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Smith & Associates Survey Reveals Shifting Concerns in the Global Electronics Supply Chain

Smith & Associates, a large independent distributor of electronic components, announced the results of its annual Global Supply Chain Survey. Canvassing respondents from all major sectors of the electronics industry, this survey gathered insights into key issues and concerns affecting the semiconductor and electronics supply chain.

Focusing on the top supply chain challenges respondents face, Smith’s survey included detailed inquires on component demand trends and forecasts, counterfeiting vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies, influential technologies, and sustainability management. In addition, it also delved into expectations surrounding independent distributors and their evolving role in the global supply chain.

Survey Population

Smith’s survey canvassed all major industry sectors to represent a clear view of the varying concerns across different strata of the electronics industry. Distributors, Electronics Manufacturing Services (EMS), Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs), and Contract Manufacturers (CMs) were all represented, as were a broad range of respondent roles, including purchasing and sourcing, distribution, market forecasting and planning, logistics, engineering, and design.

Key Challenges and Concerns for the Supply Chain Signal a Return to Normality

Smith & Associates’ survey asked respondents to rank the top challenges they confront in regular supply chain forecasting and planning. Among the issues of greatest concern, or of potential negative impact to respondents’ business, were the following, in descending ranked order by respondents:

  •     Demand changes
  •     Inventory management issues
  •     Margin pressures and cost-efficiencies
  •     Economic changes and uncertainty
  •     End of Life (EOL) issues
  •     Just-in-Time
  •     Testing, quality management, and/or counterfeit mitigation
  •     Supplier consolidations, M&A events
  •     Regulatory / certification changes (e.g., RoHS, UL, EPA, flow-down traceability, other)

Demand changes were significantly rated as the most challenging issue across all company types, followed by inventory management and margin pressures and cost-efficiencies. This ranking signals a key shift from the industry outlook and concerns indicated by last year’s Global Supply Chain Survey, when economic fluctuations and supplier consolidations were evaluated as top industry concerns. Both economic changes and uncertainty and supplier consolidation dropped significantly in ranking as key challenges from last year, signaling a positive trend for the industry.

“Smith’s recent survey reveals a shift in industry concerns that we feel is highly positive,” said Mark Bollinger, Smith & Associates’ Vice President of Marketing. “Moving away from last year's anxieties over economic fluctuations and supplier consolidations signals a return to the normal cycles of our industry. External, macroeconomic issues like those that concerned the industry so strongly last year not only affect our supply chain, but also heighten instability in consumer confidence. Moving back to traditional concerns for our industry signals a positive large-scale shift.”

Role of Independent Distributors

Independent distributors like Smith & Associates play a role in this shift, as well. Smith’s survey explored the expected role of Independent Distributors (IDs) in the supply chain, and the expectations respondents indicated are telling of not only the evolving role and growing importance of independent distributors, but also of the industry’s shift back to traditional cycles and concerns.

The services IDs provide relate closely to manufacturers' key challenges. In a global supply chain that has significant levels of inherent volatility and uncertainty, IDs are sought to provide strategic services by all types of companies to offset demand change challenges, providing inventory management and component sourcing solutions when forecasts are missed and when time frames shorten. Additionally, active counterfeit mitigation, specifically, is ranked as one of the most defining and vital services that IDs provide.

Smith’s survey indicates that EMS & ODM providers and OEMs significantly value IDs’ services for supplying components at the lowest cost, alongside of actively filtering counterfeit parts from the supply chain and notifying authorities of threats. In descending order, CMs, OEMs, and Distributors, followed by EMS & ODM providers, ranked independent distributor services highly for supplying components and providing inventory management.

More detailed results are available in the full report.

Counterfeit Mitigation Remains Vital

Counterfeit vulnerability and the mitigation of threats remain pressing issues in the electronics supply chain, and Smith’s survey questioned respondents about key facets of these topics. Questions dealt with respondents’ views of different sectors’ vulnerability to counterfeiting and the effectiveness of various counterfeit mitigation techniques.

Responses to these questions did not point to any single industry sector identified as being “Most Vulnerable,” although all categories were rated above “Neutral” for vulnerability, signaling a large-scale industry awareness of overarching counterfeit concerns. Some industries ranked as having increased vulnerability to counterfeiting included Consumer Electronics, Industrial Electronics & Equipment, and Oil & Gas.

The survey identified Part Authenticity Testing as the top-rated effective anti-counterfeiting measure, followed closely by Standardized Certification & Accreditation Requirements. The top rating of Part Authenticity Testing follows directly with Smith’s 2013 survey results, which also rated this tool as the top choice for anti-counterfeiting measures, underscoring the importance of accredited testing laboratories and qualified service providers along the global supply chain for the electronics industry.

Source:  Smith & Associates

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