DESIGN&ELEKTRONIK: Mr. Wawer, when we first met at electronica 2016, you were in charge for only a few months. At that time you said you wanted an even better go-to-market approach. What has happened in these two years?
Dr. Peter Wawer: There's been quite some progress. Take digitalization as an example. At that time, we had not used our own website sufficiently as a sales channel. This did not primarily relate to the information itself or its amount, but to how easy it was to find and how appropriately it was presented. We want our customers to navigate intuitively and to quickly find the right products for their applications. Additionally, there was the actual ordering process. Here we have redesigned many things to be more customer-oriented, both in the frontend and in the backend. However, such an improvement process is of course never accomplished: Over the past two years, we have invested a lot in our website and the associated services and are continuing to improve these.
Furthermore, we have enhanced the availability of information tailored for different geographical regions. Now, regional differences determine how this information is offered. This already begins with the language; in addition to English, we therefore also need the content in other languages – especially Chinese, of course...
...how do Chinese engineers work?
Speed is paramount in China, because competitive pressure is much higher there – not only in a global context, but also in the national one. Time-to-market is everything – bringing as many products to market as possible in the shortest period of time possible. For this reason, and because there is also a lack of expertise, Asian customers love to use our demo boards and reference designs as the basis for their products. This can cut their product development time significantly.
One example for this is our iMotion product family. It comprises dedicated motor controllers and gate drivers for specific applications such as white goods. And together with a matching power module, a compressor for a fridge or a pump for a washing machine can be assembled very quickly – according to the Lego block principle. We also offer software that enables our customers to further optimize their solutions or implement customer-specific features.
One of Infineon’s central strategic objectives is to gain a better insight into the systems. Can you point out what this means in practice?
Sure. The just mentioned iMotion platform is a good example. If I want to offer preconfigured semiconductor solutions to customers, then I have to know exactly what their really need. Up to which level should the platform reach? Which should be common to all solutions? At which level and how can customers implement their features that differentiate them from their competitors? We need to be able to answer these questions; otherwise we'll miss the market.
This also means that we need time for our own development. To develop a technology platform may take many years; to develop a product based on such a platform may take from a little less than a year to a little more than a year, depending on the complexity. That’s why we need to identify the trends that are emerging in the various markets well in advance. We must understand in advance what will come tomorrow, ideally the day after tomorrow. That's why we often collaborate with key customers, with whom we jointly shape the future.
Can you name an example from wide bandgap semiconductors?
Absolutely. Silicon carbide components are always more expensive than corresponding silicon IGBTs. The decisive question therefore is: When does the better material justify the higher price? There is no general answer, of course, so we need to well understand the customer application and the system requirements. Only on this basis we are able to give our customers the proper advice and help them select the most suitable product from our portfolio: In addition to silicon, this also includes silicon carbide and gallium nitride. Therefore, we are able to assist our customers technologically independent and provide them with the best solution for their design projects.
One specific application use case for this is PV inverters. Their manufacturers have realized that the use of silicon carbide switches reduces system costs – even if the semiconductor itself is significantly more expensive.