Crunch Time for Time to Market
Looking for replacement parts is straining, even during calm times. If things heat up and production disruptions loom on the horizon, this task gets really complicated. Online sourcing and replacement search engines come to rescue.
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These are unique times in the history of supply chain management, the crunch in time to market is clear and visible, but it does not necessarily relate to overall supply. And guess what? Switching cost and supplier assessment is a process of the past.
The begin of the pandemic outbreak of Sars-CoV-2, often referred to as „Corona Virus“, which started with cancelled tradeshows and finally stopped business travel, first felt like a small bump on a sales agents' road. Most thought that there might be an easy recovery in the long term and considered it as an insignificant reduction to sales. But as time moved forward and the epidemic became more global, it is obvious that shortages in supply and an interruption of the supply chain are inevitable.
Apple was one of the first to admit and foresee production disruption, but it is definitely not the only one that takes lead-time as a main cause for awaiting demand in the market into account. Risk management best practices are put to test and evangelists are able to easily claim a significant win to the assertion that risk management is the key for just in time methodologies.
Supply chain interruptions drive costs
More importantly, this crunch time will not necessarily mean material costs rise sharply, contrary to what deeply felt three years ago. Three years ago, as consumer confidence peaked, we experienced an excess demand from the market with inventories being still relatively dry from the financial crisis, which led to increased prices dramatically in the electronic components sourcing market.
But at this period of Sars-CoV-2 virus grabbing world supply chains in a shock, there is still significant supply out there. Companies are willing to absorb short-term costs and wish to secure future growth.
So the cost and speed shifts elsewhere, to a different link in the chain. Where it shows up is actually in switching costs. Usually switching costs are high due to necessary lab measurements, to manufacturer evaluation processes that vary, but most importantly to the time needed to evaluate and cross reference down to a pin to pin level.
As engineers sit at home, test- and measurement facilities sit idle and the cost of a replacement is mounting because of disruption from a day to day business conduct. We are receiving first signs that a manufacturer switching and shifting demand to alternative sources will not be subject to major price increase. Suppliers wish to remain active and cut on sunk costs related to disruption in sales, cancelled trade shows etc. Finding new clients now is gold, especially if they come for free with an online platform replacing the business-to-business salesman.
An online platform comes to the rescue
The issue is lead time, starting mainly in the design phase, so transfer between suppliers and securing your continuous flow of materials can dramatically deliver superior results. This is why Sourcingbot, the provider of an online sourcing and replacement search engine tries to compare parts based on real physical lab-measured data, driving switching costs down to almost zero.
Depending on the product category, Sourcingbot conducts enough tests across five to ten key parameters to make sure their numbers are accurate. Plans are in place to measure parts from all major manufacturers and 14 major ones like Bourns, Murata, TDK and many more are already measured. The results are displayed in a table, giving also the variation to the datasheet in percent for quick and easy judging (picture 1).
In a next step, all measured data is visualized in several graphs and charts. All operating points taken are added and can be actively viewed by pointing with the mouse to them. Each product category has its own main parameter characteristics, usually between three and four charts are shown (picture 2).
Data sheet values are combined with lab measurements
Sourcingbot can offer all necessary product data from one source online and combines it with real live lab measurements and automatic charting/curve comparison. This reduces test- and evaluation time dramatically and lowers component or supplier switching cost.
It is not just about presenting part specifications. It is about making sure that the limitations of a developer’s design are reflected in the search results. Sourcingbot knows very well that a bigger diameter could interfere with a product’s case size, as well as that higher current ratings are okay when searching for inductors. No other system knows this, no search engine such as Google knows that.
To further enhance this step, Sourcingbot added the next generation similar-/product replacement algorithm. With the help of all the functions just described, the company added to the electrical functions also the most common dimensional parameter and combined everything into a unique similar product / replacement routine which enables the most advanced second sourcing capability to the industry.
Originally intended for capacitors, semiconductors will be included soon
Initially Sourcingbot started their search queries around the question: “Tell us what inductor, capacitor or resistor is currently on your PCB and we will find you a replacement or alternatives”. With the new capability Sourcingbot takes a customer’s pre-design intentions and delivers a result set that is unique and takes into account tens of technical parameters. As the data is really numeric it is finally enabling cross brand comparisons that rely on technical specifications and dimensions and not just prices.
Sourcingbot is all about product data, this is why they invest the majority of their time to prepare electronic component specifications for engineers to investigate, compare and design.
In the past two years, Sourcingbot has developed a roadmap to provide customers with reliable and comparable data. Initially those capabilities were rolled out on passive components, then moved to connectors and will later this year include semiconductors like memories, power converters and others.