Why Quectel is enabling R&D closer to the customer
The pace of IoT development means that even in a global industry, being geographically close to customers is essential. Having the capability to respond rapidly to customer needs is reliant on having presence in the same time-zone and with a common language. Functions such as rapid prototyping and software and antenna customisation can be handled by quickly by regional research and development centers, streamlining processes and eliminating delays associated with shipping and communication, writes Neset Yalcinkaya, the Vice President of Products and General Manager of the North America R&D Center at Quectel Wireless Solutions.
Quectel has foreseen this requirement to support customers with testing and debugging and local customisation capabilities and we have been expanding our R&D outside of our three large facilities in China. Last year, we launched our European R&D Center in Belgrade, Serbia, and we have recently opened our new North America R&D Center in Vancouver, Canada. We chose Vancouver because we already have a base for field application engineers in the city who are very happy and contented.
In addition, many of our customers are concentrated on the west coast of North America extending down to the Silicon Valley. It was logical to place our R&D Center in the same time zone from which we can serve all the Americas. In addition, Vancouver is an attractive place to live with an excellent skills base which is continually added to by the British Colombia Institute of Technology (BCIT) – one of the highest-ranked universities in the world. There are many other high-tech companies in the area so it’s a great environment to be a technology professional.
We also found that Chinese employees are happy to relocate to Canada and find the immigration process simpler. A further advantage is that Peter Fowler, our Senior Vice President for North America, lives just over the US border, in driving distance from the R&D Center. In fact, Peter uses Vancouver as his nearest long-haul airport.
Our approach has been to start small and focus on the tasks our North American customers need us to perform locally. We don’t, for example, have equipment such as anechoic chambers which we do have in our R&D Centers in China. This is because we can send this work to headquarters facilities and focus on the customisation and, in future, prototyping work to provide our customers on the west coast with an even faster response than usual.
When starting a new R&D Center it’s important to grow organically and we will add more people as the business grows and we receive more customisation requests from customers. The idea is not to recruit people in bulk but to carefully train them in Quectel’s technologies, processes, and approaches to customer service. If you recruit a team from other vendors, they won’t have that ethos. We have very sophisticated customers with demanding needs so we may decide to expand our capabilities to support them in areas such as antenna design or equipment for prototyping to eradicate the delay involved in shipping these from makers in China or Taiwan.
The great thing about having this regional capability is we can serve customers rapidly but also collaborate with headquarters R&D when we need additional scale. Equally, headquarters can use our capabilities when very fast turnaround is needed for a local customer. Communication is essential to the process of R&D so having everyone speak the same language and no 15-hour time lag is critical to ensuring customers have a good experience and understanding of everything that Quectel can do for them.