The 1960s were the gold-rush era for energetic sales professionals. The American semiconductor industry was still young, chip consumption in Europe low, and customers were not yet accustomed to the new technology. With the chip wave, the concept of authorised dealers for electronics, which originated in the radio spare parts business, arrived in Germany. Erich Fischer, 31 and sales manager at Motorola in Wiesbaden, Germany, recognised the potential in the distribution business and founded his company EBV Elektronik GmbH, based in Düsseldorf, in June 1969.
Right from the start, his strategy set his business apart from others. Fischer consistently provided direct customer service with technical field service and did not limit himself to small customer accounts. There was a major need for explanation and guidance. Back then, EBV was already the only distributor able to explain to customers what semiconductors, integrated circuits and transistors were and where they could be used. The company was already true to its later slogan – “Distribution was yesterday. Today is EBV.” – even back then, although it was not coined by management until 1998. From the flood of about 250 to 300 small and large distributors that sprang up like mushrooms, EBV proved to be one of the few that succeeded. Or, as Erich Fischer described it: “Those who don’t plan for the future don’t have one.”
“Quality is more important than quantity.” Erich Fischer
His business principles still apply today. They fit on one sheet of paper: only semiconductors, a focused line card with the best suppliers, no consignment warehouse, sound technical expertise, only the best employees, only customers who pay promptly. With uncompromising customer service, he turned EBV into one of the world’s most successful companies in the industry. “Quality is more important than quantity” was Fischer’s credo. “And quality can’t help but lead to quantity.” He was to be proved right.
With only five employees handling all purchasing and sales themselves, the company opened its doors in the centre of Düsseldorf in October 1969. Motorola helped kick-start the company with a franchise agreement for North Rhine-Westphalia, which had just opened up. At that time, agencies were assigned from state to state, which nowadays is unthinkable in the age of global service and sales agreements. During its start-up period, the company was handling about 20 customers.
But Fischer was actually pushing hard to get into Bavaria. It was where major customers like Siemens and Grundig were located. Then chance played its part. The Bavaria representative for Motorola surprisingly left the business in November 1969, and the chip manufacturer offered Bavaria to Fischer instead. Munich became the new home of EBV.
EBV’s early years were marked by surging growth in sales. They were years in which electronics steadily became an integral part of everyday life, and in which demand from industry for semiconductors was correspondingly high. In the company’s first full year of business, 1970, a staff of ten was already generating sales of nearly four million deutschmarks. As early as 1972, EBV broke through the ten million deutschmark barrier with a 50 percent leap in sales. And at the end of December that year, the sales team won the largest order in EBV’s history up to that point, totalling over 750,000 deutschmarks. The sales growth in 1973 was then 70 percent. In 1974 EBV surged through the 15 million barrier, finishing the year with sales of 16.4 million deutschmarks.
EBV successfully kept pace with the triumphant advance of the semiconductor, increasing its sales from 16 to 59 million deutschmarks between 1974 and 1979. In 1979 alone, the company saw its sales rise 30 percent against the previous year. Thanks to its concentration on a small number of technology-leading semiconductor manufacturers, EBV had become the top distributor of every manufacturer it represented – not just in Germany, but throughout Europe. It was a remarkable achievement.
Even back then, EBV was able to build on stable customer relationships. A few figures back up that claim. Of the total sales turnover in both 1973 and 1978, well over a third was attributable to the same top ten customers, even though the business had almost tripled in size during that time and the customer base was growing rapidly. In 1978, EBV’s sales team generated 75 percent of its total turnover with customers they had been serving for five years or more. And EBV’s business was always highly profitable. Its per capita sales at the time, of around one million deutschmarks a year, were twice as high as the industry norm. This illustrates how, by contrast, large numbers of small orders and a wide product range takes its toll on broad-liners.
EBV then put an end to its temporary accommodation. The old villa in Harlaching near Munich which EBV had rented for the previous seven years was yet again bursting at the seams. So to mark its tenth anniversary, EBV decided to invest in new premises, for the first time moving into a proper office block in the Munich suburb of Unterhaching, at Oberweg number 6.
The new corporate headquarters covered a thousand square metres, including the central warehouse, order processing department, accounts and management functions; the Bavaria sales office; and the new microprocessor centre.
After a dip in 1981, when a recession saw EBV suffer a fall in sales for the first time (from 73 down to 62 million deutschmarks) and profit, more highs followed. The boom in personal and home computers and in the automotive industry brought a massive surge in demand. By 1983 EBV’s sales had reached 86 million deutschmarks, and in 1984 they leapt to a staggering 155 million. A short time later, a crisis in PC sales led to a collapse in chip orders. Yet EBV emerged relatively unscathed, remaining profitable and in 1985 dropping just three percent of its sales, down to just under 150 million. In 1986 EBV suffered its worst year, with a ten percent fall in sales.
