“Free, perfect, and now.” Former Marshall Industries CEO Rob Rodin sums up what distribution customers want in this four-word phase. Meeting those demands is a little more complicated: Rodin wrote a 250-page book on the topic, Free, Perfect, and Now (Simon and Schuster, 1999), and the subject is far from closed.
Even during the boom times of 1999, buyers and engineers were under the gun to design and procure the best-performing product for the best possible price. In the decade since that boom/bust cycle, the emergence of systems and tools that sort though volumes of component data, narrow down choices, and assist in component selection/procurement have been targeted toward making these processes easier and more precise.
That's not always the result. The amount of data attached to any given component is growing faster than tools' ability to keep pace. So has the industry's choice of systems and tools. The selection ranges from high-end ERP/MRP systems to free online tools. All are targeted at making the designer's or the buyer's job easier. Sorting through the array of available tools is difficult.
Distribution companies are among the channel players that are offering tools for component selection, design assistance, component comparison, bill of material (BOM) downloading, BOM scrubbing, inventory checks, and procurement. As an editor, my first question to companies that provide free tools is, “What's in it for you?” The answer is that free assistance, whether it be in the form of purchasing tools or design help, can lead to additional business for the distributor.
That said, there's a difference between an agnostic tool — one that allows users to design and buy from their own approved vendor list — and a system that directs you to the distributor's lineup card. In most cases, consolidating activity within a distributor's product offering will gain the most efficiencies, but is not a requirement for use of the tool. For users, it's all about leverage — where and when consolidation makes sense, and where and when it doesn't.
Today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, EBN readers will get a chance to discuss procurement tools with an expert. Dianne Kibbey, head of global community and e-procurement for catalogue distrbutor Newark, will conduct a Live Chat with the editors and readers of EBN. In the interest of full disclosure, Newark offers a free online procurement tool. iBuy has been around about a year, has 3,500 active accounts, and provides continual feedback about what is good about the system and what needs improvement. That information helps Newark meet its customers' needs and can help customers cull through a varied array of tools.
The chat's free — and we are always aiming for perfect. Join us at Reduce Procurement Costs Without Spending a Cent.