In today's world of information and misinformation, choosing an independent distributor can be challenging, whether you are an EMS provider, OEM, or contract manufacturer.
Moreover, after you select the independent distributors for your approved vendor list (AVL), how do you know they are still the right companies three, six, or nine months later? The answer doesn't need to be highly complex, but does require common sense.
Some would propose the most cautious path, saying that you shouldn't choose an independent distributor at all. These folks would tell you to just buy your parts from authorized (franchised) distributors all the time, ignore saving money, and forget about shortages and obsolesce issues.
If you are indeed one of the companies that never needs an independent, you can stop reading now. For the rest, here are a few simple suggestions on how to compile your AVL, reduce risks, and ensure you can procure the parts you need when you authorized supplier can't deliver.
Let's start with a few basic things that are must haves:
- ISO 9001 certification
- ANSI/ESD S20.20 certification
- Product liability insurance of at least $1 million
- A clean record on all denied parties lists -- yes, there are a lot of different lists!
- A supplier that requires parts be inspected consistently and per a recognized standard, IDEA-STD-1010. For those who don't know, this standard is a 250-page, full-color document that outlines the visual inspection process "dos and don'ts" in detail. It is robust, and you cannot afford to buy parts that are not inspected per this standard. Any OEM, CM, or EMS provider can also have their quality personnel obtain IDEA-ICE-3000 professional inspector certification that is based upon IDEA-STD-1010. So yes, you can do it yourself.
- A company that has been around a while, at least three years.
So, after you conduct all the research outlined above, you are now ready to start the questionnaire process and inquire with 30 to 50 companies, right?
Not so fast. Each item listed above is included in the rigorous requirements for IDEA Membership. You don't need to recreate the wheel, and this list of IDEA members is a good starting point.
One word of caution: Much like any organization, no one is perfect, and some have better abilities to meet your specific requests. For example, you might want a distributor in the Northeast, one with XRF, one who will decap two pieces for each lot, one with AS9120 certification, or one with a global reach. No matter what you need, your search should begin with companies that meet the standards outlined above.
Final advice: After you have narrowed down this list, buy a plane ticket, and take the time to visit your top three choices. You will learn a lot from seeing, interacting, and understanding how you are treated. After all, the personal relationship you build at the onset will help you in many ways over the long haul.