Mission-critical UK distribution

Charcroft Electronics’ director and product specialist, Roger Tall, explains how low-volume, harsh environment and mission-critical distribution differs from high-volume supply


Global distributors are geared to sell components to OEMs and CEMs who manufacture high volume end products. However, there are specialist sectors with very different distribution needs.


For global electronic component distributors, size is important. Top global distributors have over 300 locations worldwide and serve customers in up to 140 countries. Shipments are made from centralised distribution centres located across North America, EMEA and Asia-Pac.


Size is also key for the line cards of global and smaller distributors. Most line cards are broadline and spearheaded by commodity semiconductors


However, OEMs and CEMs who manufacture end products for mission critical applications or tough environments have very different distribution needs. These manufacturers need components manufactured and tested for the highest level of reliability or release, while the end products are manufactured in comparatively low volumes.


Commitment to supply low volumes of ultra-high reliability components designed for zero failure is not the core focus for high-volume, cost-driven broadline distributors. Example sectors include space, defence, specialist automotive, high-end audio, instrumentation, oil, gas and industrial.


To support these sectors, distribution requires specialist knowledge and understanding of each sector, while having systems in place designed to put quality and reliability first. Deep UK-based inventory must be profiled to hold components ensuring the highest level of reliability. The distributor must also understand the correct additional testing needed by each design.


Another key element is traceability, which is significantly more important for components used in satellites, compared to components used in mobile phones. That is why, since 1985, Charcroft has archived a copy of the Certificate of Conformity (CofC) which has been shipped with every delivery. The CofC can be recalled at any time to retrieve the product identification, manufacturer name, safety standard, date/place of manufacture/testing and the third-party certification agency.


Recalling the CoC helps resolve future component issues and provides information which can be used to replace an obsolete component still being used in an end product with a decades-long service life.


Some procurement issues may need a more creative solution, with UK-based manufacturing of a custom passive or passive assembly. A single custom capacitor, or multiple capacitors housed in a single custom case, can deliver a component which fits an exact electrical specification and board space.


Compared to global broadline distribution, an independent UK-based distributor is not limited by the need to fit into the framework used by hundreds of other global locations. That independence, combined with decades of undiluted focus on mission-critical and harsh sectors, provides the flexibility to develop and deliver specialist, customer-centric solutions.