The following blog is the conclusion of a two-part finale ending a series of eight examining Current Trends in the Opto-micro-electronic and RF Packaging Eco-systems. Our aim has been to give our readers a glimpse of humanity’s shared technological future, as well as hints regarding Palomar’s own roadmap. This edition deals with the qualities necessary for deep and sustained engagement in the world of high-tech millennial commerce, the defining eco-system to our own. The views represented are entirely those of Dr. Anthony O’Sullivan, Palomar Technologies’ Strategic Market Research Specialist. Dr O’Sullivan will gladly field questions and comments.
#8. Engaging Rapidly Changing Ultra-Tech Commerce: Part Two
My last blog concluded by illustrating how language use—dare I say it, semantics—is a vital tool, not only in critical analysis, but in technical innovation and market engagement. Most people in our industry are bombarded with information, much of it of marginal in value. For myself, if what I am reading is, in anyway confused, unclear, or if the first paragraph does not convey the central point with crystal clarity, I set it aside. What is on the surface, is what is underneath. Words reveal mindset and in turn the level of connectedness with technology, co-worker, consumer and market.
Millennials’ use of language embraces core elements of these principles, yet such adoption is but systemic of a far more significant shift; one in which the entire world-view of the baby boomers is in the process of being replaced. This is certainly true in respect to compartmentalized thinking, but that, to use a well-known metaphor, is only “the tip of the ice-berg”. So far I have only hinted at this, now I state it openly. The causes are complex and the implications far reaching, but sadly further explication of these things belongs to a different sphere than this blog. That having been said, there are significant commercial implications that do need to be explored here.
Perhaps most important among these is the millennial’s attitude towards thought leadership. The latter is an essential element to the new business paradigm represented by ultra-tech commerce. Why? As utilized, thought leadership quickly identifies change and rapidly reorients to new realities. In this manner new directions set, quickly and with conviction. Here is one practical example: Packaging sectors have been traditionally labeled as “Opto” or “RF” but there has been such an explosion in technology, that, to quote one analyst, “these sectors became shrouded in fog.” That fog has now partly cleared leaving off center previous categorizations and earlier vocabularies. In their place are newer specialized applications and technologies fast becoming sectors, then specialisms in their own right. Added to this is a seemingly contrary flow towards Opto/RF convergence. As a result, many current perceptions and approaches are rapidly losing traction, thence relevance, thence market share and sales. Understand the complexities and convergence, but above all the mindset approaching these changes, and the sudden shifts in market demand become quickly anticipated. In our sector one obvious area is the recent history of optical transceivers. Appreciate the millennial mindset and the “unexpected” for 100G for example, would have been antecedently obvious.
It cannot be emphasized too much, that this is not about words or mindsets, but the evolution of language and perspective, reflecting the fact that the technological world they seeks to engage has changed, yes, but something far bigger. This is a generation that thinks globally in every sense of that term. Without changing their world-views baby-boomers, will be at a disadvantage. In terms of commercial action this distills into many essential issues—one of which is our approach to learning. Children are great learners because they know that they don’t know. Conversely, one of the all too negative traits in a highly technical sector like ours, is, that it can rapidly give birth of to a “know it all mindset”. A false sense that “there is nothing new under the sun”. Yet history is littered with industrial corpses born of such an attitude. The discerning question then arises, “If we are not thought leaders ourselves, are we followers? If so, whom and what are we following? What changes are we making as a result?” Our answers here places in sharp relief where we stand in the learning—not-learning, relevant-irrelevant spectrum.
“Optical transceiver” like the word “word”, is only a legitimate tool (the “how” it is used) as long as it is able to secure the appropriate outcome. The former, allows successful fiber connectivity, the latter, effects the accurate communication of understanding and thence, action. Manufacturing protocols, like language, needs to evolve and change as they deal with deeper levels of complexity. If there are any biologists reading this blog, they will immediately recognize this idea in taxonomy. Simply put, over a period of time one unitary species can so evolve that one genus gives way to many. Yesterday’s taxonomy simply fails to describe the world as it is thereby loosing traction, and so with language and mindset.
The implications represented by the right mindset—and the underlying role of words—should now be obvious. Equally vital—and in many ways the central point of this blog—is their application to customer engagement in terms of agility. Due to growing technical sophistication, and almost limitless experimentation with materials, customer needs are more rapidly diverging from each other than any time in recent history. Indeed, many are becoming almost unique in each case. Indeed, so much so, that process engagement is now displacing all other considerations in machine purchases, including specifications and price. Customers in our sector are acutely aware of this, which is why they demand more time from their vendors, who may wrongly interpret this as simply one more attempt to get something for nothing. More correctly, however, it is indicative of the fact that exponentially growing levels of investment are now required to do business in this sector. Thus corporations functioning at the cutting edge of the opto-micro-electronic packaging market require on-going assurance that vendors understand extant technologies, are developing tomorrow’s replacements, and are strongly committed to following the customer’s roadmap. In summary then, the vendor must convey an almost irrevocable, dedicated sense of long term relationship, itself antecedently founded on proven holistic engagement.
Further to this “holistic engagement” we note:
- A coherent and fundamentally systemic connection to the chosen sector.
- Customer facing, agile, committed engagement. to technical, process and manufacturing needs.
- A well-resourced, but equally enthusiastic internal culture of research and advanced development practices.
- Ubiquitous company excellence and service matched by highest order manufacturing innovation.
- Evident, collaborative alignment to relevant thought leaders.
Much could be written about each of these points, but in context, point (iii) deserves special attention as it ties in directly with the one principle running through this blog, the millennials’ holistic, global paradigm or mindset. Through the latter’s influence, the market increasingly demands vendors demonstrate a quickening pace in intra-corporate development, manufacturing and service innovation. That they inculcate a culture of inherent excellence that embraces every process; from concept to commercialization; from product order to product delivery; from marketing to post sales service; from the sales experience to the handling of complaints. Most important of all, the company in its entirety must perceive itself as a shop window. Those who would supply the ultra-advanced technologies of Augmented Reality (AR) or Artificial Intelligence (AI), must, in the most obvious way, be the very first adaptors of the technologies they propose to serve. For the millennial this is not a “sound bite” but essential to the commercial cohesion he requires of his suppliers. “Don’t do what I do, do what I say” may have worked for a generation whose thinking had become compartmentalized, but it works no longer. For millennials, seeing what lies under the surface, is believing.
As far as the bigger picture is concerned, within ultra-tech the limits of unaided human ingenuity are fast being reached, and to market, sell, build or subsequently service machines in the RF GaN and opto-micro-electronic packaging sector without advanced IT infrastructures, virtual reality and robotics, will first of all lack credibility (both to the customers and employees), and soon thereafter, become impossible. Swiss watches and champagne may prosper by being hand-crafted but even these are being increasingly marketed through virtual reality experiences.
For Palomar Technologies these conclusions are neither theoretical nor peripheral. They are conclusions reached from exhaustive studies of the market and technology, academics and white papers, but far, far more importantly, through commercial traction gained from listening to, and engaging with, our customers, listening to our sales team, millennial employees, and engaging across the market place, not least through the the many trade shows and technical conferences we attend. We hope to see you at one soon. Come and say, “Hello”.
Dr. Anthony O'Sullivan
Strategic Market Research Specialist