We spend a lot of time bemoaning the lack of new talent coming into the electronics supply chain. However, it's time now to talk to an enthusiastic newcomer about what made him choose a career in the electronics supply chain. Hopefully, we can inspire other up and comers to join the fray and make a difference to the industry.
Brian Dean, purchasing agent at General Dynamics C4 Systems was recognized as part of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars recognition program, a jointly sponsored initiative of ThomasNet and Institute for Supply Management (ISM). Dean buys radio frequency and microwave components used in radios, encryption devices, and other products for military communications. He graduated with a supply chain degree from Arizona State University.
We sat down with him recently and got his take on a handful of key industry topics.
EBN: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about a career in the electronics supply chain?
Dean: Definitely, one of the biggest skills needed in our industry is to stay adaptable. The electronics world there are so many parts and so many suppliers, different sales channels (distributors, reps) and you have to deal with each one differently. Every day is different, even though you are doing the same thing day in and day out. Every day there is a new issue and you have to put on your problem solving hat and figure out a solution. I decided to stick with supply chain because it is the backbone of the business of getting products and making them into a new product and then getting it to end user. I get a lot of satisfaction out of identifying and resolving problems and I think a lot of people would.
EBN: What does this industry offer in terms of career satisfaction/advancement?
Dean: One thing I've enjoyed working at General Dynamics is that the company, or at least my managers, are really invested in my development as much as I am. They work on giving me an opportunity to work on new things. They have that trust in me even though I don't have years of experience, but rather I have an understanding that we have a good team that I can lean on.
EBN: Your specialty is driving out cost. What are some of the strategies you use to build good relationships within your organization to achieve this goal? What do you do to go beyond simply getting component makers to give you a better price?
Being primarily a military contractor, like my company is, communication is a huge thing we use to build relationships with suppliers. A lot of times, there is little information we can share with the rest of the world but when we can share forecast or plans or anything like that it goes a long way to creating a strategic relationship with our suppliers. They can take that information and plan better on their side, which all of us want to do, and in the long run it makes things better for both of us. Also, when we find a supplier that is high performing, we want to promote them throughout the company and put them where it is a good fit. From our side, we get economies of scale, and the supplier gets more exposure into other lines of business. It's all a give and take, working on finding ways that we can help each other meet our goals.
EBN: What thoughts would you offer about the role of the "gray market" suppliers? How do you see that evolving over time?
Dean: The way we see them, I wish there was a better way to put it, but the gray market is a necessary evil. Suppliers that operate in the gray market have to position themselves as a partner and build up a trust and have a clear understanding of risks and importance of complying with industry regulations. Most of them do. Understanding the ramifications of things not being done properly is very important. Over time, because of increased regulations and testing procedures that are more standard, now mainly legitimate suppliers are the only ones that can operate in this gray market realm and shrinkage of players will only increase as we go on. It's my job to do everything I can to not use anything but franchised sources but when we have parts changing every six months and programs that last for years, things are going to happen and we need to use other sources.
EBN: What help and support have mentors offered you? What advice would you offer to electronics OEMs who want to be an employer of choice to the next generations of supply chain managers?
Dean:We do have a mentor program. I was assigned a specific mentor when I started (she is my manager now but wasn't at the time). I can always go to her with any sort of questions. It is a focal point for a new hire. At General Dynamics, we do a good job of the entire team working together. I can go to anyone with a question. Everyone has his or her area of expertise. My mentor taught me everything I needed to know about corporate processes but also we all help each other. I'm part of that team. My mentor supported me when I was ready to take on more things. She had my back. To have that support system, and know that someone else believes in you, does a lot for your confidence. Now, I'm a mentor to our newest higher.
— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, Editor in Chief, EBN