The link men

Distributors are a key part in the implementation chain delivering network products to end users in the region. Cabling-focused distributor Anixter is the one of the largest in the world and has recently ramped up its Middle East efforts. Anixter regional vice president Mike Smith tells all.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  September 17, 2005

|~|Smith,-M_m.jpg|~||~|Distributors are a key part in the implementation chain delivering network products to end users in the region. Cabling-focused distributor Anixter is the one of the largest in the world and has recently ramped up its Middle East efforts. Anixter regional vice president Mike Smith tells all.

Network Middle East: How important is the Middle East to Anixter in the bigger global picture?

Mike Smith: Anixter’s global turnover last year was US$3.5billion and the Middle East region was the biggest arena for growth. It is certainly seeing a lot of investment and attention. The UAE is recognised as the biggest building site in the world, but if you include the whole of the Middle East and the former Soviet countries, there is so much activity. We have to be involved, and specifications and borders are easier to cross when you are a global company. We don’t have the restrictions a lot of companies have. We speak 30 different languages and place great emphasis on technically qualified staff, for example, by supporting BICSI’s registered communications distribution designer (RCDD) qualification.

NME: What expansion has been carried out by Anixter in the last year?

MS: Anixter in the Middle East has been seen as a sleeping giant for a long time and now we have woken up to the fact that there are a lot of opportunities here. To differentiate ourselves from the competition, we needed to make a significant investment in people, premises and inventory.

The first thing we did was increase our storage capacity, we had outgrown our previous building and applied to the Jebel Ali Free Zone to increase our enclosed warehouse space. So what we have got here is four times the space, measuring up to 2,500sq metre’s of enclosed warehouse space, enabling us to efficiently manage every step of the supply chain process. We’ve also taken on 10,000sq metres of open yard space. This currently holds over 2,500 drums of copper power and control cables as well as low and high fibre pair count cabling. Our headcount has grown threefold in the last 12 months, up to 26 people, who are trained and committed to provide innovative and reliable products and services, technical leadership and support. As part of the re-location, we custom-built state of the art office accommodation, training facilities and a demonstration suite.

Our locally held inventory has been increased across the whole scope of our business, so we can sell the value-add solution, which includes power and control cabling, data communications and physical security.

NME: What does this mean to the Middle East customer?

MS: We drive our business with global partners, in fact, some partners who have not been present in the region see Anixter as the vehicle to drive their way in. We’re continually introducing new suppliers and new vendors. Commscope (Systimax) who has partnered Anixter in the Middle East since we arrived, will always remain our number one structured cabling solution, but as the individual country markets diversify, we are bringing in a second structured cabling offering with Panduit.

Anixter has enjoyed a longstanding global relationship with Panduit and we want to leverage this, and other partnerships, to help make the Dubai operation the hub of our business for the Middle East, Africa and former Soviet countries. Panduit is a typical example of a global player that fits the bill with us. They have great breadth of solution from electrical to structured cabling and help us to deliver a complete solution.

NME: Does the expansion allow you to offer new services and extend support?

MS: Whether the customer is a large company with multiple sites across the region, or a small single site business, Anixter’s premier global distribution network can support our product and supply chain services needs anywhere in the world.

NME: We’ve seen your physical expansion plans, but what about vendor partners. Has this changed in the last year?

MS: We’ve deepened relationships with support systems players such as Conteg and APW, who offer flexible and proven cabinet solutions. We have such a large global spend with these companies we can offer flexibility on how the cabinets are presented to the customers. This means we can deliver cabinets flat-packed, and deliver to the site as and when required. This is useful if the building is already up but the cabinet requirements have not been defined or have been overlooked. It’s difficult getting floor mounted cabinets into buildings and much easier if they can be assembled inside.

We’ve also developed our relationship with Channel for outside plant connectivity. This is outside copper and fibre cables, street cabinets for telephony, joints and splices. Channel is a US company and it has a very good name in the sector, with business with Dubai Technology & Media Free Zone (TECOM) in the region. Working in partnerships with the world’s leading manufacturers has always been the philosophy of our company.

NME: Who are your key customers?

MS: Government, oil & gas and the health and financial sectors are all key verticals. One area we intend growing, as they all come in, is global accounts, with companies like Citibank and Morgan Stanley having experience with us in other regions. The fact that we’re here means neither party has to build new relationships. They will expect to see an Anixter-like company in Dubai and that’s what they’ll get.

NME: You mentioned some key markets, how do you tailor solutions to specific verticals?

MS: Take, for example, airports — every country in the region is building new airports or extensions. We have specialists within Anixter who dedicate themselves to airports from security to building management services to infrastructure and power. We have the expertise to incorporate things like airport lighting systems and baggage handling into solutions delivered to the airport contractor or consultant.

NME: What effect does the Proxim acquisition by Terabeam Wireless have on Anixter?

MS: It will take the offering from strength to strength, we have recognised the acquisition globally as a very positive move. When Commscope acquired Systimax, it was already a major player with Anixter, so from our point of view it was very much a transparent situation. We have worked with Terabeam elsewhere in the world and have a strong relationship with Proxim in the Middle East so the transition should be very smooth.

NME: What effect has 10Gigabit Ethernet over copper had on Anixter’s business in the region?

MS: It has been slow to be adopted. The introduction by Systimax and Anixter will take time. We have good examples of how it has been adopted in other parts of EMEA and we can take these success stories to customers here. We’re excited about it and we’ll see some fruits next year for the efforts made this year.

Airports, financial and healthcare institutions and oil and gas companies are potential early adopters. The key is selling the long-term advantages to blue chip companies with money to spend. Innovations take time but companies are crying out for 10Gigabit solutions. Anixter’s Enterprise Cabling Lab is the only UL-certified lab to conduct rigorous independent third party testing of the emerging 10Gigabit copper solutions.

NME: How is eAnixter evolving and how important a sales and support tool is it in the Middle East?

MS: When 80% of your business is done electronically, it proves that this is the way that companies want to work. We use it when selling a commodity not a solution, and when we have supply agreements or fixed pricing for a period of time. When you have sold the service and done all the hard work, eAnixter makes life easy for customers, they can reduce headcount and increases efficiencies. We are one of the top 40 companies in the world in terms of ebusiness and we can take that expertise to clients.||**||

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