However, the opening of the first offices outside Germany starting in 1986 meant that there was only one way for sales to move: upwards. At the company’s 20th anniversary in 1989, EBV’s employees were celebrating sales of over 242 million deutschmarks.
Globalisation was gradually spreading. For EBV too – previously an entirely German business – a new era was beginning. In January 1986, EBV opened the first EBV office outside Germany, close to Brussels Airport. The first franchise partner was Motorola, and indeed EBV was the first distributor ever to be awarded a contract outside its home country. Shortly afterwards, a sales office was established in the Netherlands.
By 1994 sales had reached 500 million deutschmarks, and in 1995 just under 600 million. The records show that between 1970 and 1995 EBV grew by an amazing average of 22 percent a year.
After the company’s acquisition by Raab Karcher and the resulting expansion, sales in 1996 surged to 630 million deutschmarks and the workforce grew to 470. In 1998 – boosted by its eastward expansion – EBV topped a billion deutschmarks in sales for the first time. There could hardly have been more satisfactory performance figures with which to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary in 1999.
A German company trading on the Italian market? EBV launched EBV Italy in Milan in 1992 by - for the first time - purchasing an outside business in order to gain a foothold in Italy, Spain and Switzerland. EBV took over the stock, customer database, bank obligations and 20 Italy-based staff from Kontron Components.
The first year saw many stumbling blocks. Still, EBV’s market share grew steadily from month to month. The Italians engaged in a lively contest with their EBV colleagues in France (where the office had opened a year earlier) to achieve the best monthly sales figures.
The beginnings in Spain were just as strenuous. Potential customers confused EBV with a Spanish bank with a similar-sounding name. For non-Spanish people, the Iberian lifestyle, especially the office hours, took some getting used to: two to three hours’ siesta during which business life came to a complete stop; lunch around 3 in the afternoon; dinner at 11 at night.
Logistics was the key to success in Italy and Spain. Reliable delivery and a top-class logistics service were core elements of EBV’s business approach even back in 1992. What astounded the Italians was that they could place an order as late as 6pm one day and have UPS deliver it to their door by 9am the next. And the goods were in perfect condition, in their original packaging. Even local suppliers in Italy and Spain couldn’t manage that at the time. This was early evidence that for EBV ‘Europe-wide’ does not just mean operating in a few countries with different manufacturers. It means that all customers in every country are provided with the same level of logistical and technical service based on the same fundamental strategy.
And the expansion went on: Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia joined Spain, Italy, Portugal and France as part of the EBV Southern Europe region.
In Eastern Europe, especially, lucrative new markets were emerging. But EBV was not in a position to expand as necessary without outside capital. Many companies were interested in EBV at the time. It was after all a rock-solid business, rated within the industry as being the world’s best distributor. Fischer’s preferred partner was a financially strong subsidiary of Veba Electronics: Raab Karcher. As well as achieving a good selling price, his primary concern was to preserve the unity of EBV.
Following the takeover by Raab Karcher, which was officially completed on 1st April 1996, EBV expanded very rapidly. Within 18 months, it opened 21 new offices in 15 countries: Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Greece, Hungary, Turkey, Israel, Russia, South Africa, France, Poland and the Czech Republic. Most of the new branches were started from scratch in accustomed EBV style; only in Greece and South Africa did EBV acquire existing distributors and attune them to the EBV way of doing things. After three years, sales had doubled to a billion deutschmarks. EBV is now a truly pan-European organisation, with 50 branches in 23 countries, including South Africa and Israel.
The company’s rapid expansion, with more than 20 new offices opening in just two years, is reflected in its books. EBV’s sales turnover rose 62 percent from 1996 to 1998, breaking through the billion deutschmark barrier for the first time.
After the turn of the millennium, the dot-com boom gave further impetus to EBV’s sales growth. Killer applications for mobile phones, for example, had a direct impact on the distribution business, and in the year 2000 EBV sales broke through the two billion barrier – this time in euros. Avnet Electronics Marketing acquired EBV Elektronik in late 2000.
In 2001 and the following years, EBV faced the same downturn as the rest of the market but managed it considerably better, gaining significant market share, honing its technical expertise towards customer projects, developing new vertical market models and further optimising its line card by adding key lines. The combination of local presence – over 60 offices throughout Europe – with a centralised back office and of technical expertise with a strong commodity business makes EBV robust and future-proof under any but the worst market conditions.
