Tackling the test bottleneck in the supply chain

Tackling the test bottleneck in the supply chain

Interviews |
By Nick Flaherty

Testing is one of the major bottlenecks for the electronics supply chain, and independent distributor Fusion Worldwide earlier this year acquired Prosemi Mfg Pte Ltd, a large-scale electronic component test house in Singapore.

With the supply chain experiencing historic constraints leading to lengthy turnaround times, the deal cut lead times by weeks and boosted the distributor’s quality assurance and device verification capabilities.

“This is one of many critical pieces for the supply chain for us,” said Tobey Gonnerman, president of Fusion Worldwide told eeNews Europe for World Supply Chain Day on 21st April. “We are one of the largest independent distributors in the world but we are not the manufacturer or a franchised distributor so the perception is there is an inherent risk as we didn’t have direct traceability of parts.”

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The majority of semiconductors are still in short supply he says.  

“The list of product that people aren’t looking for is the shorter one,” he said. “The amount of requests and requirements is staggering. It is at least 50x what it was a year ago, and it’s across the board, all the major manufacturers, on active semiconductors, not as much on the passive and electromechanical, and there are spot shortages on the system level side such as CPUs, memories and storage.”

“We have lived the whole outsourced testing experience for many years and the lead times right now for test houses is three to five weeks but we have been able to eliminate that and get that down to a couple of days,” he said “We can even jump our own queues, and those three or four weeks can be pretty critical for a gating part that the rest of the board is waiting for.”

“One of the biggest pain points is lead time for distributor and customers. Our customers need product, and need it fast, so all of the demand we are filling now is the demand that people had yesterday so speed is of the essence,” he said. “Having to rely on outsource testing partners was a huge pain point for us, We were spending $500,000 a month [on external test capacity] and we were at the mercy of those test houses that were also suffering from extreme backlogs. The deal allows us to take control of our own order prioritising and meet deliveries more accurately.”

Authenticity verification 

When parts come from different sources there can be a risk of counterfeit or failed parts entering the supply chain.

“Customers want quality assurance and authenticity verification,” said Gonnerman. “What we’ve seen in the last year or so as a result of the hypershortage is that more customers are requesting higher amounts of testing and quality assurance. I think that’s driven by the wider range of customers we are doing business with, they don’t have as much experience with the open market with vendor controls and so on. More customers are asking for more and more higher level testing which drive the need for outside testing,” he said. 

Quality assurance

“Obviously demand is outpacing supply and at our core we are sourcing organisation. We work with everyone from direct manufacturers to end users excess, franchise distributors, other open market distributors, there’s a lot of different types of vendors out there. One company’s shortage could be another’s excess so having visibility globally makes us a match maker and our systems show us who might be interested and who might supply them. We have 6000+ vendors and 4000 active customers so we have a lot of data points.”

“We can do a lot of things in house such as decapsulation and x-ray analysis, but we don’t do full functional test as you would need to replicate the application so its not practical. But we do simple functional test to verify the product is live, carries a charge and has the basic functionality. Then there’s also solderability testing which helps reassure customers there won’t be a problem with assembly, for example, if it hasn’t been stored correctly or handled correctly.”

“This also brings us more advanced authenticity testing and the ability to automate some things we would do manually, such as checking orientation and co-planarity of product in trays,” he added.

“Quality starts with the supplier,” he said. “We treat every product as guilty until proven innocent so the perceived risk associated with the procurement of the parts has been minimised. Our sourcing expertise and vendor and supply qualification is a huge part of the process.”

Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Fusion has 22 locations across four continents.;

Other articles for World Supply Chain Day

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