Few things in the connector industry go back 60 years. The unique collaboration between Avnet and Amphenol is one of them.
Radio. That’s where it all began for two of the connector industry’s leading players. Amphenol, an early manufacturer of radio components, was innovating within that industry when a parts distributor named Charles Avnet took notice of Amphenol’s components. His customers liked the dependable, versatile Amphenol parts he offered them, and as their needs evolved, Avnet brought that information back to Amphenol, which could nimbly create the solution needed for radio, television, and other emerging technologies that helped shape civilian life as well as wartime equipment. Together, as the decades passed, the two companies helped bring the components needed to facilitate the ever-expanding technology revolution. “Having collaborated for 60 years now, Avnet and Amphenol work together like a well-oiled machine,” said Vince Arena, Director, Global IP&E Supplier Management at Avnet. We checked in with Amphenol too, of course, and CEO R. Adam Norwitt helped explain how these companies became stronger by working together.
Connector Supplier: Tell me about your company’s origin story. Why was the company founded and what were some of its earliest products?
Avnet: Avnet was founded in 1921 when Charles Avnet began buying and selling surplus military and ship-to-shore radio parts in NYC’s “Radio Row.” Avnet quickly diversified his offerings to include automotive antenna assemblies and television parts.
Amphenol: Amphenol started out in 1932 as a manufacturer of tube sockets for tube-based radios. The company was an early innovator of a wide array of communications and RF products used in radio and television, as well as products used in military equipment beginning at the time of the Second World War.
CS: What were some significant turning points in the company’s product line?
AMPH: Amphenol became a public company with its public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991. Since that time, the company has made more than 75 acquisitions, which have significantly expanded the scope of products we offer and markets we serve. Most recently, Amphenol entered the sensors market with the acquisition of GE Advanced Sensors in 2013, and expanded its interconnect offering with the acquisition of FCI in 2016.
AVT: The advent of WWII was a significant turning point for the young Avnet organization, prompting a shift in focus to military antennas and manufacturing, and the assembly of military and industrial connectors. Avnet incorporated in 1955, and opened its first West Coast operation in 1956, serving the aviation and missile industries. In 1957, Bendix (now Amphenol Aerospace) signed Avnet as a factory-authorized distributor and assembler. Avnet made the first of a long line of acquisitions in 1960 with British Industries Corp. In the ensuing five-plus decades, Avnet has completed scores of acquisitions that have extended the company’s reach across the globe and into the industry’s broadest range of technologies and services. The acquisitions of Memec Group Holdings in 2005, Bell Microproducts in 2010, and Premier Farnell in 2016 have been among the most influential in terms of their impact on the direction of Avnet’s business growth.
CS: Why did the two companies begin working together?
AVT: By 1957, Avnet had become established as a trusted supplier of electronic components and assembly services. At the same time, Bendix, which also had operations in California, was continuing to innovate products for military and automotive systems. With Avnet’s support, Bendix was able to scale its business faster and accelerate its rate of innovation.
AMPH: We joined forces in response to the recognition and celebration of a mutual commitment to service excellence, innovation, and integrity and capitalized on that synergy to help customers continue to reach further and create new and more groundbreaking products and solutions.
CS: How did the companies’ products change or contribute to the connector industry?
AMPH: Amphenol has been at the forefront of the development of new technologies in the connector industry from its inception. We support markets, including: military, aerospace, industrial, automotive, mobile devices, mobile networks, IT, datacom, and broadband, with a broad range of products, including: electrical and fiber optic connectors, interconnect assemblies, cable, flexible and rigid printed circuits, antennas, and sensors.
AVT: We estimate that Avnet has sold well over $1B worth of Amphenol product throughout the past six decades. The sheer volume of product supplied to the market has clearly been influential. In addition, Avnet’s technical experts have demonstrated through various kits and solutions the critical role that interconnect, passive, and electromechanical (IP&E) components play in optimizing system performance, which has helped to elevate the industry’s perception of these devices.
CS: What products is the company best known for?
AMPH: Amphenol has the broadest range of products in the interconnect industry, including: high-speed, harsh-environment, power, RF, fiber optic, and sensors. We have also helped develop many of the industry standards that are commonplace today, including MIL 38999, the RF BNC connector, and many others.
AVT: As a best-in-class design and supply chain solutions provider, Avnet offers suppliers like Amphenol a central channel to reach and support customers of all sizes across a broad spectrum of industry sectors, including: military, medical, industrial, aerospace, and communications, and provide them with both quick access to off-the-shelf components, as well as professional customization and assembly services.
CS: These companies have a long historical perspective. What are some of the biggest changes the connector industry has experienced?
AVT: The most significant change in the connector industry has been the recognition that IP&E are not just utilitarian components, but can be true performance-enhancing technologies.
AMPH: When you think of how technology has changed the world, it’s incredible. It’s only 70 years ago that the TV came to the world. Today, both Avnet and Amphenol are helping to enable the Internet of Things, autonomous driving, unmanned drones, streaming video, electric vehicles, and so many other revolutionary technologies.
CS: What future developments do you see as a concern to the connector industry?
AVT: Navigating the complex terrain of an increasingly global market; the hastening of new technology development, particularly around the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and robotics; variable international supply and demand; margin pressure; and the ever-present push to enable more personalization of devices and systems are just a few of the challenges that high-tech suppliers like Amphenol will likely continue to face in the next several years.
AMPH: The beauty of the connector industry is that it has successfully adapted to all of the many disruptions and developments that have been integral to the continuing technology revolution that had led us to today. Accordingly, regardless of the direction of future technological developments and the tendencies of the end consumers of electronic products, Avnet and Amphenol will be positioned to support those developments with critical enabling interconnect technologies.
CS: What future developments is your company excited to be involved in?
AVT: The pace of technology proliferation into so many different aspects of how we live, work, and play is exciting and, of course, a tremendous opportunity for companies like Amphenol and Avnet to support customers seeking that edge to differentiate their offerings among a sea of new products and solutions.
AMPH: We are tremendously excited about the continual and seemingly ever-increasing growth and development of the electronics industry. Whatever the future brings, you can count on Amphenol to develop the building blocks required and Avnet to deliver it and support your design-in process. Over the last 60 years, we have worked together to serve and support hundreds of thousands of customers and, with the pace of technology being what it is today, 60 years seems like it’s still only just the beginning.