SAN FRANCISCO--With electronics manufacturing moving offshore, North American components distributors are finding it increasingly important to be at the front end of the design cycle.
For catalog distributor Newark InOne (Chicago), providing engineering prototypes has always been a key business, but more recently, supporting the engineering community has become a strategic focus.
"Being a small-quantity distributor, and having breadth of products, we're able to provide time and place utility for engineers," said Eric Smith, director of design engineer marketing at Newark InOne. "Now we're also recognizing that being at the front end of the design curve is vital."
At ElectronicaUSA with the Embedded Systems Conference here this week, Newark InOne, a division of U.K.-based Premier Farnell, highlighted some of the ways it's broadening its offerings for engineers.
First off, the company is broadening its components catalog, adding 40,000 new products to its online selection of semiconductors, passives, connectors, and electromechanical parts. Some of the products are from suppliers such as Ramtron International, Taiyo Yuden, and American Power Conversion.
Secondly, technical support is being beefed up in several ways. A staff of 20 engineers now assists customers with design-in questions ranging from product identification and product specification to application advice.
"By the end of this year, that number could easily double if the need is there," Smith said.
In addition to reaching technical support through the distributor's sales force, a "live chat" function has been added to Newark InOne's website that gives customers real-time access to the company's engineers, including experts in categories such as FPGAs.
In June, the distributor plans to introduce a search engine function on its website to allow engineers to, among other things, search for lead-free components. The search engine is being rolled out globally across Premier Farnell's businesses, according to Smith.
Further, the company is ramping a Siebel customer relationship management system that will allow it to track customers' buying patterns and respond by customizing services.