Design for procurability - navigating supply chain & sourcing issues

Design for procurability

Posted on Mar 31, 2022. Featured in New on MyArrow .
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There is a hierarchy in product development for original equipment manufacturers. It starts with a concept, then a design, followed by prototypes, and culminating in volume production.

Each stage adds complexity and customization that restricts the supply chain options during the final stage. The electronics industry often focuses on design and production, but what about the ability to procure the required raw materials and mitigate inventory risk for long term, volume manufacturing? Hidden value awaits those Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that put a heightened value on design for procurability.

Let’s look back at the evolution of electronic components. In the 1980s and 1990s, there were around 50 million active electronic components, with over 65% of the channel made up of commodity products. Parts had multiple manufacturers and all were pin for pin, compatible solutions. Supply chain managers had many options to shop for the best price and availability. As we transitioned into the 2000s, degradation of profits and loss of market share drove the high-end semiconductor manufacturers to adopt a strategy of designing custom chips, specializing in specific functionalities, performances, and technologies. This discouraged competition from offering compatible solutions because of prohibitive design costs and specifications that were too finite. Manufacturers chose instead to focus on areas of strength with custom technologies to gain print position so they could not be removed without the investment of a total redesign by the OEM. Engineers are now faced with a world of over 300 million active components, with over 65% of the channel made up of sole source, single source, and limited customer parts. This results in higher liabilities, production minimums, lead times, and manufacturing inflexibility.

So what is the design response? It is not enough to just look at the price and leadtime of components during the prototype stage. Engineers and supply chain manufacturers have to gauge and advise the long term risk of a solution’s component selection during the design phase. They must research and consider the following key areas.

  1. Lifecycle. Engineers need a solid grasp of the manufacturer’s road map for supporting the component in the future. Is the component emerging or mature technology, and are future generations planned? What is the outlook for the component family? Is similar technology available that could be used instead? What is the lifecycle risk to key supporting components?
  2. Manufacturing, Fabrication, and Packaging. Engineers need to make sure they know where the raw materials for their products are coming from and where the finished production is being done. What countries are involved and what is the risk of disruption due to environmental, political, civil, and act of God influences? Does the manufacturer have access to the raw materials, capacity and resources they need for exponential growth?
  3. Channel Use. Engineers need to know if there is one user of the component that commands a large majority of the total market, and if so, they need to find a manufacturer willing to share the risk and investment of inventory. Are there any mitigation paths for slow moving or excess inventory?
  4. Distributor profiling. How does the distributor classify the part, both from an availability and a liability perspective? Where the manufacturer ranks with the distributor, and how much influence they can leverage, also matters. Is the distributor willing to share the risk and investment of inventory?

Sourcing decisions can no longer be just about price and availability. Supply chain professionals have to become insurance underwriters, gauging the future risk of supply against extraneous, unplanned disruptions and delays. Even if you have to select a component option that has a slightly higher price, the delta paid in purchase price variance is your insurance premium for ensuring the continual supply of materials throughout production. Don’t wait to provide supply chain input in sequence to the design. Execute design for procurability concurrent to the initial engineering effort. Long term production risk mitigation can save OEMs a substantial amount of money over the life of their product.

About the author

Cliff Purslow – Arrow Electronics

Cliff Purslow is a Strategic Supply Chain Solutions Manager for the Americas Component division of Arrow Electronics Inc. Cliff joined Arrow in 1999 in San Jose, CA and is now based at Arrow’s corporate headquarters in Centennial, Colorado. Prior to joining Arrow, Cliff worked in Purchasing and Operations for 12+ years with two Silicon Valley original equipment manufacturers. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco in Management Information Systems.

Topics: design , engineer , Procurement , Supply Chain