Editorial Article from Sebastien Dignard: Why Sony’s CCD EOL Shows Their Best-in-Class ‘Customer First’ Mind-Set

A few weeks ago, on a flight from Montreal to Newark, I noticed that the business class cabin was filled with Air Canada employees, while the Premium Economy seats were taken by Super Elite clients who were audibly upset with the fact that they didn’t receive their upgrade due to staff. I sat there wondering: should I be impressed with the way Air Canada treated their employees or should I be concerned with the way Air Canada treated their best customers?

My meeting in New York was with a sensor customer on the transition path from CCD to the latest Sony CMOS imaging technology. I couldn’t help but think of how Sony Semiconductor had handled the End of Life (EOL) of their CCD sensor line. For me, this was a great example of how a company truly lives a best-in-class, ‘customer first’ approach and culture, while other companies are content with it just being mentioned on websites and in annual reports but in reality, their customers take a back seat.

In 2014, Sony was forced to execute on the EOL of its widely successful CCD product line due to a raw material shortage. They could have simply passed on all associated cost and risks, but they decided to extend their EOL process by a full 10 years and aligned customers with a non-committal forecast. They didn’t have to do that. Financially and logistically, it made no sense. They were the market leader and already had an alternative CMOS technology available. Most electronics companies simply provide a few months’ notice for EOL’s. Can you imagine the financial cost of carrying hundreds of millions of unsecured inventories? Or even the cost and trouble associated with maintaining the technology know-how for support?

It made sense for one reason, and one reason only. The customer. They did what had to be done to protect their customers, even if it would cost them a great deal. Customers were now able to build reliable transition plans within a ten-year-window. In the high end-industrial or medical business with certification processes and long-term design-ins, this is crucial. Sony also took on the capital risk, allowing customers to use the money they normally had to spend in EOL stock, and invest it in product innovation based on cutting-edge CMOS. We see a tipping point on how new imaging applications are being developed. Part of this is that the Sony EOL forced customers to focus on the future. People had to invest to push their business forward. Bankrolled by Sony, they “covered” their customers back with a non-committed forecast and sensor availability for five to ten years. Customers could now start immediately making sure to innovate with new technology and develop new markets. Thinking about autonomous vehicles or embedded vision, Sony’s decision was pushing the whole industry forward and did wonders on everything tied to hardware, innovation and cognitive systems - vision is now in places where it’s never been before. That’s a great story on how a big decision by a major corporation has enabled the industry to push forward.

FRAMOS, a Sony partner for over 34 years, is very happy and proud to be aligned with a company that is truly customer focused. This culture is very important to us as we work together to make the world a better place by building machines that see and think.

As President of FRAMOS Technologies Inc based in Ottawa and Global Head of Sales, and Marketing of the FRAMOS Group based in Munich; Sebastien is responsible for growing all aspects of FRAMOS’ business. With his clear vision and power, he is an leader of the whole vision industry. Follow Seb's profile on LinkedIn.

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