My company's 30th anniversary in business has given me cause to look back and think about lessons learned. We've all been through the industry's ups and downs over the past 30 years; growth and crisis have shaped us and how we manage our supply chains and the volatility of our industry.
While much has changed over the decades, it has been interesting to consider how the industry has evolved and what has remained constant.
Innovation with focus
Looking across the supply chain -- from design engineers who continue to transform the role of computing in our daily lives, to the nuts and bolts of supply chain management -- some principles hold true: flexibility, expandability, innovation, and the constant of change. Whether we look at the evolution of chips, devices or supply chains, what we see in the wider electronics industry is that innovation is at the core: it is driving change to improve on today. Listening to customers and potential customers is essential, but success comes with being able to provide dedicated product or services for a customer and see how that solution can be adapted to benefit a range of customers.
Last week Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and inventor of the Apple I and II personal computers, shared time with us at Smith & Associates as we looked back at the growth of our industry. During the discussion, he focused on the issue of quality and the focus that guides innovation to success, "I came up with products because I wanted it for myself. You are going to make it a quality [product] because it is you." The focus on quality, on improved design, on better ways to do things all come from guiding innovation to develop ideas and products because you want to see them bettered.
Supply chain flexibility
As demand for ever-improving personal computers and consumer electronics surged over the past 30 years, so much has changed in the industry – it has been a true evolution of systems, of supply chains, of processes and networks, and importantly of quality control. In Smith's early days we too were focused on components that supported the newly growing PC sector. As different end-products had peaks and troughs, so did the components we sourced and the services provided by independent distributors such as ourselves. It was really about shortages and managing those events. But this is not where leading independents are centered today. Of course, we are always a go-to partner during disruptions and shortage events, and the strategic expertise is there to handle those crisis events.
Today, the global market demands wider supply chain solution services. Service programs are critical for customers because of the complexities in supply chains, whether sourcing strategies, quality controls and regulatory reporting, or the still growing demand for vendor managed inventory solutions. Supply chain services are critical and the most effective services are unique services tailored to meet the needs of the client who has a problem. It sounds simple on the surface, but the crux of the successful implementation comes when flexibility and expandability are part and parcel of the innovative solution. This level of service is in many ways as great of an evolution from where independent distribution was 30 years ago as where today's smartphones and tablets are from the workstations before the monochromatic PCs.
Marc Barnhill is chief trading officer for Smith & Associates