Tom Hudak, who recently took the reins of Chicago-based Newark element14, has three goals for the high-service distributor. He wants Newark element14 to be a great company to do business with, invest in, and work for. To meet these objectives, Hudak is putting plans in place to meet specific goals and metrics that will measure the distributor's progress in these three areas. As part of this effort, Hudak will focus a lot of his time on ensuring that the website, call center and outside sales people "perform at a world-class level."
Hudak, who succeeds Paul Buckley as president of Premier Farnell's North American distribution business, believes his experience as president of Akron Brass -- a Premier Farnell company and global manufacturer of high performance life-safety, fire fighting and emergency rescue equipment -- for the past five years puts him in a good position to lead Newark element14 and drive growth in the North American high-service distribution space. At Akron Brass, Hudak helped drive the transformation and internationalization of the business, helping the marketer and manufacturer to become one of the leading companies in the Premier Farnell Group.
In an interview with Electronics Purchasing Strategies, Hudak discussed his vision and plans for Newark element14 and provided insight into how the high-service distributor will continue to meet the demands and requirements of suppliers as well as engineering and purchasing customers.
EPS: What does your experience at Akron Brass bring to the table for Newark element14?
Hudak: Overall, I have more than 31 years of global industry experience. Before joining Akron Brass, I held senior roles in sales, marketing and general management with Thomas and Betts, Emerson, Stanley Works, Legrand and Pidlite India.
Having driven the transformation and internationalization of the Akron Brass business during my five years as president, I believe I’m in a great position to drive growth in the North American high-service distribution space. Akron Brass has become one of the leading companies in the Premier Farnell Group, and I look forward to achieving similar success with Newark element14.
EPS: What is your vision for Newark element14?
Hudak: My vision for the company is to achieve success in three areas: we want to be a great company to do business with; a great company to invest in; and a great company to work for. We are currently building out plans with specific goals and metrics that will measure our progress in these areas, but I believe a focus on these elements is the right approach for this organization.
EPS: Where do you expect to spend more of your time? What efforts will you focus on?
Hudak: We continue to provide an extraordinary customer experience, and my primary focus will be ensuring our website, call center and outside sales people perform at a world-class level. That multi-channel approach currently ensures that 99.98 percent of orders placed by 9 p.m. ship that same day, and we want to continually improve on that performance.
EPS: What do you see as Newark element14's current role in the industry, and where can Newark element14 go from here? For example, are there relationships with suppliers/customers that can be better leveraged (purchasing, operations etc.?) for efficiency/customer service?
Hudak: I see Newark element14’s current role in the electronics distribution industry as one of leadership. We are a high-service distributor of not just products but also engineering solution systems for every stage of the process: concept, design, prototyping, testing, production and maintenance and repair. Our element14 Community is the first innovative platform of its kind for purchasers, engineers and experts around the world to share independent technical information and helpful tools. That level of listening and direct engagement allows for more fulfilling customer service in a time when many distributors are still defining their online presence. Newark element14 will continue forward on that path of leadership.
EPS: What are the most important issues for suppliers and customers, and how can those be better managed?
Hudak: Customers increasingly want distributors to be their partner and work with them from the time of research and development through to maintenance, repair and end-of-life. This requires a complete offering of the newest products and technologies, met with a sincere focus on this entire cycle. Newark element14 is responding to these demands by working with suppliers to launch exclusive development kits and boards. Through the element14 Community and the RoadTest forum, we are constantly gathering feedback from our customer base to actively shape what the next generation of products and solutions will look like.
EPS: Distributors face some difficulties in managing the costs internally of accommodating suppliers. Do you see ways that distribution can manage things better to reduce some of the internal costs so that you come out more ahead than you are currently?
Hudak: Our relationship with suppliers is a partnership. They provide strategic benefits to us, and the value-added services we provide are beneficial for them. Our process thus far has been to identify our strategic suppliers, develop plans to leverage their technologies and products, and collaborate to create value for the customer. We will continue to work with our suppliers to achieve outcomes that are beneficial for both of us.
EPS: There are resource decisions that all distributors face in terms of customers wanting more technical support as well as suppliers requesting their distributors to offer engineering resources, etc. How does a distributor/Newark element14 manage these demands? How can you meet cost expectations, margin targets, and other financial metrics while providing this level of engineering expertise? Is online the venue for this?
Hudak: Technical competence is an integral part of our value-added service offering. In addition to element14, our one-of-a-kind online community consisting of more than 200,000 members, we deliver support through outside sales professionals, call centers, the web and more than 30 dedicated technical experts in our Chicago office. We’ll continue to strengthen our offering in this area as that’s what customers need.
Online tools can be very helpful in managing the above demands and providing outstanding technical support. Each of the members in the element14 Community, for example, can serve as a technical resource in our various group pages, making it possible for customers to get answers to their questions immediately rather than wait for a response from the technical support department, as is the case with some of our competitors.
EPS: Are their ways to reduce the costs of engineering support while providing the same levels of service?
Hudak: Reducing costs of engineering support isn’t part of our long-term strategy. Several initiatives we will execute over the next few years will clearly demonstrate our commitment to technical and engineering support.
EPS: Once a relationship moves toward fulfillment, do customers differentiate between the costs of an engineering relationship and straight fulfillment?
Hudak: Establishing a positive relationship with customers should be at the heart of everything we do. We want to be present early, from concept through maintenance, repair and operations, so we’re consistently adding value. Then, the relationship becomes about more than simply fulfillment – we become a partner and a resource throughout the entire design process.