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Strategic Outsourcing of Metrology and Characterization

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Craig Hunter

By Craig Hunter

Chief Executive Officer

Craig founded Covalent and is CEO. He initially worked in corporate development, finance and strategy, with stints as an M&A banker on Wall Street and as CFO of a small consumer products company. He rediscovered his Silicon Valley roots in 2003, taking a business strategy role at the display division of Applied Materials. In 2005, Craig became founding General Manager and later Managing Director of Applied Materials’ solar PV factory product (“SunFab”). He joined Sequoia Capital in 2008 as an entrepreneur-in-residence focused on renewable energy technologies, and the next year he joined Intermolecular (NASDAQ:IMI) to establish and lead that company’s clean energy technology group.

Craig received a A.B. in East Asian Studies from Harvard College and graduated with high distinction from Harvard Business School.

Strategic Outsourcing of Metrology and Characterization

My job provides ample opportunity to speak with engineers, managers, and company leaders about their imaging, measurement, and characterization needs. After doing so for the past seven years, I can report confidently that very few companies have a deliberate, well-thought-out strategy for this critical corporate function.

Over the next several weeks, we will release a series of four short articles that aim to help you elevate your metrology and characterization capabilities by dramatically improving your outsourcing strategy.

These installments will be published as follows:

  1. Tips for Improving Your “Buy vs. Build” Analysis
  2. Understanding the Testing, Inspection, Certification & Compliance (TICC) Industry – and Why It Matters
  3. 5 Common Outsourcing Mistakes
  4. Special Outsourcing Considerations for Start-ups

Through the course of these articles, I will make the case that:

  1. Outsourcing can accelerate new technology development and increase the odds of a successful outcome. 
  2. However, strategic outsourcing requires careful thought and consideration.
  3. Investing in fewer, deeper outsourcing relationships at the enterprise level yields better results and return-on-investment.
  4. Companies generally don’t consider how their outsourcing data integrates with their overall data strategy, but they should.

Covalent recently updated and publicly launched our Ionic Membership Program. We see this as the logical next phase in the evolution of our strategy and service offerings: an operationalized program to best address the needs of customers who are ready to implement a thoughtful, strategic approach to using external service labs.

The concept of Membership for an outsourced analytical lab seems to be a novel one, though I don’t really understand why. It just makes sense. Membership represents a step away from person-to-person, transactional outsourcing and towards development of a genuine business-to-business partnership. We are striving to contribute to our customers’ materials science innovation in ways that are simply not possible in a data-only, transactional exchange. With the introduction of this new program, we are betting that the cost of providing special benefits to our Ionic Members (faster turnaround time, reduced pricing, extra technical support) will be more than repaid through deeper, more valuable relationships.

We get a wide variety of samples from hundreds of companies across dozens of industries and applications. While each customer has their own individual motivation for seeking our assistance, customers extracting the greatest value from their Covalent engagements are those who work closely with us to accelerate and improve their product development outcomes – from R&D to prototyping, to manufacturing and yield enhancement, all the way to predictive and reactive failure analysis.

 “working with engineers to collaboratively solve technology and development problems… requires relentless focus on speed, high degrees of applied expertise and advanced problem-solving skills, as well as consistent outstanding communication”

Craig Hunter, Chief Executive Officer, Covalent Metrology

In the world of testing and external lab services, working with engineers to collaboratively solve technology and development problems is, I would argue, the most demanding service to provide.  Doing it well requires relentless focus on speed, high degrees of applied expertise and advanced problem-solving skills, as well as consistent outstanding communication. Our Digital Platform and the Ionic Membership Program are both intended to complement our team and our culture, all coming together in our efforts to advance the state of the industry for engineers needing help. Helping customers succeed in their amazing (and amazingly difficult) technology development initiatives is why we are here. I look forward to exploring this topic more fully in the coming weeks, and I hope you will find these articles constructive as you look to more effectively leverage outsourcing in your overall technology development efforts.