Electronics distributors are continuing to add to their array of services and products for the engineering community -- the decision makers in the design chain. Distributors believe securing a connection with a customer's engineers will expand the relationship as a product moves down the line toward volume manufacturing.
Premier Farnell plc (London: PFL.L) has been moving steadily beyond its component sales business by building the element14 engineering community and, more recently, a design services site, the Knode. On Monday, the company secured a key relationship in the processor business by agreeing to offer ARM Ltd. (Nasdaq: ARMHY; London: ARM) development tools, software, evaluation boards, and debug hardware across the Americas through its Newark/element14 brand.
"For many of our customers, ARM is the architecture of choice," Chris Sullivan, head of global solutions marketing for Premier Farnell, said in a phone interview. "We've sold ARM devices, and now we want to provide those same customers with ARM development tools." The distributor has invested in making the development process as easy as possible for engineers by integrating the ARM portfolio into the Newark/element14 design solutions flow.
For example, Newark/element14 has built reference designs and boards targeted at specific applications. When engineers work within the Newark/element14 design environment, the designs and related materials are presented on the page. Some of them were developed by users in the element14 engineering community.
Newark/element14's efforts are targeted at small and midsize OEMs and design houses that don't need the array of tools and services large OEMs require. The distributor offers PCB design software, component integration, CAD libraries, and quickturn prototyping. The choices are available a la carte, so designers can mix and match what they need. If registration or licensing is required, users can register a single user or multiple users.
Suppliers have difficulty managing thousands of small relationships, and that's where distributors step in. "Premier Farnell's innovative approach of combining the power of community and designer engagement with e-commerce adds great value to the wider ARM ecosystem," Mark Onions, director of marketing for ARM's system design division, said in a press release.
"Licensing to big silicon players is where ARM plays," says Sullivan. "We give them the reach and exposure to a broader engineering community."
Element14/Newark has also been improving the capabilities of its Eagle PCB design software, CAD libraries, components integration, and prototyping to make the process seamless. "For example, we've made it easier to import designs [to the element14/Newark environment] that have been developed in different file formats," Sullivan says. "We are trying to help engineers get products to market faster, so we put everything they need in their hands ASAP."