Second sourcing power supplies

Fidus steps readers through reasons why they may choose to seek alternative parts

Securing multiple sources for power supplies is a good idea given the challenges of late. In the competitive market of standard pin outs and form factors there are often a number of alternative parts that could be exchanged like-for-like and pin-for-pin, particularly regarding DC/DC converters. Brands often use the same manufacturer and, apart from the part number and brand, the parts are identical.

So, why second source? Reasons include: lead time flexibility; driving competitive pricing; increasing purchasing potential (multiple credit accounts to promote cash flow); and reducing risk.

Currently, many manufacturers have extended lead times from six to eight weeks, to sixteen to twenty six weeks or longer. However, some solutions can still be obtained within six to eight weeks, with samples within one week. Keep your sourcing options open and search for alternatives. 

Pandemic aside, there are global shortages of ICs, diodes and MOSFET switches resulting in manufacturing slowdowns. Should your existing supplier be unable to deliver, supply chain options could be crucial to output and jobs.

If alternatives are evenly matched (or even made in the same factory) the buyer is then in the driving seat for getting the best bargain. Naturally, product is not everything and the overall supply experience should be considered including technical support, service, delivery times and consignment stock holding. All play essential roles in the sourcing experience. Being transparent with costs and commercial arrangements will ensure all similar suppliers will keep a ‘sharp pencil’ on their terms.

Focussing on cash flow, particularly this year regarding troublesome sourcing for multiple system elements, unforeseen delays between invoicing of various parts may mean suppliers’ invoicing can arrive many months before a system is built, dispatched and invoiced.

When it comes to risk, companies can be sold, supply agreements ended, products go end-of-life or lack upgrades to the latest approvals your product requires. Some alternatives are safety critical elements of a system (usually components offering electrical isolation from hazardous sources of energy) which is most certainly any AC/DC converter. 

Equipment’s design phase is the perfect opportunity for qualifying multiple safety critical elements, since these will affect the end product’s CE marking and type test approvals which cannot be changed without a great deal of testing and reapproving. Options can be progressed in parallel to invest in secure second source alternatives should they be required in the future.