EPS' executive editor Gina Roos spent some time catching up with Honeywell Sensing and Control's vice president, global strategic marketing and business development, Ashis Bhattacharya, discussing Honeywell's product development and distribution strategies.
Q: What are the most important product characteristics that your customers require in high-reliability markets?
Honeywell's strategic verticals are industrial, transportation (construction and heavy-duty agricultural vehicles), medical and aerospace, so we focus on design engineers that are faced with long design cycles where performance is critical. Switches and sensors are playing an increasingly important role in helping our customers to develop differentiated products, so early involvement is key.
One of the ways we help provide that differentiation is through the development of product platforms such as our TruStability board-mounted pressure sensors. With over 1 million options to choose from and an online selector tool, the TruStability platform is an example of how Honeywell can provide new, cost-effective products with shorter lead times.
Longevity and reliability are important too. Designers want to know that a supplier will be there in the future, supplying important components as long as is needed.
Q: When and why did Honeywell take a product platform approach to new product development?
Customers appreciate the convenience of getting a wide range of switches and sensors, all from a single vendor. The platform approach gives the flexibility to choose from a wide variety of pre-engineered, pre-designed variations from a large of portfolio of products. Customers can visit the Honeywell website, and by using the online selector tool, select a sensor or switch type, identify the preferred input/output (I/O), construction material, size, shape, performance and operating parameters, etc. When working on new versions of an existing design with a Honeywell component already designed-in, customers can use the online selector tool to easily find and add new and different specifications.
Q: How does a product platform approach help buyers keep costs in line, and ensure that they receive deliveries on time?
The product platform approach helps enhance the design process by helping to ensure that new and updated designs can be brought to market faster. The ability to design-in a customized version of an already pre-approved sensor often means that design engineers do not have to re-certify the new, upgraded products, saving both time and money.
As part of the platform development process, Honeywell Sensing and Control does a lot of customer needs analysis. As a result, most needs are already incorporated into the platform design. Therefore, customers don’t incur major engineering costs when developing new or upgraded designs. Bottom line, this pre-engineering approach saves time.
Q. What role does distribution play in Honeywell's sales strategy, and why is it important to your business?
There are four key reasons why distribution is important. No. 1 is that they work with a wide group of customers. No. 2 is distributors focus on new product introductions. No. 3 is customers want to get information about new products from one place. No. 4 is distributors supply logistics and long-term support.
We use direct sales, manufacturers' reps and distribution channels to go to market. We also offer a stock-check tool that goes directly into our distributors’ shopping carts. Customers find the product they’re looking for, click on a “Distributor Inventory” button, and the online tool shows which distributors have that part number in stock, and how many they have. Customers click on the distributor they choose to buy from, and a link takes them directly into the distributor’s shopping cart. We want to make it easy and let customers decide how they want to engage with us.
Q. How does distribution help Honeywell introduce new products to the design and purchasing community? What kind of support do they provide?
Honeywell provides a wide range of support to its authorized distributors. This includes regular and ongoing communication and meetings regarding new products, improvements and changes to existing products, as well as the implementation of applications on the Honeywell website that makes it easy for buyers to research products (online selector tool). Then, by using our stock-check tool, they can go directly to distributors’ web pages to review stock status, pricing and delivery options.
Q. What are some of the things OEM customers need to consider when selecting a supplier?
First, they need to have a clear view of their product parameters. Then ask the following questions: "Does the supplier have a broad portfolio specializing in sensors and switches?", "Does the supplier have a global footprint?", "How about a track record for investing in new product introductions?", "Can it guarantee where the parts are coming from in the supply chain?", and "Does it offer application engineering support, both before and after the sale, so you’re supported every step of the way?".