Who's driving the design chain? That's not exactly easy to answer. Historically, one's answer had depended on where one sat in the electronics supply chain.
Once, large distributors described the design chain as more of a demand chain, in which the use of distributor-supplied suites of engineering services were leveraged to encourage product training and guidance, and eventually demand for products in their linecards. Engineers would have categorized design-chain efforts as educational ones, where they had the chance to learn from suppliers, picking up a few specific tips and tricks on their key products.
However, as we find ourselves moving into the last quarter of 2013, such views are one-dimensional and outdated. Sure, your favorite distributor may still offer training on the products that make up its linecards. And, sure, engineers looking to expand their knowledge base eagerly attend such training.
However, that's not the be-all and end-all of the design chain anymore.
With engineers finding themselves with less time for projects, yet still needing to be knowledgeable of not just what they are designing, but every step of the way of a design's components — from origin location, to materials and manufacturing, to best use, through end of life — distributors have stepped up design-chain initiatives. In doing so, they have responded to environmental compliance, government regulations, increased demands on workflow at an accelerated pace, a corporate and economic environment that has made competitors of former partners and partners of former competitors, and even more changes to our always evolving electronics supply chain and industry.
Now, with even more options available to engineers, including kits and 3D printing that move designs to fruition at a tremendous and unbelievable speed, imagination has become a stronger influence. And who's more imaginative than an engineer? No one.
Design chains are no longer simple examples of engineering and technology organizations working together to create designs for new products. Now, it's about innovation, partnering, and coming up with a better outcome that not only produces a well engineered product, but that offers room for growth for both the engineer and distributor.
The truth is that when it comes to answering “who's driving the design chain,” it's both the engineer and distributor. And on EBN's new Design Chain section, launched today, you'll find a home for many different angles of the design chain. Check it out for a look at how-to design tips, imaginative innovations, influences like 3D printing, green pushes, and more.
Just as the term “distribution” is evolving, so is the design chain — and for the better. Tell us what you think about the design chain and what you'd like to see on this new EBN section in the comments field below.