Most catalogues are a guide to what’s in stock at a given moment. Few forecast the long term availability of what’s on display, but that’s exactly what buyers need to know, explains Anglia‘s David Pearson
The job of a design department is to create a design that works and then provide purchasing with a list of the components that they have included in that design, popularly known as the bill of materials or BoM. Sounds simple, but what if purchasing can’t source the parts on the BoM?
Designers often source devices from catalogue distribution to build the prototype. Most current catalogues, whether printed or online, are a guide to what that distributor has in stock at that moment in time. Few forecast what might be in stock in six months’ time when volume production starts, let alone to what might continue to be available in years to come as production continues.
For specific ‘design-in’ parts, normally the high value system-on-a-chip semiconductors, the design team will engage with field application engineers. Through this route, they will find out which are the preferred parts in a range and which are likely to be subject to design changes or even obsolescence in the near future.
Of course, the design team hasn’t got the time to have this engagement for every single one of the hundreds of the components on the board. If a simple pull-up resistor is made obsolete, it is normally possible to source a replacement, though even that is likely to be time consuming and in cases of safety-critical systems may mean undergoing some formal or informal qualification processes. If a drop in replacement isn’t available, however, then redesign will be required, which may mean temporary withdrawal of the product if it has gone to market, or a delay in market entry if it hasn’t.
Until now, Anglia believes there were no suppliers that would ship small quantities of a comprehensive range of components quickly and provide a reliable guide to long term availability at that stage. Most online component sites are geared to the maintenance and repair market, which needs a device now and isn’t overly concerned with availability in the future. The design engineer also needs a component now to finish that prototype as soon as possible, but also needs to know how long that component is likely to be available.
Visibility is vital
That gap has been filled with the launch of www.anglia-live.com, an electronic component site aimed at engineers designing for mass production. It is a service that allows customers to take projects seamlessly from embryonic design to volume production. Anglia Live customers are only offered parts recommended for new designs, are given full visibility of current and projected stock levels and any product change or termination notifications (PCN / PTN) issued by the supplier. Designers using parts from the site can generate a bill of materials that their purchasing department can source in volume with a single phone call.
Without this service, purchasing departments are left with the inevitable dilemma. When a component becomes hard or expensive to source, do they bounce the BoM back to the design team and ask them to design out the part, which can be costly and time-consuming. Or do they source the part, perhaps at a premium price, from non-preferred suppliers such as the grey market and hope for the best?