Distributors of electronic products and systems have to do a lot more than stock a large range of components if they want to succeed in the battle for global orders. Electronic Design Europe looks at opinions from two experienced managers of distribution companies and what services they think should be provided to electronic design engineers.
How Important Is Design Support?
Dave Mellor, Cyntech Components
Choosing the best electromechanical component for an application can be the biggest headache for electronics designers. Choosing the right power supply is probably a close second.
It’s not like choosing semiconductors or passive components, where physical and electrical specifications often conform to pre-defined standards, parts from different suppliers are frequently interchangeable, and technical data and advice are available from a host of sources through a simple Internet search.
With the exception of some connectors, electromechanical products don’t conform to many standards. In fact, electronic enclosures and front panels often need to be unique to add user appeal to the end product.
And with each unique electronic enclosure or panel comes the challenge of finding the most suitable electromechanical components to use with it. The technology of switches, connectors, and panel displays may not change at the pace of semiconductors, but their sheer variety adds to the complexity of product selection.
The operating life of these components is another critical consideration. Mechanical movement creates wear, and there’s no avoiding it. Electromechanical parts, then, usually will determine the reliability and operating life of the end products.
The most appropriate switch, connector, or enclosure cannot be determined simply by its electrical characteristics or shape and size. A detailed understanding of the application, and the operating environment of the end equipment, is important in product selection.
Specialist distributors and manufacturers’ representatives are good sources of advice for hard-pressed design engineers looking for the right electromechanical parts. A phone call or meeting can often save days of Internet searches in finding the right component for the application where such a myriad of choice exists.
Right-Sizing Is Key To Finding The Right Distributor
John Macmichael, Solid State Supplies
Most component manufacturers rely heavily on distribution partners to create demand for their products. It’s therefore vital for distributors to be able to demonstrate strong technical capabilities and good relationships with their customers’ design teams to win franchises in the first place.
After the deal is signed, the real challenge for component makers is to ensure that they have enough share-of-mind within their distributors to get the design-in work done. It’s fine for a world-leading semiconductor brand whose business may become critically important for a major broadline distributor.
Such companies command attention throughout the supply chain. But what if you’re a specialist semiconductor producer, either in terms of technology or the markets you serve? If you’re not a distributor’s top 10 supplier, its primary focus is likely to be elsewhere. Right-sizing is key.
Design engineers know this to be true. Larger distributors cannot be specialists in everything. Solid State Supplies focuses on high-reliability and embedded markets. In the first, design support is linked closely to supply-chain management.
We are not only called upon to advise on technical aspects of products from companies such as International Rectifier and Microsemi, but also on defense standards, how to avoid counterfeits, the opportunities for cost reduction using commercial parts, and the component screening requirements of some projects.
In the embedded market, engineers and buyers know the names of the established microcontroller manufacturers. Here, we’re helping engineers to find and understand products from new, innovative yet perhaps not such high-profile companies.
Whether you make components, design with them, or buy them, right-sizing is key to finding a distributor that adds value.