Astute – 30 Years of Global Growth

Astute Electronics is a exciting and bold success story – and a British one at that

There’s a long history of mergers and acquisitions within electronics distribution. Consolidation remains one of the easiest ways to grab new customers and inventory while diversifying your markets, but it also provides a way out of a challenging business landscape. With rapidly changing technology, component shortages, global competition and ever tougher compliance legislation, little wonder so many distributors seek acquisition.

To remain not only proudly independent but expand your global reach into new territories, investing in new facilities, services and talented staff in 10 countries, while staying true to your core values, is no small achievement. This year, Astute Electronics, headquartered in Stevenage, celebrates 30 years in business as an independent electronics distributor with a global reach. Theirs is an exciting and bold success story – and a British one at that.

Founder and Managing Director, Geoff Hill, says their success is driven by a single principle: adding value in the supply chain. “When I set up the business in 1989, it was about component sourcing targets for high-reliability customers, particularly defence and aerospace. 30 years later this remains the same, but the complexity of our customers has changed and their demands are greater.

‘We help customers to weed out these threats and focus on Safe Supply’

“As a business, we’ve always asked the question: what benefits can we bring? Everything I’ve done in 30 years is customer-led. For instance, counterfeit product has been a growing problem especially in the last two decades. It exists in most industries but it’s particularly hazardous in aerospace and defence equipment. That’s why we set up component test labs in the UK and US and we incorporate the AS6081 standards into our extensive ACAP Anti-Counterfeit Avoidance Programme.” With current volatility in the component supply chain, extended lead-times and rapid obsolescence cycles, it’s even more important that we help customers to weed out these threats and focus on Safe Supply, says Geoff.

Astute electronics was the first European distributor to attain the AS6081 standard and proudly the only distributor with AS6081 accreditations across on both sides of the Atlantic. It is a key member of the UK’s Ministry of Defence Anti-Counterfeit Working Group as well as ADS Group, ERAI and the Anti-Counterfeiting Forum.

‘We are the people who keep our customers on the right lines’

“In our business, the majority is high mix, low volume and high complexity,” says Geoff. “You have to recognise there’s long-term platforms and long-term design cycles in the context of a fast-moving technology landscape. If you’re building 50 or a 100, against a market where they might be making 100,000s or millions, it’s hard for manufacturers to get excited over smaller volumes. But it’s critical you continue to get support, so we keep the manufacturer interested and excited, acting as the conduit to make sure that support remains in place. Our goal is to be a technology solutions provider. We’ve added a dozen electronics engineers to advise customers at the design-in stage, providing technology inputs as well as advice on long-term availability. We are the people who help to keep our customers on the right lines.”

‘UK manufacturing – not the cheapest but technologically superior’

What other changes has Geoff seen during the last 30 years? “Innovation is the drive – UK manufacturing may not be the cheapest but you’ll get something technologically superior and we’ll get it to market quicker,” he says. “There’s little advantage to our customers just handling and buying product – they excel at design and marketing. If they want something done, they want it engineered, programmed, modified, kitted or shipped somewhere in specific consignments, Astute is here to help.

“We come in with design-in skills, agility, value, and then when it gets into production we provide efficiencies – vendor reduction, logistics and legislation compliance, which is all part of the complexity of today’s business.” The support goes from cradle to grave, extending throughout the entire product life-cycle to include help with stock management and obsolescence. Astute is an active member of the IIOM (International Institute of Obsolescence Management) and they’ve recently added 19 nitrogen long-term storage cabinets to their Stevenage facility. They can advance purchase on behalf of customers or provide facilities for their existing stock.

‘I wish I was 20 years younger. Everything is so exciting!’

Geoff concludes by saying, “It doesn’t feel like 30 years because I’m so excited about the business – I wish I was 20 years younger! Everything is so exciting – the global stage is available to everybody, perhaps even more so after Brexit – if it happens – and I just think it’s a fantastic time to be in business. I’ve had many years when the industry was up and down, but I now see a hunger for investment and working together. I think the next five years will be the best five years the business has seen.”