TTI’s VP supplier marketing and product management, Lew LaFornara, highlights the unique nature of purchasing connectors.
As a purchasing professional working with a good bill-of-materials, knowing your cost targets and understanding your production schedule, it should be a safe assumption that connector procurement would be relatively straight forward. Ideally, you request multiple quotes, analyze them and award the business, right?
I have spent most of my career preaching ‘connectors are different’. There are literally hundreds of thousands of types, styles and sizes. From inexpensive pins encased in plastic to technically advanced connection systems certified for extreme conditions.
Understandably, engineering will have specified the connector that best fits the application regarding data, signal, power, density, size, weight and much more. However, this can result in a specific part number unique to the application,
This is one way that connectors are different. A high percentage of connectors are customer or application specific and maybe limited to just one or two suppliers. The purchasing challenge of getting product at the targeted cost and in time for the production schedule just got a bit more complicated.
To compound matters, connector manufacturers want to produce a quality product, at the lowest cost and make a profit. This drives them to ‘right size’ their operations: streamlining production; moving to off-shore manufacturing; and maintaining their own just-in-time internal and external supply chains. There is remarkably little room for error. Weather events, unstable political climates, transportation disruptions, labor issues: the list of potentially delaying factors is large.
Connector manufacturers, with their right-sized, limited capacity, are scrambling to meet unexpected growth, causing lead times to double in some cases. Many lead times are now in the 14 to 18-week range with some stretching into the 24 to 28-week range. Twice as long to get connectors than we saw just a few months ago.
Supply chain constraints for some basic raw materials such as resins and some metals are also impacting manufacturers’ ability to support increased demand. Likewise: increased labor costs; benefit and medical expenses; capacity expansion or plant moves/consolidation; new product development; and technology advancements are adding cost to connector manufacturers and are leading to price increases.
These challenges are all excellent reasons to have a solid relationship with an authorized distributor. At TTI our value proposition is to maintain ‘available to sell’ inventory and have enough product in the pipeline to act as a buffer to upstream delivery and pricing issues. We are often not only our suppliers’ top performing distributor, but also one of their largest customers. Our purchasing power and business model aids them in maintaining efficient production levels, reserves our place in production schedules, and ensures that our customers have supply when lead times move out.
One way to overcome these challenges is working with an inventory management specialist to create a custom supply chain program. This uses your forecast data and supplies the connectors you need, when and where you need them. Your reserved orders are protected.