Digitising distribution

Digitising distribution

Interviews |
By Nick Flaherty

Five years on from founding a new type of component distribution model, Jens Gamperl is very much about the digital supply chain.

“We started integrating supply chain vendors into technology – the first step, the most successful, is SourceEngine as an independent e-commerce e-marketplace,” he said. “We have 2600 suppliers, manufacturers, direct or franchised distributors with real time access to inventory and pricing.”

“The company turns five years old this week and our goal is to provide technology for the whole electronics supply chain, from the manufacturers and franchised distributors, through to  open market distributors and we have a lot of inventory through OEMs and EMS that the market tries to absorb,” he said.  

This is now happening with Sourceengine providing the link between all kinds of databases and customers to offer bill of material (BoM) management functions, real-time data and a global database of parts with full traceability. Five years ago, Gamperl bought a small distributor in Miami, Florida, to get access to the basic API technology to connect to the databases of both chip and system manufacturers.

Since then the company has risen up the ranking of global distribution companies and this week is re-vamping its branding. “In the last two years we were in the top 25 distributors globally with over $125m with 90 locations,” said Gamperl. “We have 550m data sheets, lifecycle information, cross referenced so we give the engineer all the tools to provide access to a truly global supply chain in real-time.”

Next: Different distribution models

Alongside Sourcengine, Sourceability operates also Surcle, which combines professional matchmaking, crowdsourcing, and a global supplier marketplace to accelerate hardware development. Start-ups and medium-sized businesses can post projects to a global network of engineers and manufacturers who bid with solutions to help product managers adapt to shifting priorities, unforeseen issues and internal time-constraints.

“With Surcle and, by extension, the Burn-In, we are aiming to support the design process from start to finish. Budgets are tight, especially when it comes to smaller teams and businesses. By providing access to a network of fellow innovators, we can help companies get over the line in terms of product development and reduce time to market,” said Gamperl.

The new BoM tool can dramatically simplfy the procurement process he says, allowing a BoM to be uploaded and sourced, along with flags for parts that may be coming to end of life. Suggestions are then made for more up-to-date parts. “The BoM tool allows you to source 2000 line items with a click – we do the consolidation of the logistics and quality control if necessary.”

“We had a huge response to the launch at Electronica in 2018 but customers had issues with ERP and SAP systems and we had to integrate the data that is available through APIs to the ERP systems – that is where we got a boost compared to the catalogue distributors.

“We’ve been doing this for three months – we have the API with one large semiocnductor conpany for example to expand their digital footprint and reduce their distributors by the end of 2020. Our platform gives them the opportunity to compare what’s happening in the market.”

But chip makers, system makers and customers are all at different stages of digital development. “Some suppliers have APIs for data but not for quoting, so we are giving our technology to the custom by delivering the API and the integration into the ERP and to the manufacture to take portions of our technology,” he said.

“Out of the top ten EMS [contract manufacturers] we have integrated our API into 4. They all get it through API. They have sophisticated technologies so they can use it inside their own world and we have long term relationships with these guys,” said Gamperl.

He highlights that the customer, small and large, needs full traceability and access to the manufacturer. “I’m not a franchise but I buy from them and sell through Sourceengine,” he said.

While the API works for the large manufacturers, getting the data from the smaller ones needs a different approach. “We use the different platforms to create content and projects for small and medium manufacturers,” he said. “Then their data ends up in Sourceengine to be available for our customers.”  

“Ultimately, we see ourselves as a tech company providing platforms that enrich the engineering community by giving every link in the supply chain the tools, solutions and network they need to do what they’re best at without being held back by unnecessarily complicated or inflexible logistics,” he said.

“What’s holding me back is the idea of complete digitalisation – a lot of manufacturers are not there yet, and the Tier One distributors have to figure out how they do this.”

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