors in one system. To do this, it uses an optimized, predictive control algorithm that uses either the battery or the lithium-ion battery depending on the load current requirement. The intelligent, situation-dependent control significantly increases battery life and range in e-mobility applications.”

E.E: Distribution in 2022 will be …

Andreas Mangler: “…will continue to gain in importance and take on an even more important role. This has been shown not least by the developments and experiences last year and this year. This applies to procurement, warehousing as well as advice on electronic components and rechargeable energy storage.”

Roxana Nita: “…the real arrival in a future, we have been sent to by Covid much faster than we would have expected. Where business is done in the same but different way as usual. Where the extensive investments in state-of-the-art IT solutions and specialists really push digitalization forward.” 

Roxana.Nita@rutronik.com

www.rutronik.com