TDK’s UK factory in Ilfracombe, Devon, was built in 1966 for Coutant Electronics, part of Unitech holdings, a financial operation formed in the 1960s to help fledgling electronics companies. Unitech acquired the Lambda group of companies to become Coutant-Lambda. Unitech sold out to CB plc and became Invensys, who decided power was a non-core business and in 2005 the business was acquired by TDK who had a small power business of its own but were interested in Lambda’s strength in Japan.
“It’s interesting to see how the landscape has changed since Countant and Lambda,” said Martin Southam, marketing manager for TDK-Lambda Europe. “Most of the other competitors have disappeared one way or another and to a certain extent the US power industry was dominant but much less now and there are fewer indigenous suppliers.”
Commoditisation and consolidation are key drivers for the current power market.
“On one level power is core to every design but I think it’s fair to say it is commoditising quite rapidly in one way or another,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure on costs and the returns aren’t as great as perhaps they are in the software divisions of the same companies.”
As a result the power business at TDK is partitioned between industrial and automotive applications. “We are predominantly focussed in industrial and medical with a separate automotive divisions with DC-DC converters for electric vehicles,” said Southam. “They are different businesses, there’s relatively few customers in automotive and the challenges of designing for that environment are very different, compared to a largely distribution business, so it makes sense to keep it separate.”