Finding the One: 4 Things to Look for When Selecting a Distributor

Finding the One: 4 Things to Look for When Selecting a Distributor

The New Year is here. But it’s never too late to build up your inventory, given the recent pandemic-driven component shortages. Finding the right distributor for your business is critical to building long-term resilience and success. With so many options and choices – from authorized to independent electronic part distributors – the decision can be a tough one. 

When narrowing your search, it’s important to keep in mind that the relationship you have with your distributor should be symbiotic – one where your principles and values are shared and supported. This will create a stress-free, productive and profitable environment, and ultimately help your business thrive. 

So what qualities should you look for when selecting a distributor? Here are the top four qualities to look for. 

1. Reliable

When selecting a distributor, you want to ensure that they’ve got your back 100% of the time. It’s important to have a distributor that’s quick on their feet and responsive to your needs, especially when you’re under pressure to find last-minute components or that hard-to-find obsolete part. 

What is their general response time to your queries or request for quotes? What if something goes wrong, like for instance, a shipment error, do they immediately jump into action? While the need for speed is real, the call for accuracy is also equally important. You want to ensure that your distributor’s response contains accurate pricing estimates, delivery times, and inventory information. 

Before making a final decision on a distributor, it’s important to do your research and schedule time to meet with the distributor so you can audit their processes. This will enable you to see firsthand how their quality management process works, meet the team, and take a tour of the company. These are critical steps in determining if the distributor is without a doubt, trustworthy and reliable – for total peace of mind. 

2. Quality 

With the rise in suspect counterfeit, counterfeit, and fraudulent parts invading the marketplace, inspecting and verifying all incoming electronic components for authenticity has become a necessity in the industry. This is especially true for independent distributors, as they mostly deal with hard-to-find, obsolete parts.

According to a 2019 report from the ERAI Inc., a global information services organization that monitors, investigates, and reports issues affecting the global electronics supply chain, there were a total of 66.91% of parts that were reported to be nonconforming, suspect counterfeit, or counterfeit parts sold by companies not located in China. This is quite alarming because the number supports the theory that more mitigation is needed. Simply relying on not sourcing parts from China-based companies is not an adequate strategy to avoid the infiltration of suspect counterfeit and counterfeit parts, the ERAI stated. 

The Counterfeit Threat is Real

Counterfeit parts can seriously harm your business, in the form of increased costs, damage to your brand, loss of revenue and worse, product failures and malfunctions. So how do you know if your distributor offers quality products? 

Look for a distributor with a vigorous quality management and counterfeit mitigation program to ensure you receive authentic electronic components. The program should involve assessing the perceived levels of the component and application risk; detecting and mitigating the risk; controlling and reporting on any substandard, fraudulent part; and implementing solutions to preserve the integrity of your supply chain needs. 

A solid distributor that adheres to the highest standards of quality control and counterfeit mitigation will have the right certifications to show for it, including the SAE AS6081 Counterfeit Electronic Parts: Avoidance, Detection, Mitigation and Disposition for Distributors certification. The AS6081 is the aerospace standard and provides requirements, practices, methods, and guidance to mitigate the risk of purchasing and supplying suspect counterfeit and counterfeit parts. 

Other noteworthy certifications that your chosen distributor should have include the ISO 9001:2015, AS9120B, ANSI/ESD S20.20-2014, and FAA AC 00-56B certifications. 

Look for a distributor that stays current with the latest emerging industry standards and actively participates in governing bodies and associations, such as the Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA), the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program (GIDEP), and the ERAI, just to name a few. 

Before signing the dotted line, check to see if your potential partner has been reported by the GIDEP, ERAI, or other industry associations for any deficiencies or for distributing faulty, poor quality parts. It’s always best to cover all your bases to ensure you’ve thoroughly vetted a potential distributor.

3. Diverse 

For most companies, tapping a distributor with a strong, diverse supply chain is paramount to operating a successful business. Selecting a distributor that offers the best of both worlds – as both an authorized and independent distributor of electronic parts – will help synchronize all of your orders and processes in one place. This will eliminate the headaches associated with jumping from one distributor-type to the other. 

Plus, choosing a distributor offering both authorized and independent lines gives you a large swath of diverse products at your fingertips. You’ll be able to access the authorized distributor’s vast network of original component manufacturers (OCM) in various industries such as the energy, automotive, industrial, medical, aerospace, and automation sectors. 

Having access to a larger supply of products allows for more purchasing flexibility, lower costs, a streamlined buying process, and shorter lead times – a critical component to those who rely on just-in-time deliveries. 

You’ll also have access to all manufacturers’ full range of up-to-date technical and product information, including documented evidence of a part’s supply chain history. This document will identify all supply chain intermediaries involved, starting from the OCM. Knowing the supply chain traceability of a part will help you avoid suspect counterfeit parts in your supply chain. 

Selecting a distributor that also offers an independent network allows you to tap into the distributor’s own inventory of electronic parts and components, and a collaborative network of suppliers, including original equipment manufacturers (OEM), contract manufacturers, and other distributors from different parts of the world and different ends of the supply chain. 

Simply put, a distributor offering a diverse supply chain will help you better optimize your supply chain, gain valuable supply chain solutions, and accomplish your objectives. 

4. Communicative

Having an open line of communication is vital in any relationship. When selecting a distributor, it’s important to know what their process is in terms of transparency. Will they keep you up-to-date with their latest products or processes? Will they communicate with you through their process of inspection and verification, so you’re always in-the-know? Or are they difficult to get a hold of, or worse, ghosted you? Your chosen distributor should be very responsive and communicative – so if you hit any snags along the way, you’ll know immediately and can make better business decisions as a result. 

In closing, selecting a distributor fit for your business needs is not based on luck, but on doing your due diligence. Knowing if a potential distributor shares the same values as your business goes a long way and will be pivotal to your company’s continued growth and success. If the distributor is reliable, offers quality product, a diverse supply chain, and is committed to being open and transparent – then you’ve found The One. 

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