To get those details right, OEM engineering teams need quick and efficient access to specialist expertise outside their core competencies. This role has traditionally been fulfilled by field application engineers (FAEs) on the supplier side – a highly effective solution, but with some practical limitations. Demand will always outstrip supply, operating costs can be difficult to control, and of course, a customer can never have their FAE’s undivided attention often enough or for long enough.
Appropriately enough, the electronics industry is harnessing the power of technology to overcome these challenges. Online there is no need to find the right number to call, request a visit, or await attention. The support available is changing quickly as the web continues to evolve. What started as a convenient mechanism for distributing datasheets has grown into a vast repository of diverse resources that harness multimedia and are interactive. Even now, we are probably only scratching the surface of its potential. No-one should underestimate the power of web-based support, and the competitive advantages that can be gained: a customer’s question answered quickly is another design-in won.
Maximizing the value of digital support
There are many advantages to digital support: it can be provided at a low cost per customer, and accessed easily, quickly, 24/7 and free of charge to the user. Multiple customer engineers can access the same assets at the same time, from anywhere in the world, unlike a human FAE. There is no effective limit to the quantity of information that can be made available at any one time. Diverse types of content can be presented, from articles and tutorials, to videos, digital models, and tools such as product selectors, schematic capture tools or simulators.
The greater the product portfolio, the greater the potential benefits of using online well. KEMET is an example of company working hard in this space. Its engineering pages aim to provide a state-of-the-art online support experience for circuit designers. As an aid to technical component selection and circuit design, it provides an example of a rich source of ‘analog knowhow’ that, in a digital world, is increasingly rarely found as part of an OEM engineering team’s native skillset.
Opportunities to support and inform can include application guides and technical articles that can be read online or downloaded. There are blogs that comment on topical subjects which may be on engineers’ minds. There are videos that are designed to be both entertaining and to answer questions in a succinct way that cannot be done so efficiently and effectively through text and diagrams. And there are a variety of electronic design resources such as models, simulators and calculators that assist product selection and would be extremely expensive for customers to acquire for themselves.