Design engineers and OEM/contract manufacturing purchasing specialists deal with too many perplexing issues every day, most of them centered on identifying, locating, and securing parts for products quickly and at the optimal price. This never-ending quest often results in delayed design or production, which can lead to missed market opportunities.
The industry hasn't been idle in finding a solution to the problem. Component makers provide information on their products freely to buyers and distributors, which in turn pool and make this data available to OEMs and design engineers.
In fact, some distributors have identified a sweet niche for themselves by marketing such information directly to design engineers. Companies in this category offer next-day delivery to help design engineers meet tight schedules. For purchasing professionals, some companies offer data on obsolete and hard-to-find products.
The efforts, though commendable, haven't solved the problem design engineers find most perplexing: how to sort through disparate databases. Each provides a smidgen of information on certain products, but none offers the deepest pool of data on newly released components, old parts, and specs at a single location.
The electronics components industry continues to roll out thousands of parts each year. Add these to the hundreds of thousands designed into finished equipment over the past few decades, many of which have become obsolete or are available only at specialist stockers -- and often at inflated prices.
The latest effort to end the confusion is coming from Datasheets.com, a searchable database on the widest range of products for the electronics industry. The Web offering has information on semiconductor parts, capacitors, connectors, displays, filters, resistors, power products, wires, cables, displays, and electromechanical components from a wide range of manufacturers and their distributor partners.
I have always been fascinated by attempts to corral the information industry participants need. Distributors have used their extensive physical and online portals to disperse products more extensively than many of their suppliers could ever hope to achieve. Some of the biggest distributors carry parts from all major manufacturers and regularly reach tens of thousands of customers.
Here's a fascinating snippet from Avnet Inc.'s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company describes the offerings of its electronics marketing division:
Avnet creates a vital link in the technology supply chain that connects more than 300 of the world's leading electronic component and computer product manufacturers and software developers with a global customer base of more than 100,000 original equipment manufacturers, electronic manufacturing services providers, original design manufacturers, and value-added resellers.
I recall being stunned when a former Avnet CEO told me the company had more than 100,000 customers. I thought he was kidding. But that's the nature of the industry, and I cannot think of a single supplier that can serve such a wide range of customers globally. That's where distributors come in, but even these companies, including Arrow Electronics, cannot organize all the information required by designers and procurement professionals by themselves.
Datasheets.com, a joint venture between UBM Electronics, the publisher of EBN, and SiliconExpert Technologies, is promising to bridge the divide by creating an avenue for buyers to find information quickly on components from hundreds of manufacturers and their distribution partners. Here are the key features of Datasheets.com:
- Parametric Search: Allows engineers to search by partial part number, description, manufacturer, and other criteria.
- Customization: Saves the user history, including recent searches, parts, comparison pages, and inventory alerts for future reference.
- Inventory Watch: Keeps designers informed via email anytime a specified distributor inventory changes.
- Compare Parts: Helps designers choose the right part for their project.
- New Product Alerts: Informs designers of new electronics parts entering the market. Alerts are delivered via a news feed.
I am not here to tell you Datasheets.com will solve all your procurement needs, but it aims to make sourcing a less harrowing exercise. Take it for a spin, and let us know here what you think.