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Over the past five years, ICAPE Group has strongly focused on analyzing the complex needs of the market to provide worldwide solutions for customers whose needs range from simple to very complex technologies. The services provider has done this by putting offices in key strategic locations—particularly China—with staff that understand the nuances of language and culture. These types of decisions make an important difference when it comes to getting customers exactly what, and when, they need it. Yann Duigou, CMO, and Bingling Li Sellam, VP of Northern Europe, share their secrets for success.
Nolan Johnson: Yann and Bingling, what dynamics do you see in the market?
Yann Duigou: We see that the electronics market is growing by about 12% per year, which is confirmed by the statistics we read in industry publications. The war in Ukraine has created a lot of issues with sea and air transport. This makes the market very difficult. There’s also a lack of components, as you know, and customers are always working on where to buy them. In fact, we just met with some customers today, trying to find brokers for components. All these elements are disrupting the markets.
By the end of June, we saw our revenue increase by 50%. This organic growth was 15% higher because we bought some of our competitors, especially in Europe. Because we are seeing increasingly higher technologies, two years ago we created a small team especially for customers who ask for very complex technologies you can’t find in most factories. This team works with the customers, the factories, to find a technical solution.
That’s the real advantage of ICAPE Group. We know how to manage that for various types of technologies because customers ask us first to help them to buy in Asia. It’s very difficult to buy in Asia and especially in China. Why is that? Because there are a limited number of people who speak English. We have more than 200 people in our China offices with Chinese, English and French speakers who work between Europe, the U.S., and Asia. They bring added value in terms of logistical skills and the ability to answer technical questions from customers. Also, we bring the value of working between the suppliers, manufacturers, and customers.
COVID restrictions make it very difficult to go to China, but because we have our office there, we are more able to help our customers. For example, we have done audits, even for big corporations that already have their own department for buying directly in China. They asked us to make the audit for them because it was not possible for their quality inspectors to go there. This just adds more value to the market due to the pandemic and other global situations.
Johnson: This is more than just being a broker, this is advocating. It’s not just connecting a job to a manufacturer but helping to solve problems technically and solve issues administratively; audits are an administrative function. It’s really becoming a part of the process for your OEM customers, isn’t it?
Bingling Li Sellam: Yes, exactly. We see ourselves as a service provider, not a broker. You are absolutely right: We are here to offer added value to the customer, to make them feel secure in their supply chain. It’s not just about placing orders.
Johnson: You must account for so much uncertainty in the supply chain and the economy, yet you are able to give peace of mind to your customers. Also, if they’re trying to accomplish something in their design that they can’t quite figure out, you have the expertise in manufacturing to do that. That’s also peace of mind for the customer.
Sellam: Exactly. That’s why I continue to enlarge our field application engineer (FAE) team worldwide, so that in different countries and different markets we have dedicated engineers working with customers not only in the design phase but also in manufacturing, helping them optimize their project from the very beginning.
Johnson: How early does the field application engineer team get involved with the customer?
Sellam: It depends on the customer’s needs. When the customer comes to our engineers, most of them have already started the first version of the design phase. The first specification is out, and our customers have already consulted our engineers. We may even go to their side and hold a technical conference to discuss the project together. Our goal with this team is to help the customer have a better, more optimized design; afterward, of course, the customer comes to us most of the time for prototyping, implementation, and more. Sometimes it’s even before the design phase. That means that the customer has a rough idea of what they need, they explain their idea to us, and we propose a technical solution.
To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the December 2022 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.