The explosion in sales once again prompted EBV to expand. During 2000/2001, the warehouse and headquarters moved again – to Poing, east of Munich.
EBV started to develop reference design kits. The first EBV board, named DragonFire, was launched onto the market in late 2006. This was not a simple demo version, but a complete, usable reference platform comprising both hardware and software.
In addition, with its “ECOmise it” initiative, EBV committed to protecting the environment and has launched a number of other initiatives since 2008. EBV is continually seeking to raise awareness among its employees of the need to be climate-friendly.
After having established its vertical market segment structure and extending it throughout the EMEA region, EBV Elektronik started in 2010 to offer a brand-new additional service. With EBVchips, it collaborates with customers to design its own semiconductors. EBVchips are produced by EBV’s manufacturers and distributed exclusively by EBV. For the first time in the history of the semiconductor industry, one distributor is now providing even small and medium-sized companies with access to specially customised products featuring state-of-the-art technology with the best price/performance ratio!
"EBVchips takes semiconductor distribution to a whole new level." Slobodan Puljarevic.
“With EBVchips, we now represent the interface between many thousands of customers and the manufacturer,” explains Slobodan Puljarevic, President and CEO of EBV Elektronik. “This takes semiconductor distribution to a whole new level.”
The vertical market segment structure
After internally reshaping and building EBV’s organisation into a vertical market segment structure for nearly 4 years, it was finally time to publicly announce the re-focus of EBV’s structure in 2013. Following its implementation, EBV has since then successfully built up its classic market-related segments: Automotive, Consumer, Renewable Energies, Healthcare and HighRel. Additionally, the vertical market segment structure enables EBV to simultaneously work on more technology driven segments, in which it focuses on FPGA, RF & Wireless, LightSpeed and Identification.
For the past 10 years, the company has followed and optimised the three main aspects of its market segment strategy: Imagine – deliver market insight and the market expertise; Innovate – introduce system solution ideas; and Execute – develop business in new and existing customer sites. This has led to great success for EBV.
In 2010, EBV launched a new service, EBVChips, where it develops semiconductor solutions with and for its customers. EBVChips are manufactured by EBV’s suppliers, customised to special requirements and therefore not covered in the regular product lines. Also, EBVChips – which are exclusively distributed by EBV – offer customers competitive advantages, as they receive exactly the products and technologies they need for their individual applications – even in small quantities if required.
The latest highlight in 2019 for EBVChips, in the category of IoT solutions, is the Heracles 2G cellular module, which is designed to simplify the IoT device-making process. Heracles provides a ready-to-use 2G cellular module embedding a SIM card with a prepaid data plan. This is valid for a long-term period up to the year 2025, at no additional cost and without any monthly fee.
EBV StartMeUp Launch
Supporting start-ups and electronics newcomers has been part of EBV's corporate strategy for about five years now. In order to grow even further in existing markets, EBV aims to find new paths to reach new customer target groups. EBV focuses on technology start-ups and electronics newcomers, the latter not necessarily being new companies but those that have embarked on smart electronics. These are very interesting for EBV as they require outstanding engineering power, reliable supply chain services, extensive technology experience and a diverse partner network to ensure the functionality of their products and successfully market their products.
With so many developments in IoT emerging in the technology world in recent years, it was logical for EBV to launch its IoT campaign in 2015. EBV has been continuously active in the disciplines of sensor technology, data preparation and data processing, data output, actuator engineering, connectivity and security for over a decade. These are all disciplines either specific to IoT or directly linked with it, but which were not classified as IoT before the term was invented.
EBV’s offers a range of support for IoT. While EBV Elektronik provides its clients with the necessary technical support in connection with IoT, the support also extends far beyond purely technical aspects. It begins with information about the possibilities offered by IoT, continues with technical seminars with specific manufacturers on applications and/or vertical markets, and extends through to consultancy services that can sometimes even lead to a radical review of the business model.
We are saving the bees
Our long-term partners support our activities: Broadcom, Infineon, NXP, ON Semiconductor, STMicroelectronics, Toshiba and Vishay. With our new hashtags #EBVforEnvironment and #EBVsavestheBees, we’ll keep our stakeholders updated on our progress in our eco-initiatives, especially the bee project.
Why bees? Quite simply because they’re essential to mankind’s future – but are already endangered. According to Greenpeace: “70 out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90% of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees.” No bees means no food – or too little for the earth’s population.
That’s why we’re taking concrete action to protect them. At EBV’s headquarters in Poing, near Munich, we’ve reserved a space for flower meadows with insect hotels, which provide food and shelter for wild bees. These should be operational soon. We’re also working with the local beekeeper association in Poing to build a bee house that will provide better weather protection for the beehives.