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Publication Date: 05/1/2010
Archive >  May 2010 Issue >  Special Features: Components and Distribution > 

Distributors: Special Help in Troubled Market
Part of Allied's vast warehouse.

Reliability and consistency are two of the top reasons that engineers look to electronic component distributors for parts. These reasons still hold true, especially during unique economic times such as the ones we face today.

With the recent economic downturn, engineers and purchasers alike have increasingly turned to component distributors for a variety of additional services and solutions. Engineers have learned that there are many advantages of partnering with a distributor during a tough economy.

Purchasing parts from a component distributor is advantageous not only because of the large number of suppliers that they represent. Distributors have become more than just a one-stop shop for component parts.

With companies looking for new ways to cut costs, engineers and purchasers have turned to distributors to help them save money overall. Some ways that distributors help customers cut costs and save money is by consolidating freight, reducing multiple orders or invoices and having stock readily available.

Also, in response to the economy and increasing materials costs, many suppliers have extended out lead times on products. Working with a distributor has helped engineers combat potential supply issues before they arise, as well as helped identify alternative product solutions.

Personal Service
Research shows that engineers often look to sales reps to validate their product selection and purchasing decisions. With many suppliers cutting back on their sales support staff, engineers must rely more heavily on distributors for support.

Some component distributors, such as Allied, offer sales support and personal service via local sales offices. When engineers are searching for a product solution, they can call a knowledgeable Allied sales rep to validate their selection or for a recommendation.

Sales reps are also great resources for learning about new technologies and products. Even during a tough economy, suppliers are always introducing new or enhanced product solutions. The advantage of working with a distributor sales rep is that they work closely with suppliers to introduce these new products to the market.

Technical Support
According to numerous studies, engineers increasingly look to distributors for technical product information and support. Technical support ranges from providing product datasheets to live technical advice.

Many distributors have devoted resources to technical support experts dedicated to assisting engineers with specific applications throughout the product design flow. These teams of technical experts provide design help by e-mail and phone.
Critical connectors are part of the product lineup.

Despite the recession, many companies are still designing and prototyping new products. Therefore, design engineers still need technical support and design solutions. Many design teams have lost resources, providing yet another opportunity for engineers to partner with distributors for technical and design support.

Online Tools
Over half of all engineers look to distributor websites to learn about new products and applications, according to recent studies. Distributor websites can be a valuable resource for product data and specs.

In addition to parametric search capabilities and online datasheets, many distributors offer engineers a multitude of other features on the web. Most distributor websites offer online ordering, availability, pricing, order tracking, saved shopping carts, bill of materials upload and custom part numbers.

Many distributors also support eProcurement applications, including Oracle, SAP, and Ariba. Online tools, such as Allied Purchasing Manager, help engineering departments and purchasers streamline and simplify the procurement process.

Value-Added Services
From small order quantity to scheduled orders, distributors help engineering teams manage inventory and have parts readily available. With the downturn, the need for small order quantities has increased the need for distributors, as companies don't want to hold on to excess inventory. Just-in-time inventory is also more critical than ever before.

Many distributors also offer additional value-added services, including kitting, bagging, labeling, custom cable assemblies, special packaging, marking and light assembly, reeling and un-reeling. But the real value-added service that distributors offer to engineers is providing custom solutions and ensuring that needed parts are readily available.

An engineering customer put it best: "The best suppliers add value to their services and products by understanding critical parameters in the design and implementing control plans to deliver parts in compliance to those parameters."
Automation and control products.

Partnering with a component distributor can be especially beneficial during critical times. Not only do distributors understand the needs of their engineering and purchasing customers, but they come through in difficult situations. The following are just a few examples: A major manufacturer of high-performance materials and custom-engineered products partnered with Allied to set up a vendor managed inventory (VMI) program. The procurement manager reported that the VMI program reduced man hours in the receiving department and allows the manufacturing department to have inventory available for all quick-turn requirements. Since implementing the VMI program, the procurement manager reported fewer frantic calls for missing wire to complete a hot order. It also freed up countless hours for purchasing because they do not have to create purchase orders on a daily basis. The program also helped save time and money by eliminating expedites and extensive searches for wiring needs. "The best part is that Allied manages this program. We do absolutely nothing and the cost savings are phenomenal," said the customer. A floor care equipment manufacturer recently teamed up with Allied to source a tilt switch part for a hot job. The customer called Allied about a part that we do not stock. An Allied sales rep was able to find the part and ensure timely shipping and delivery for a third of the cost from the machine manufacturer. "As a service provider in these difficult economic times, anything that we can do to be more cost effective and gain a competitive edge is a huge bonus." said the customer.

A major manufacturer of military cables recently partnered with Allied to meet the company's urgent and unexpected needs. The customer needed to fulfill an order to the Army immediately. In order to fulfill this request, the manufacturer needed some military connectors to be shipped overnight. When other vendors told them that it couldn't be done, as there was a three-day build time for this particular connector, they turned to Allied. A local Allied sales rep was able to find a supplier to expedite the order. "When other vendors come across obstacles and stop, my Allied sales rep keeps pushing," said the customer.

An engineer recently utilized Allied's technical support team to find technical data that would allow him to complete his timely project. The engineer had spent hours trying to get the data from the manufacturer but came up empty-handed. An Allied technical support team member was able to answer the customer's website inquiry immediately and offer additional technical information that allowed the engineer to find an alternative part for his application. The engineer was able to order the parts with same-day shipping and complete his project. "That's what value-added is all about," said the customer.

The economy has changed the way distributors and engineers value each other's relationships. Distributors have become more focused on how they can serve their customer as a whole. Engineers now view distributors as a resource that can help with the development and success of their design projects.

The tough economic times will eventually pass. When they do, distributors that provide personal service, technical support, online tools and value-added services will have gained the competitive edge.

Contact: Allied Electronics, Inc. 7151 Jack Newell Blvd. South, Ft. Worth, TX 76118 800-433-5700 Web:

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