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Datasheets: A Resource for Engineers & Procurement

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.

17 comments on “Datasheets: A Resource for Engineers & Procurement

  1. elctrnx_lyf
    July 28, 2011

    A typical day of a designer begins with identifying the right part, goes on for identify a better alternative part and then finally ends with finding out how to procure this part.

    I do not think this is going to be simplified so easily because the distributors are only supplying the components of few of the many component manifacturers. For some reason I love digikey because here we can find the instant avilability even with a little premium.

    Will the datasheets.com is going to simplfy this by offering as many as suppliers datasheets?

  2. Vineet
    July 28, 2011

    Hi elctrnx_lyf,
    Product Marketing Manager from SiliconExpert here (the data service behind datasheets.com). Datasheets.com goes beyond just millions of PDFs from suppliers. It also shows the latest inventory from dozens of distributor websites in a single view. This saves engineers & buyers time, instead of having to visit multiple websites one after the other. Engineers are also able to compare parts at the parametric level and find similar parts without having to open a single datasheet.

    Try out the site if you haven't had a chance yet. Let us know your opinion or feedback.

  3. Eldredge
    July 28, 2011

    Bolaji,

         In this article, you have hit on a roblem I run into frequently – thanks for covering the topic, and providing a new resource that I know will be valuable to me and many others in the electronics industry!

  4. Tim Votapka
    July 29, 2011

    Datasheets appears to have been crafted out of input from the very people it will service. This is a vital step very well executed.

  5. Mr. Roques
    July 29, 2011

    How much time does an engineer spend looking for parts and best prices? Seems to me it's becoming the hardest/longest task involved in the design.

  6. HM
    July 30, 2011

    In fact lots of time is spent looking for parts. Specially if it is a controller chip then there will be a lots of people searching for parts based on specs, features,  price and lead time. Not just design engineers but every role like leads, architects, managers and procurement leads and independent vendors. Some times new chips becomes eye openers for designers to make efficient designs!

     

  7. prabhakar_deosthali
    July 30, 2011

    I have yet to visit this site, but I believe apart from giving the technical specs of a component it will also provide the info on availability, price comparison with respect to its peers , and the nearest distributor who is having that part in stock and all such peripheral info at one go to make the design decisions easier and faster.

  8. itguyphil
    July 30, 2011

    Probably alot of time if the marketing/sales/management teams are concerned with keeping costs down. That is in the case if the engineer does not already have a hookup in the distribution arena.

  9. SunitaT
    July 30, 2011

    Bolaji,

    Thanks a lot for this article. I just visited the site and the site is pretty easy to browse. We can easily search different datasheets. I will definitely share this link with all my colleagues.

  10. Edmunds Sinevics
    July 30, 2011

    Usually part of the design process is to find the right manufacturer and distributor of the component. Great that it can be done in one place.

  11. Taimoor Zubar
    July 31, 2011

    That's an interesting suggestion, Prabhakar. I agree with you on this. I think the pricing info and the comparison between prices should be there on the websites so that the engineers are able to pick the right components for use not only in terms of performance but also in terms of the ones that offer best value of money. Usually the pricing in companies is handled by non-technical people, but if the website can allow engineers to also have a look at that and make comparisons, it would be very useful.

  12. Taimoor Zubar
    July 31, 2011

    I think the interface of the website is pretty neat. The content is divided properly and it's easy to find the relevant sections. This would certainly help the engineers to quickly look up for the desired content. In terms of performance, the site seems pretty efficient too. I tried searching for a few components and the search was extremely fast. I think it's a very valuable resource for engineers.

  13. electronics862
    July 31, 2011

    Datasheets will really helpful when it's comes to design engineers they can reach out all the parts at a hand stretch. This will not only reduce the production time it will save their time.

  14. stochastic excursion
    August 1, 2011

    More and more this kind of browsing automation allow more time for designers to design instead of hunting for specs.  Additional useful capability would be access to device models for use in circuit simulators.

  15. thetradezone
    August 4, 2011

    Normalization sounds clever but is not workable with so many variables. it doesn't work because it is like summarizing… no need to buy häagen-dazs ice cream because wal-mart basics has similar nutritional content and the same flavor. Maybe that's a bad example.
     
    My advice is to look on the manufacturer websites first then maybe authorized distributors. There are several datasheet websites out that are great (datasheetcatalog.com, datasheetarchive.com, alldatasheet.com) but only use them as a last resort. and i really mean last resort. Manufacturer site first. Golden rule #1

  16. Mr. Roques
    September 6, 2011

    Seems like a waste of resources since it could be done by some other person, if they knew enough about it, and the engineer could spend his time in something more useful.

    The website reallyhelps in shortening that time, though.

  17. Mr. Roques
    September 6, 2011

    It should be someone's job to look for prices, etc but maybe the engineer can design based on some specs and someone else matches that with actual devices on the market.

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