Distributors need to have in-depth knowledge about specific components as well as a panoramic view of the electronics industry, with all of its parts, systems, and players. We talk to Avnet and Mouser to learn more.
Distributors play a unique role in the connector industry. Although connector companies work closely with end users to design their products and anticipate future needs, no company can provide every solution needed to complete a product. Distributors take a panoramic view of the electronics world, and bring together a comprehensive array of components from the best manufacturers in the broader electronics industry. That means they know connectors inside and out, and they also know cables and wires, sensors, capacitors, resistors, semiconductors, and all the diverse components that complete a system. We talked to Vince Arena, director global supplier management at Avnet, and Kevin Hess, Mouser Electronics’ senior vice president of marketing, to learn more about the distributor perspective.
Connector Supplier: What is your company’s most in-demand connector type?
Kevin Hess, Mouser: Probably the most in-demand types are automotive and wire-to-board connectors. Mouser stocks all of the major connector lines, including Amphenol, Bel/Cinch, Harwin, Molex, Phoenix Contact, and TE Connectivity, among others, which gives our customers a variety of choices for their designs.
Vince Arena, Avnet: Our customers come to us looking for a wide variety of connectors, with board-to-board and wire-to-board connectors most often requested. Headers, D-subs, and I/O connectors are some of the most in demand.
How do you choose what suppliers to include in your catalog?
Kevin Hess, Mouser: We are constantly looking for opportunities to bring new products into stock from our existing suppliers, as well as looking to sign new manufacturers with innovative products. Connector products are an important part of the electronics design chain, and new products and technologies are being developed by manufacturers around the world. We are always on the lookout for those products — whether they come from a manufacturer who is already on our line card or one that isn’t. The end goal is to give our customers access to the widest selection of new products and technologies for their designs.
Vince Arena, Avnet: Our line card is based on inventory investments on a number of factors including product/technology acceptance and position in the market, supplier-recommended purchases as well as our new design wins.
Distributors are often the first to notice industry trends. What predictions can you make based on the components your customers are buying?
Kevin Hess, Mouser: Currently, we’re seeing strong growth in the industrial IoT and automotive segments, which is spurring demand for sensors, RF/wireless products, and microcontrollers.
Vince Arena, Avnet: Across the industry, we continue to see the need for faster, smaller, and cheaper components, as well as new standards like 5G that will push the limits and further drive higher data transfer speeds.
How do you help small suppliers compete?
Kevin Hess, Mouser: Small manufacturers are creating innovative and game-changing products that allow design engineers to create the next best design. We help all manufacturers by making their products easy to find on the web, and by bringing awareness of their products and brand to the millions of visitors using Mouser’s website. We provide suppliers with landing pages, product content, and technical documents with helpful information that allows engineers to quickly learn about their product, and easily buy with one click.
Vince Arena, Avnet: We provide a wide array of supply and design chain services to support our entire supplier base. We have also shifted to a more customer-centric focus to help our suppliers with demand creation and expanding their potential to customers. Our business model is focused on bringing in more customers that, in turn, create more value for suppliers of all sizes.
How is the maker movement affecting your business?
Kevin Hess, Mouser: The maker movement is inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds to use their creativity and electronics to construct amazing things — everything from wearables to smart home devices. It is allowing us to expand our customer base by offering our products and services to a growing group of technologists and hardware innovators. It also gives us a chance to partner with innovative manufacturers that offer a broad range of products aimed at innovators and makers. Mouser stocks a wide array of products from major manufacturers in this sector, including Sparkfun, Adafruit, Arduino, Red Pitaya, Seeed, BeagleBoard, and Intel. We’re excited to be part of that kind of ingenuity and innovation and continually look for new and exciting products to bring to this dynamic customer segment.
Vince Arena, Avnet: Avnet is an ardent supporter of the maker movement. Our connected ecosystem and full end-to-end service capabilities provide the platform for makers to be successful, from idea to prototype to production. Last fall we launched Hardware Studio, an ongoing collaboration with Kickstarter and Dragon Innovation, to provide hardware developers with the expertise they need to successfully scale and introduce products to market. Additionally, as moving from idea to prototype can be a challenge, our Path to Prototype is a free guide that makes the process fun via a board game. Makers can move around the board by completing to-do cards, learning definitions, and reading stories of past hardware startup failures. By the time they’ve completed the guide, they have a prototype and much of the business development for their startup done.
How does your company help the industry fight counterfeiting and IP theft?
Kevin Hess, Mouser: At Mouser, we have a quality assurance team dedicated solely to preventing counterfeit products from entering the market. Mouser obtains every component directly from the original manufacturer or through authorized sources. We are an AS9100C-certified distributor, earning the industry’s top standard for quality and control, which assures design engineers and buyers that their orders are traceable and genuine. Customers know that when they buy from Mouser they are getting the genuine article. Vince Arena, Avnet: IP theft and counterfeiting impacts more than just Avnet and our suppliers. It takes hard-earned dollars from the rightful owners globally, threatens the entire supply chain, and ultimately jeopardizes the reliability of the end products. Avnet participates in and supports various industry-led efforts, including the great work done by the Electronic Component Industry Association (ECIA) and others to prevent counterfeit components from impacting our industry entering the supply chain. We must remain diligent in our efforts.
What role does your company play in the process of introducing new standards?
Kevin Hess, Mouser: Not only is Mouser a member of both the ECIA and China Electronics Distributor Alliance (CEDA), but the company is a contributing member of the SAE G-19 Counterfeit Electronic Parts Committee, which sets standards for our industry channels to ensure customers receive only the newest genuine authorized parts.
Vince Arena, Avnet: Avnet works with organizations such as ECIA to introduce and develop standards to promote adoption, acceptance, and advance utilization of emerging technologies.
What challenges do you see coming for the electronics industry?
Kevin Hess, Mouser: The ongoing challenge of continued consolidation has been with us for a few years and while it is diminishing, it does continue to linger industry-wide. The industry is also seeing challenges from product availability and longer product lead times, which Mouser controls by stocking more inventory than ever before. With our expanded warehouse and a greatly increased number of warehouse personnel, we can continue to provide our customers with the excellent service they deserve and expect.
Vince Arena, Avnet: The technology and distribution industries are going through rapid change. Continued part shortages, allocation, and price increases are impacting the entire industry. At Avnet, we’re embracing our connected ecosystem approach to ensure we’re providing value to our customers and supplier partners despite these challenges. Through our ecosystem, comprised of small scale specialists like Premier Farnell and Newark element 14, design-focused Hackster.io, and manufacturing solution provider Dragon Innovation, we can support every stage of the product lifecycle, from idea to prototype to mass production.