The changing face

Today’s distributor must be all things to all buyers most of whom are looking to drive down supply chain costs by identifying the perfect channel partner. General Manager, Arrow UK, Dean Hassell, explains Distribution has become an increasingly important element of the electronics industry supply chain in recent years. This is in part thanks to the growing number of small- and medium-sized design houses and OEMs; partly because suppliers of components and platform-level products recognise that distributors can help them realise ever greater operational efficiencies; and also because distributors continue to evolve and increase the services they offer. The current economic climate is making customers and suppliers alike seek to drive down supply chain costs by evaluating and identifying channel partners that are best-placed to meet their needs.

Customers looking to make the most of already-stretched resources while preparing to capitalise on the upturn are looking to minimise the number of companies they do business with. As a result, they are seeking distribution partners that can provide the widest range of products in the most economic fashion, along with additional services that will minimise time-to-market and ensure ease of product manufacture. At the same time, distributors that can combine efficient logistics operations with engineering support, design-in capabilities and other value-added services can help suppliers rationalise the number of companies they deal with and allow them to redeploy their own internal resources in ways that will make a bigger impact to their business.

Critical to the success of the distribution model, of course, is the need to ensure that the relevant products, support and services offered are available to the customer at a local level. For a distributor such as Arrow, this means combining all of the benefits that accrue from dealing with a global organisation including access to a broad range of technologies from leading suppliers; services that help mitigate against price and supply fluctuations; and global multi-regional engineering resources with deliverables that are carefully matched to regional requirements.

Take the UK as an example. Here, the electronics industry is largely made up of small- and medium-sized businesses, many of which are start-ups or developing companies with key competencies in fields such as automotive design, lighting, military and aerospace, medical equipment and security. To successfully address the needs of these customers, a distributor must have both the application-specific knowledge and the products to target these vertical sectors as well as the infrastructure to deliver anywhere in the country. In Arrows case, this has prompted investment in resources to support vertical application sectors and the launch of Arrow Advantage. This sales channel is dedicated to serving the needs of purchasers and design engineers in start-up organisations, emerging companies and UK SMEs.

In addition to meeting local requirements, it is important to recognise that a growing number of customers are working across geographic boundaries. It is only natural for those companies to expect consistency from a distribution partner in all the regions where they operate whether that means the same suppliers on the linecard, consistently high levels of technical support, or access to the same portfolio of supply chain services. A global distributor is well-placed to provide high levels of consistency across multiple regions.

ArrowEDGE, for example, provides customers with early exposure to the latest products and technologies of relevance to their particular application areas. This program, which is being rolled out across Europe, offers a consistent set of deliverables across all countries. These include technical training at customer premises, supply of practical design and application collateral and the availability of development tools. Furthermore, ArrowEdge is a closed loop process, providing a mechanism, via Arrow, for customer feedback to reach the manufacturer. This is used to further ongoing technology developments, which, in turn, delivers benefits for the customer, the supplier and the distribution channel.