Keeping the lines running

LCL’s purchasing manager, Richard Langham

LCL’s recently appointed purchasing manager, Richard Langham, explains how the purchasing department keeps the manufacturing lines running during these challenging times

Richard Langham started his electronics industry career in April 2022 as a component buyer for LCL Electronics Assembly. It quickly became clear Richard had joined the industry during a period of unprecedented supply issues with normal lead-times around 52-weeks and exceptional lead-times exceeding two-years.

Richard said: “At LCL the majority of our customers don’t have the luxury of placing two year schedules as their business is dynamic which often means delivering product within eight to twelve-weeks. This means I have to work fast and smart to secure components to ensure I help keep production running.

“The way we achieve this is by following three main steps. Firstly, every new order is re-sourced and components double checked for availability and current pricing before we accept the order. Secondly, we review all hard-to-find components with our engineering team to identify drop-in alternatives or alternatives that only require minor redesigns to achieve required deliveries. All of which we do in partnership with our customers. Thirdly, we constantly manage our order book. It is too easy to sit back and assume the orders I place will turn up on time and everything will be fine.”

However, unforeseen problems can occur. To help manage this, LCL’s management team holds a meeting each morning to discuss the current status of all orders. These meetings cover hard-to-find components and shortages on upcoming jobs and the team works to find solutions.

Richard continued: “I was introduced to a number of search engines which take a lot of the legwork out of sourcing and find netComponents by far the best. It doesn’t have all the answers but helps to identify potential stock or which markets and distribution channels may have inventory.

“The majority of my spend is currently with the catalogue companies, without who my job would have almost been impossible. Obviously they don’t have stock of everything, but between them I can generally get hold of around 80 per cent of each customer’s BOMs and whilst pricing can move almost daily in this market, I have found them to be very consistent.

“Larger franchise distributors have little free stock and what product is available on more sensible lead times has large MOQs and NCNR agreements attached to them. However, I have found the smaller independent distributors have been much more flexible and proactive in offering alternative solutions and overall, a lot more customer focused. I have also found it to be invaluable to have a strong relationship with a broker that can provide both quality product and a reliable service.”

During the last six months LCL has designed several new products. A key consideration is part availability, which has made purchasing much easier. This lets Richard go to manufacturers and distributors with advanced orders to secure stock and ensure the new products are delivered on time.

Richard concluded: “Do not be scared to ask questions, knowledge is invaluable to help understand the vast spectrum of  component purchasing.”