Traditional catalogue distributor Digi-Key Corp. has recast itself as a fully integrated online distributor by, among other moves, eliminating print versions of its catalogue. Digi-Key is not an impulsive company and has no doubt researched every angle of this move before reaching its decision. (See Digi-Key Drops Print Catalogue.)
The company has been building up its online/mobile offerings for awhile, developing apps for smartphones, transitioning former print titles such as Lighting Solutions TechZone magazine into e-books, and providing soup-to-nuts services like Purchasing Pro, a Web-based resource for buyer-related news and analysis. This full-integration strategy is designed to give buyers and engineers more control over their supply chain management online and the flexibility of being mobile. Buyers and engineers definitely want these capabilities.
On the other hand, there is a segment of the industry that still likes to have a paper catalogue to flip through. To date, catalogue distributors have offset the environmental impact of their printed materials by using eco-friendly paper and inks. (See Catalogues' Eco-Dilemma.) Digi-Key is the first distributor to eliminate print altogether. Mouser is the only other catalogue distributor, so far, that has publicly stated it intends to keep both its print and online versions available.
As a consumer, I like to have both options open. In most cases, I peruse a catalogue to see what's available, but I do my actual buying online. But I'm not a design engineer, and the electronics supply chain is a whole lot more complicated than a retail purchase. So, EBN readers, what do you say? Are we ready to go truly paperless?
Backorder, i totally agree with you. The idea of going paperless is important. Nevetheless, the search tool need to powerful enough for customers to customize their own query. Flipping through the catalog is still more convenient.
Another sign that the age of flipping through catalogues has come to an end. Can we expect Digi-Key's web-based catalogue to have a logical layout and personalizable workflow? A good move for conserving resources, not only for paper that goes into the catalogue, but also think of the post-it notes that will be saved! We think of cutbacks in hardcopy production as saving trees, but paper can be produced with other raw materials more easily and with better quality. The word on the street is that lumber companies locked in the use of their products for paper production and this is the status quo today. In any case tree-huggers have scored a point with Digikey's decision to go paperless.
Having been in purchasing for over 30 years and also having to tell an engineer, on many occassions, that just because they found a part in the Digikey or Mouser catalog does not mean that part exists. Many times I've had to tell an engineer the manufacturer either doesn't make the part or that the delivery is way beyond what is required to implement the part into a design. Ergo, my incouragement for many years to use only the manufacturers literature, whether it be online or paper.
There are practical problems with the online selection tools that are supposed to be user friendly. For instance, most of the specs, even if frozen are not always rigid. If you need 20 mA of current from a driver, you dont mind if it has a maximum output of 50. But a search parameter of 20 mA will result in only the ones matching it or worse not return anything at all. I have personally faced such errors in web applications design and to tell you the truth have helped design some such applications which go into the web portals. They can never be as perfect as a detailed list of parts sorted by key parameters. That said, I prefer to keep only the most essential and relevant material on my desk. But I still prefer to have something I can leaf through and go back to quickly if I need to check again, something which is again much easier than bookmarking a webpage or saving your settings on a web tool.
in general what you say is correct, but there are many companies who do not design this way, especially in China. Sometimes specs are not tightened down at the design stage or they need to re-implement the design using a different technique, call it 'poor' planning and design skills ,but it is still the norm for many companies.
There is also a secondary issue where a design engineer is tasked with creating a brand new product based on a spec that is so abstract it could be anything, then there is the issue of building prototypes, which generally occurs before a formal spec has been pulled together. In these situations nothing beats a catalogue that you can browse page by page, building a mental inventory of available technology, this is something that the digi-key catalogue does not readily provide.
I just wish I worked in an environment as organized as the one you appear to be in, generally I have found over the last 20 years that nearly all the companies I have worked for ,have not worked in such an organized manner, possibly because they are smaller organizations or the management structure has allowed this method of working to continue from the inception of the company to the present day.
When a design engineer needs to look at the parts catalogue , he has his schematic ready. For each of the building blocks of his schematic the functional specs are already frozen- operating voltage, inputs/outputs, clock freq etc. Using on-line catalogues and a google type of search engine the design engineer can then find out the parts matching his requirements . Based upon his preference of the make, packaging, availability, second source and of course the price, he can finalise the component. He can then get the hard copy of the detailed specs of the selected part to validate his selection. In my opinion similar process, if done with manual catalogues can be quite clumsy and time consuming. For generations the engineers are used to using the hard copy catalogue and for many of them that practice will still be preferred over on-line info. But the new generation design engineers can easily adapt to such tools to shorten their design cycle .
Prabhakar, The problem is that vendors know much more about their products and their positioning vis-a-vis applications and performance. Hence, it is much more easier for the vendors to create a catalog of their best products or products suitable to certain applications and put the rest in a tabulated form with the most important parameters clearly mentioned all in one place. This would help an engineer to isolate the requirement to a very specific set for which he can then run through the website for more details. If I set out to look out for parts and have to tweak all the searches myself, i might give up pr feel a little lost looking at all the part numbers that appear. Having it in a printed manual form somehow makes it feel more "recommended". What do you guys think?
Yes I am such an engineer, I prefer thumbing through data sheets and design manuals, because it leads to new innovative solutions.
Many such 'paperless' systems are ideal for finding a part.... as long as you know it exists or if you know what you are looking for, this is an issue for an engineer because I would have to say that it limits down the scope to discover new parts or new ways of doing things, unless you specifically set out to find the information.
Unfortunatly many of these 'paperless' systems to not intergrate with other systems, that is to say you cannot take the data from these systems and directly plug them into other systems, such as PCB design, Signal emulation, Schematic capture, and test equipment.
Really there needs to be a completely new paradigm for the supply chain, where everyone agrees on a standard format for data interchange, with suitable extensions to allow data to be extracted for technical specifications,design,delivery and pricing.
At that point we could truly say the system was paperless, unfortunatly many people consider 'paperless' to start and stop at their own door or the door of the customer, yes it is getting better, with many suppliers providing information with the products that ship into the supply chain, but then it just seems to reach a certain point and then grind to a halt.
There does not seem to be a system were I can take my 'tablet device' then load it from a portal with interesting /new design information that I may find interesting. Instead I have to trawl several websites, select tick boxes & sliders, then manually select the items I want, finally tracking down some PDF data-sheets and if I am really lucky I can put them into a trolly for single delivery, if not I have to manually download each one, or worse contact the supplier sales department to see if they will grace me with a copy.
In the case of some Microcontrollers or FPGA's this data might run to one or two thousand pages , which are then a real pain to try and bookmark and flick through,
So as i stated previously I think there needs to be a concerted effort by the industry to sort this out in a standard way.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.