Not only do circuit boards and electronics have to work properly, but they also have to be delivered in a timely manner. Unfortunately, there are component availability issues that can set your development back and may even threaten your ability to deliver on schedule to your customers. This is why the importance of PCB component sourcing can not be overstated. Today, most component procurement is B2B, and it is imperative that you understand the electronic components supply chain and how to mitigate its challenges to security and reliability.
What Comprises an Electronic Components Supply Chain?
The process which enables you to acquire the passive and/or active components needed for your design is not a simple one. On the contrary, the electronic components supply chain consists of a series of steps, as shown in the figure below.
Steps of an electronic components supply chain
Electronics components originate with the parts manufacturer, who may be the B2B component supplier shown in the figure above. In most cases, however, components are available online from distributors that stock parts from large numbers of manufacturers. Not surprisingly, this point of origin into the electronic components supply chain is also the most vulnerable. However, once procured, it is likely that parts will successfully make their way onto boards and ultimately to the end-user. To ensure this happens, it is necessary to know just what the threats to the supply chain are.
The Major Threats to Your B2B Components Supply Chain
It is estimated that active electronic component sales were approximately 273.7 billion USD in 2020. A market this size is a target for many unscrupulous characters, many of which try to gain entry into various electronic components supply chains by selling and distributing inferior parts. Unfortunately, these incursions are too often successful and necessitate measures to identify and avoid counterfeits.
Apart from counterfeit components, other uncontrollable factors can upset a supply chain. In fact, as evidenced from the global manufacturing shutdowns and travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, supply chains can be disrupted by seemingly unrelated events. More conventional threats also can severely hamper your ability to develop PCBAs, such as shortages and obsolescence.
PCBA development typically begins with a development stage where a prototype is designed and refined until a production-ready revision is achieved that satisfies performance objectives and can be built with a low probability of failing the manufacturing process or a high yield rate. During this iterative process, a limited number of boards are made, and subsequently, the number of required components is modest compared to what is necessary for full production. Therefore, a design may be finalized and moved to higher volume manufacturing without an adequate number of parts being available. Shortages of this type can severely impact the electronic components supply chain and may cause repercussions such as redesign, increased costs, and significant time delays.
Virtually all component life cycles follow a Gaussian distribution format. During introduction, the number of manufactured parts is small and availability is low. Once adopted by designers and OEMs, production continuously increases until a peak is reached. As newer components are developed and technology advances, utilization and demand falls and eventually the part will become obsolete. Including obsolete components in your design is risky and can be a costly error with consequences similar to those for component shortages. Therefore, you should always design with the security of your electronic components supply chain in mind.
How to Ensure Electronic Components Supply Chain Security
The security of the components supply chain should be a prominent consideration for designs. The type of board and its intended application are important factors that should inform your component selection decisions.
Essentials for a Secure Electronic Components Supply Chain
✅ Use real-time availability data
✅ Weigh the risks of using obsolete components
✅ Select components from a trusted source
✅ Order from reliable suppliers
✅ Verify component authenticity
✅ If possible, buy in bulk
It is not possible to eliminate all risk from your electronic components supply chain, however, by incorporating the essentials above the probability that you will fall victim to a breach or have your development delayed is minimized. Another good idea is to anticipate quantities you will need and buy in bulk. However, the most important factor is your source and the availability of real-time reliable data on which to make your selection.
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