When was the last time you were looking for something and finally gave up the search after visiting too many stores or Websites?
For me, it was earlier this summer. I was searching for a leather repair kit that was advertised on TV (you know the type — it's only $19.99 and if you order now, they double your order). I did an online search first, and a number of stores claimed they carried this kit. Five stores — retail, hardware, auto repair, overstock, furniture — and 30 miles later, I gave up and decided to live with a crack in my leather furniture.
Had I found this kit, it would have resulted in a sale and possibly my undying loyalty for life. (I finally did find a kit in an obscure store that carries last year's everything.) Multiply this experience by however many line items you have in your bill of material, and there's a lot of potential for lost sales.
Design engineers bump up against the same problem all the time, according to research conducted by Technology Forecasters Inc. for element14. The most difficult data to find, engineers say, is detailed and highly specialized information, including reference designs; applications notes and technical papers; simulation models; and component pricing and availability. Additionally, says the report:
Engineers also cited performance failure rates and component lifecycle data as particularly difficult to ascertain from any source. Compounding this difficulty is the lack of consolidated online tools and databases that enable engineers to quickly locate and compare more specialized technical information, as well as a lack of standards across component manufacturers in how technical data is recorded and presented to the engineering community.
There are plenty of online tools to help engineers sift through data. But even those have shortcomings, according to the report. The top three:
- The inability to easily compare component and design options
- The difficulty of staying on top of quickly changing regulatory laws by country
- Limited access to all available data sources, such as those that require a fee.
Theoretically, my online search for leather kits should have saved me time. Instead, I went to a bunch of stores that advertised they carried the kits, but actually didn't. I also spent hours in my car.
I'm not sure there is any site or organization that would have simplified my search for a highly specialized repair product. Within the electronics supply chain, though, distributors are trying to assist designers in culling reams of data. Distributors have been working with suppliers for decades to get the most up to date components information available, including pricing, availability, and end-of-life roadmaps. The channel, in turn, is trying to provide that information to customers in a meaningful way.
Next Friday, EBN will be taking a look at how distributors are doing this in a Webinar. Our panel includes a distributor, a supplier, and an embedded software company. Please join us — it's only an hour, and it may help save you time in the future.