We all love that feeling when a great new design is being finalized. You’re probably busy making last minute adjustments to your routing and compiling deliverables for your manufacturer. Once you send your design off to your board house, you get that dreaded call, where an engineer tells you a critical component has gone obsolete, can’t be sourced, and other components carry 3-month minimum lead times.
In a complex component supply chain management environment, this situation is all too common. You’re then left spending hours redesigning your product and changing your layout to accommodate replacement components. The smart electronics engineer will do their due diligence before they start a new design by taking a look at sources for their desired components. If you have access to supply chain information early in the design process, you can take an active role in component supply chain management. Here’s how you can use a parts aggregator service to get ahead of supply chain volatility and find the component data you need.
Component Supply Chain Management Tasks
There are some important tasks involved in component supply chain management in any industry. Electronics design teams can fall victim to the same volatility and component shortages as other organizations if they don’t take an active role in supply chain management. Having visibility into the supply chain is critical as it allows a design team or manufacturer to anticipate component availability rather than react to it. Here are some tips electronics engineers can use for successful component supply chain management:
Get Involved Early
This is arguably the most important part of supply chain management. Getting information early and planning around supply chain realities is preferable to finishing a design with unsourceable components. Rather than waiting until the end of the design phase, look at component stocks, obsolescence, and lead times early. You can avoid an unnecessary redesign when you access this data early in the design phase.
Shop Around for the Best Deal
Large component manufacturers use verified distributors and distributors will compete to offer the best price for a given minimum order quantity (MOQ). If you have access to a complete set of supply chain data, you can easily compare prices and MOQs from distributors. You’ll be able to properly budget your component costs for the size of your fabrication run. You can also identify unauthorized distributors, which helps you avoid sourcing counterfeit components.
Plan Around Lead Times and Lifecycles
There are times where stocks for desired components are low, but the components are still in production. Pay attention to lead times for these components as significant stocks may be available by the time you send your board out for fabrication. Once you identify candidate distributors for sourcing, you can contact them directly to get a better sense of lead times and their capacity to fill your potential need.
Components also periodically go obsolete and even completely out of production. If you’re producing a new product and you want to remain on the cutting edge, you should use components with the longest possible lifecycle to ensure your product has the longest relevant lifetime. If you can see obsolescence information early, you can locate suitable replacement components and prevent a redesign before manufacturing.
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Replacements and Mix Components
There are times where you need to mix-and-match some components in order to produce your design at quantity. Passives are one class of components that are ripe for replacements in the event your desired components can’t be located. As an example, you can swap resistors in your design with alternatives that have the same footprint and higher power rating. You might pay a few cents more per resistor, but you decrease the overall lead time for your new boards, allowing you to fill customer orders faster.
Similarly, many ICs have several variants with the same footprints, but the variant components include or omit some extra features you don’t need. You can certainly mix these component variants in a fabrication run. You may see a cost reduction by including these alternatives in your component mix.
Get the Information You Need for Supply Chain Management
When you need to get component supply chain management information, there are a few resources available:
- Distributor websites
- Manufacturer websites
- Subscription supply chain management services
- Electronic components data aggregators and search engines
Among these different options, the first two will give you a real-time view of a distributor’s component stocks, prices, lead times, and MOQs. You’ll also be able to see some alternatives and filter through different component specifications. The downside is you have to manually browse and compare multiple distributors as part of component supply chain management. In addition, not all distributor websites will provide component models, forcing you to create components from your datasheets.
Subscription services are a mixed bag. Some of these subscription services are not specialized in the electronics industry, putting you at risk of getting incorrect information. They may also only work with select suppliers, giving you an incomplete view of the components supply chain. Worse yet, they may not work with all authorized distributors, especially for specialty parts, putting you at risk of counterfeiting. These services may not provide component models for your parts, leaving you to continue searching the web for components.
When you use a parts aggregator service like Ultra Librarian, you’ll have immediate access to component supply chain management information alongside verified component models for use in popular ECAD applications. You’ll have access to supply chain data from a range of verified worldwide distributors. Finally, you’ll have access to verified CAD models provided directly from manufacturers, which reduces your design time and risk.
Supply chain management for electrical parts and components never becomes an obsolete process; however, utilizing Ultra Librarian helps create ease of resource management in your design flow. Working with Ultra Librarian sets up your team for success to ensure any design is going through production and validation with accurate models and footprints to work from, as well as up-to-date supplier information. Register today for free!