It’s probably happened to all of us; our favorite store has closed, and now we have to find another source for a particular product. It’s inconvenient, but usually, there are similar stores nearby to go to instead. However, going through that same experience with the electronic components necessary for a printed circuit board can be a much more serious problem.
Unfortunately, today this scenario occurs increasingly as the electronic component shortage is accelerating. Electronics innovators and OEMs are scrambling to find the components they need to build their products, forcing them to find new sources for parts. We’ll look at some of the reasons electronics manufacturers are in this situation and how you can search for new electronic components in the supply chain.
Reasons for Finding New Electronic Components Supply Chains
With the semiconductor shortage that the electronics world is facing right now, many OEMs find that they need to replace parts on their circuit boards to keep them in production. In some cases, the parts are no longer being built, or the manufacturers may be temporarily unable to supply the demand. Chipmakers have also been known to consolidate part functionality into one common device to reduce the different parts they make. There have also been reports of some of the larger OEMs buying up all the available stock of a unique part to ensure their own needs. The parts shortage is not the only reason that an OEM may need to locate a new part. However, the reasons listed next can also force a change.
- Incorrect parts: Sometimes, the wrong part was initially designed into the board. It may be a false value or doesn’t provide the expected functionality, but the error was missed during the initial test and debug of the board.
- Component failures: Some component batches are discovered to have internal problems and need to be replaced with other types of parts. If the replacements are not the same form, fit, or function, they will require a redesign.
- Unavailable parts: Parts can be unavailable for several reasons other than the component shortage. In some cases, the lead times are too long or the prices too high. Other times the part manufacturer may decide to obsolete the part, and it will no longer be available for future builds of the board.
- Counterfeit components: Some components are found to be counterfeits of the expected parts. Someone may have purposely altered their part numbers or used other methods to falsify them. If production versions of the actual parts are not available, then those parts will need to be replaced.
After deciding to replace a part, the next step will be to find a new supplier.
Where to Look for New Suppliers
There are many vendors out there that offer new electronic components for circuit board assembly, and they can be broken up into the following groups:
These are the original chip makers who build the parts. They typically supply all of the formal information, including datasheets, images, and CAD models. Manufacturers don’t always sell directly unless they are dealing with high-volume purchases for larger OEMs.
These companies will contract with different part manufacturers to represent them and sell their components. They will sell parts in various quantities and usually have some technical expertise on the components.
These vendors buy up stocks of older components, parts being phased out, and challenging to find parts to resell at higher prices. For legacy designs that require specific parts, these brokers are an essential part of the supply chain. The downside is some danger of bad or counterfeit parts sold by unscrupulous brokers.
As you can see, there are many different links in the entire electronic component supply chain. With so many choices and the possibility of ending up with pseudo parts from a counterfeiter, it pays to have supply chain experts’ help when locating new components.
Why You Need the Help of Component Supply Chain Experts
The best place to turn to for help with the component supply chain in locating new electronic components is your local printed circuit board contract manufacturer. PCB CMs have a lot of resources that they make available to their customers, including the following:
- Component engineers: These specialists will monitor the product change notices (PCNs) from the distributors to ensure that their customers will have the necessary parts. If a new component is needed, the engineers will research the parts to determine which will be the best choice for form, fit, and function. If necessary, they will also make circuit change recommendations to the customer to incorporate new replacement parts.
- Procurement team: These people maintain the supply chain network that the PCB CM does business with for component purchases. They work closely with the engineers to purchase the required parts and keep tabs on component life cycles for circuit boards currently in production. They are also very experienced working with the part brokers to ensure that authentic and valid parts are being purchased for legacy designs.
- Component research tools: The CM will use various tools to synchronize a design with its parts. These will include bill of materials (BOM) analysis tools, the online PCNs, and component-specific search engines.
At VSE, we have fine-tuned our component specialists to handle the difficult job of finding and ordering new electronic components from the supply chain for you. Our component engineers understand the circuits you are designing and help you find the exact part you need. Simultaneously, our procurement team uses their supply chain network to find the best prices and delivery dates on those parts. Together we can help you through the component shortage or any other part problems to build your boards on time and at the highest quality level.