Gimme Five – Alan Paterson

Following that, Paterson set up his own B2B web business before joining Premier Farnell in May 2008 as the managing director for Farnell in the UK and Ireland. In spring 2010, he took on additional responsibility for the Nordic and Benelux regions. In May 2011, he became the marketing director for Farnell in Europe.

In his current position, he is accountable for all online and multi-channel marketing, business and propositional development for Farnell Element 14’s business across Europe which has 32 local language web sites, which receive more than 50 million visits per year.

He lives with his partner Sofie in Denmark, and has four children. He enjoys cycling, reading, travel and music.

1. You have worked in the oil, building services and now the electronics industry. How different are they?

The petrochemical industry is fundamentally different to electronics components. The building services industry is very electronics based in terms of control units and so on. There is electronics in the oil and gas industry but it is tried and tested technology that hasn’t changed over the years.

I started in the oil industry as a finance bod and then went onto commercial roles in the logistics and supply chain. With Johnson, there was the aftermarket part servicing the installed base of equipment designed to last 25 years from refrigeration units like you find in the local Sainsbury’s for garden peas to large refrigeration systems.

2. The Ben Heck Show – what’s that about?

This is largely looking to provide entertaining content on the Element 14 web site for our customers by doing cool and funky things with electronics. Ben Heck is an initiative that came from the US region. It is a bit like the Brainiac programme on television, looking at testing and things you can do with electronics. It covers the hobby side as well as more relevant things you can do. We are trying to help make electronics more popular. There is a shortage of electronics talent and this is one way to make it interesting.

We want to show we are as fascinated with electronics as you are and Ben Heck is playing a role in that.

It gets hundreds of thousands of hits watching each show. It is not as popular in Europe as it is in the US. Proportionally, we get about half the audience in the UK and about a third in Europe, but that is partly because it is an English speaking show.

3. A lot of companies are pushing green technology. Is this from a desire to ‘save the planet’ or are they just jumping on a bandwagon?

I actually don’t think it is either. More and more businesses and CEOs recognised that this was a fashionable trend ten years ago but now there is a hard-core necessity. They realise there will be energy shortages in the future and running their business means they need to conserve energy. Green is now a major business issue. Take power consumption alone. If you think about energy efficiency, it is good business practice purely from the standpoint that it saves you money.

For example, we actively have a percentage of our UK energy supply from wind power and we have reduced our utility bill as a result. We licence that through our energy supplier.

4. What is the best book you have ever read?

For me, it is a bit wacky – Stephen King’s Christine. It was a great read, I just couldn’t put it down. I read it from Saturday morning to just after midnight. The film version was not the same. There was just no comparison.

I do like the horror genre. I like the James Herbert Rats books – I’ve read all of them.

5. You have said you worry about counterfeit components. What can be done to reduce or stop these being made or getting to market?

It is a bit of a challenge, so many of the parts are coming from China. The more that the wider economic situation has deteriorated, the more companies are getting their supplies from China to reduce costs. So there is a challenge of educating businesses and buyer behaviour.

Government legislation and the right procedures should also be in place to stamp it out. But we need to get the right behaviour and create the desire for people to do that. Some of these components create a risk to people’s lives.

There is not enough legislation in place. The levels of fines and pressure in competition law should be used for stopping counterfeit components. And manufacturers and distributors need to take a greater stand on it. This is starting to happen because they are recognising it as a top issue.

Farnell Element 14

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