When you’re running a manufacturing business, it’s invariably better to acquire and document parts properly the first time around, rather than have to waste resources playing catch-up with all the issues caused by poor sourcing. If you don’t keep organized, and end up running into functional limitations or procurement issues, then it can take a lot of work to get your business to bounce back. Here, we’ll have a closer look at just how important part sourcing and documentation is, and how you can go about it the right way.
If you’ve never sourced electronic components before, then you’ll probably want to know a little about best practices. Everything requiring electronic components needs to be drafted by your engineers with a prototype, which will allow them to test their design before you go ahead with actually building it. This is the phase where they need to find the various parts which will make the idea a reality. Commonplace “jelly bean” components such as capacitors and resistors don’t usually take a lot of time to source, as they’ll be readily available, and can be found through a wide variety of vendors. However, you’ll need to leave them a little more time for more complex parts, such as memory and microprocessors. Be aware that it’s not always the engineers who are going to be in charge of sourcing parts. When a product first moves from prototype to actual production, you’ll usually pass it onto the purchasing team or contract manufacturers.
If your business has been up and running for a while, you may have been approached by several suppliers offering to sell you parts. However, I recommend you stick to an established electronic components distributor. One of the key advantages to this is that it keeps your up-front investment to a minimum. When you’re purchasing prototype parts from a components distributor, there’s no obligation for you to purchase in bulk, meaning you can play around with different singular parts to find the best one for your design. Aside from that, these vendors are specialists in their field, and will be able to help you out with years of knowledge and experience. Their stock list will have everything you could want, and if it doesn’t they’ll usually order it in. Bear in mind though, these are businesses buying from other businesses. If you needed a more specialized component, like custom membrane switches, it’s better to go to a bespoke dealer.
As you begin to establish a closer professional relationship with your component suppliers, make sure that you’re aware of the big pitfalls you can face, and what you’re going to do if they happen. You should never get to a point where your entire cash flow is dependent on one supplier. If they have limited quantities, or run into some big financial disaster which puts their operation on hold, you’re going to need to have a backup plan in place to keep your business afloat. When you’re first reaching out to suppliers, make sure you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket!