James Truchard, president and CEO of National Instruments heralded the recurring theme of European automotive excellence when he said, “Companies in the German automotive space are very focused on next-generation embedded design and we have been doing quite a lot of work in areas like hardware in the loop but also in testing and in big physics applications like Cyclatron.”
Truchard (left) elaborated: “Starting from the late 1980s, we have deployed engineers all over Europe and this has now extended into Eastern Europe. These have to be technical people who can help the customer get started in designing a system.”
“European sales represent 29 percent of our business now. We have gotten involved with some big projects like Airbus and in CERN. Being a US based-company has not proved to be a barrier. Differentiated products make a big difference.”
He stressed the importance of diversifying “locally” rather than “moving from Western Europe to the Far East or Eastern Europe.” Truchard said, “We have been able to replace this business with emerging areas of technology like nanotechnology and life sciences, companies working on drug discovery and bimedical applications.” As a result, NI has been able in the last year to increase its business in Europe by 14 percent in terms of U.S. dollars.
As a company that sells its products and services directly in most geographies, NI can track business as it moves around the globe. “We can also make local European companies more productive and hopefully keep more business local. If you can do a process with less labor you can compete. Our tools are aimed at making people more productive. This will make companies more competitive.”
NI has a development center in Germany, based on an acquisition in the late 1990s, that provides software and services to the automotive industry. “The bulk of our manufacturing is now in Hungary and we have a small operation in Romania. Development is also done in China and India but the bulk is done in Austin, Texas. We have been very happy with the results of the move to production in Hungary, we have got very good labor and are often listed as one of the top employers in the area. It has been very a good financial win for us. I am certainly a fan of Eastern Europe.”
Truchard also believes it is important to have people close to the development areas. “In things like automotive, some of the technologies like buses tend it to be regionally specific,” he noted. “So having local support is desirable.”
Lately, there is a feelgood factor about Europe in general. “We tend to track the JP Morgan Industrial Production Index,” said Truchard. “It has been positive about Europe recently, more positive than it has been about the U.S.”
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