News & Analysis

Customers drive Farnell’s strategic priorities in 2022

7th March 2022
Paige West

The global pandemic has had a major knock-on effect within the electronics industry, with worldwide component shortages and logistics challenges just some of the storms companies have had to weather. Here, Chris Breslin, President of Farnell discusses the company’s strategic priorities for this year.

The last 18 to 24 months have represented one of the most uncertain periods that our sector – and countless others – have ever encountered. The unprecedented pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic were not felt just by our business but also by our customers, our employees, and our supply partners.

At Farnell, we recognise the need for continued improvements in our customer service offering. Since our business environment changed rapidly, we have re-evaluated every step of the customer support process, and will continue to do so, to ensure improvements have been made. For our team, this past year presented a unique opportunity to reflect on our business model and make the necessary changes that will enable us to continue delivering cutting-edge technology while supporting our customers and supplier partners as they grow.

Indeed, there was much for us to be proud of during this period. Farnell was heavily involved in securing and providing vital equipment to the healthcare sector as it struggled to keep pace with the virulent pandemic. We recognised early on what ‘the new normal’ meant for our sector and have made significant investments in our business to improve our in-stock range, strengthen our global supplier network and increase our customer services to offer the very best in high service electronics distribution. We are also extremely proud of our teams around the globe who showed outstanding tenacity as they navigated lockdowns, adhered to requirements for isolation, and adjusted to remote working.

Today, the role of a distributor has evolved far beyond being a reseller of parts. We are a strategic partner to our customers, working tirelessly to adapt and overcome any barrier they may face. As President, I promise to stand by three strategic priorities that I believe will make 2022 a great year for Farnell, our customers and everybody that works alongside us.

1. I will champion improvement

The world doesn’t stand still and neither does Farnell. We have never been content doing things how they have always been done and we will seek every opportunity for improvement – no matter how small or incremental those improvements may be. Most importantly in 2022, everyone within the Farnell business will help improve our customers’ everyday experiences; a key part of which is to understand completely what they require today in this new landscape and in the future.

To make this pledge a reality, Farnell has invested heavily in our service offering to increase the support we give to customers and appointed a new dedicated Vice-President of Customer Relations.

In addition to this, we will have a much greater focus on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives. During the pandemic an even greater focus on reducing environmental impacts globally developed and we have taken major steps in this area. For example, our new distribution centre in the United Kingdom is an automated, state-of-the-art warehouse that achieves higher levels of efficiency than ever before with significantly lower environmental impacts. Not only is around 94 percent of waste recycled or recovered, but energy is generated from zero carbon sources. These standards raise the bar for all our facilities and our UK headquarters is already undergoing extensive refurbishments which will also combine a greatly reduced footprint with huge increases in efficiency.

2. I will embrace adaptability

If the pandemic taught us anything it was how important it is to be adaptable if we are to continue to meet the needs of customers. The pandemic dramatically altered the world we live and work in and businesses need to adapt to the new conditions if they are to survive and succeed. It has become clearer to us that in a changing environment – driven not just by unforeseen events but also by competitive, technological, and innovative forces – Farnell must operate as an extremely agile organisation.

One area where we have seen unprecedented change is in the global shift to working from home, with millions of employees around the world requiring the necessary infrastructure and technology to perform their jobs remotely. This switch led to a rapid rise in demand for semiconductors which, amongst several other factors, contributed to the global shortage. If your organisation is agile enough you can react and respond rapidly to such dramatic changes. At Farnell, we have implemented a series of changes to our processes that have already generated more agile ways of working for teams across multiple functions.

I believe that rapid adaptability is only possible by building an ever-closer relationship with customers so that we can flag new requirements before they become a challenge. On top of this, investment in stock is vital. By summer 2022, we will have increased our product portfolio to more than one million stock keeping units (SKUs), including 250,000 new parts, more than half of which have already been added to the portfolio. We have also invested in new value-added services to facilitate the ordering and delivery of components, which brings me to my third pledge.

3. I will drive digitalisation

As well as overseeing Farnell’s global operations, my day-to-day role is to ensure greater use of digital technologies to improve all aspects of our services for customers. Yes, we have made huge strides in this area in recent years, but we are by no means finished because the importance of the digital marketplace can’t be overstated. Many of our customers begin their research journey online and over 70 percent of our global orders are placed through digital channels.

Of course, digitalisation is not just about technology. At Farnell, we pride ourselves on being a digital-first organisation that has a human touch. It is essential to ensure customers get the maximum benefits from digitalisation, including our enhanced ability to solve their problems and provide the highest levels of support at every stage of their journey. Digitalisation should allow customers to find the product that exactly meets their needs quickly and easily. It should also integrate directly into customers’ systems and processes to save them time.

That’s why I pledge that Farnell will use digital technology to make every part of developing, manufacturing and deploying technology much easier than before. We are committed to providing rapid access to information that enables engineers to adopt new technologies. We will make sure the parts you need can be found, ordered and delivered quickly, while minimising system downtime.

To this end, we have already invested in millions of dollars’ worth of improvements to our online channels and our customers’ web experience, resulting in a 30 percent increase in global traffic and a 15 percent uplift in online orders. In 2022, we will introduce a world-class content management system and invest in major headless commerce developments which will give each user their own unique experience of our sites.

Our global digital platforms will become even more flexible and efficient with better integration. We will continue to provide valuable resources on Farnell’s Technical Resources and new Industrial Embedded Computers online hub to support engineers through every stage of the design cycle.

What are your goals for the future?

Customer service is a strategic priority for Farnell this year and I will be working to ensure our teams embrace my personal goals for improvement, adaptability, and digitalisation to provide the best possible solutions for our customers and supplier partners today and tomorrow.

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