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How Smaller-Sized OEMs Can Speed Product Time-to-Market with a Development Distributor

March 1, 2023
The first in a series, this article highlights how OEMs that may not be the biggest can capitalize on partnering with a development distributor, including accelerating the design process and implementing e-Commerce.

This article is part of a series. Read Part 2 and Part 3.

Startups and small-to-mid-sized developers/OEMs in the electronics industry often lack the resources for optimizing their operations, from procurement to development to product launches. Many have found that turning to a development distributor partner can set them up for success in their production and manufacturing operations.

Development distributors don’t just sell products. They can provide engineering support and aftermarket services, reduce costs, and optimize processes, as well as help manage inventories, all of which create value for these companies. Distributors play a vital role in smoothly connecting suppliers to customers. They can expedite response times, enhance a company’s reach and even create value-added packages that complement a developer’s product offering.

A close partnership means new developers can work with a lower number of suppliers, reducing handoffs from company to company. In other words, developers no longer must identify, review, and onboard a new partner at every phase of their product production. Distributors are able to offer solutions from multiple suppliers, giving developers choices and making it easier for them to compare and contrast the relative benefits and features of different suppliers.

Advantages of a Development Distributor Partner

Development distributors ensure consistency of knowledge throughout the design process, and they accelerate time-to-market. Working together throughout the design process also means that the partner has a head start on preparing the distribution channel for launch, because time-to-market is an important factor for success.

Partners can offer a critical advantage in prototyping and testing as well. They’re able to provide access to the widest selection of components, boards, system-level products and test equipment in the industry with a breadth that provides complete design freedom for the manufacturer. And the partner’s experience in product development can help address any challenges that might arise during prototyping.

Some offer manufacturing and design services to customers, covering all aspects of design from PCB layout to box build. These services ensure that every design produced by the developer meets a strict design and manufacturability requirement. The partner also will develop a board and bill-of-materials optimization.

Furthermore, the institutional knowledge of development distributors can help developers enter new markets for which they may lack some market knowledge. For example, innovations in artificial intelligence and IoT are opening many new opportunities in industrial applications. But implementing these innovations in harsh or industrial environments may be foreign territory for many electronic engineers who don’t have experience designing solutions for extreme conditions.

e-Commerce

Development distributors often offer the convenience and efficiencies of digital commerce. Online access to buy products and services has become a natural way of purchasing.

In today’s environment, engineers and purchasing teams want to be able to research the different products they need on their own time. It’s important for them that being able to compare different options and sites is quick and easy. With well-designed e-Commerce sites, developers can search for the products they need, verify a particular part is the exact product they’re looking for and buy the product right then and there.

Many aspects of the business relationship between two parties are covered with e-Commerce. These often include product information research, learning about new technologies, ordering products, delivery, tracking and payments. It also allows for the downloading of documents (such as technical datasheets or user guides), aftersales support, training and customer service that’s quick and efficient.

These are just some of the broader benefits a development distributor can bring to startups and small-to-mid-sized developers. In the weeks ahead, I will take a deeper dive into some specific examples of the developer/distributor dynamics. Specifically, we’ll focus on three key areas:

  • Kitting operations: Because so many components are needed to produce electrical and electronic products, sourcing these components separately can be time-consuming and complicated. This upcoming article will show how developers can benefit from sourcing kits that include all of the components needed to complete a product—from the design phase through to the prototype and into low- and mid-volume production. 
  • Customized products to optimize operations: Smaller developers might not always have the ability to spend time sourcing products that fit their exact need. This article will show how working with customized parts—from batteries and control panel meters to cable boxes and cable assemblies—accelerates the design process and prevents roadblocks to sourcing rare products.
  • Maintenance and repair of existing production and manufacturing environment: When something breaks, if a part number is unknown or obsolete, developers can often face the difficult decision to replace an entire machine. But distributors have the capability to identify the necessary part to replace and chase down replacement parts for products that are no longer sold. This article will reveal how smaller developers can accelerate their product designs by leveraging these capabilities.

This article originally appeared in Electronic Design, an affiliate publication of Machine Design.

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