The University honours today the life and work of Heinrich (better known as 'Hank') Krabbe. When Hank Krabbe arrived in Ireland to set up Analog Devices Ireland in 1976, the infrastructure and working environment which we now take for granted were still many years away; the weather of course remains the same and Hank's muttered question at that time - "Do the streets ever get dry?" remains as pertinent as ever. Marshall McLuhan once commented that Gutenberg made everybody a reader, Xerox made everybody a publisher. Hank Krabbe saw his task as that of creating a hi-tech infrastructure within the Republic of Ireland, an ambition of similar proportions. The managerial and technological challenges of this project were colossal. The semi-conductor industry was totally new, yet within a short time Hank Krabbe had established the credibility of the Raheen plant; the business quickly and repeatedly exceeded its IDA employment projections.
Hank Krabbe worked long and hard hours in setting up Analog Devices. Not only did he fulfil the management role but he also continued to design circuits himself, almost as a "spare time job". Hank Krabbe is a talented inventor who holds several patents including that of the integrated CMOS D/A converter; his design of the AD7520 remained an industry standard for over ten years. On one occasion Analog were seeking standards approval for their fabrication process and the inspectors requested that a special process monitor circuit be designed and fabricated to prove the process. It normally takes several months to design such a circuit, but Hank could not wait that long. After the inspectors left the factory on Friday afternoon, Hank went home and arrived at the factory early on Monday morning with a completed design. The inspectors who returned later in the week were dumbfounded at the speed at which the circuit had been designed.
Hank Krabbe's vision was centred upon the people who worked at the plant. He liked Ireland, he liked and respected the Irish people and always had kind words for his staff. Operators, managers and engineers alike enjoyed the active, involved style with which Hank supervised the Analog enterprise. The courage which Hank showed in Analog's early days derived from his belief that a dedicated workforce could help to solve the many problems that a new business generates. This business - to build the first semi-conductor fabrication plant complete with its own design centre and marketing wing in a country then lacking wafer fabrication engineers, integrated circuit designers or specialised marketing personnel - appears in retrospect as an impossible dream. Yet Hank Krabbe did it - and also found the time to build a fine organ in his home with which he could entertain both friends and guests.
Another aspect of Hank's character is shown in the care he took to nurture young engineers and engineering students. His commitment to education within the industry led him to participate in the work of the fledgling NIHE (now the University of Limerick) which was then initiating programmes in electronic engineering. Hank Krabbe was a full member of the Course Development Committee for this discipline and his regular contribution to the educational responsibilities associated with the post was much appreciated. Curriculum development, project supervision and the general work of tutoring and mentoring the young were among the tasks which he willingly undertook.
Analog Devices Ireland, noted for the community spirit of its workforce to this day, took much inspiration from Hank's early recognition that the welfare of employees including their social lives and family commitments is of prime importance in team-building. His courteous and friendly personality and great sense of fun gave a human dimension to the company. These personal characteristics, his charismatic leadership and pioneering spirit are among the important reasons that have led to Analog Devices' becoming such an outstanding success.
Through the demonstrated success of Analog Devices in Ireland, the IDA were able to point up the capability of Ireland to sustain high-technology investments. Analog quickly became a show-case for the IDA, not only because of what could be shown "on the ground" but also because of Hank Krabbe's passionate endorsement of Ireland, its emerging infrastructure, and especially its people.
It is fitting that Hank Krabbe, founder of Analog Ireland, be honoured today for his magnificent contribution to the country, to the city and county of Limerick, to the University of Limerick and to the development of Irish industry.