Since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic, supply chain issues have been on everyone’s mind. It’s a universal problem that is not industry exclusive and has progressively gotten worse in 2022 as demand has soared.
The automation industry today seems to be at its wit’s end. Everyone needs parts, but parts aren’t available. Deadlines are getting pushed back. Lines are down. It’s getting harder and harder to put out these fires.
Below are methods that Electronic Drives and Controls has employed to better tackle these supply chain issues and bring their clients relief.
Stay Early, Stay Ahead
Evolution during a crisis is imperative to a business’ survival, so it will come as no surprise that many integrators have made certain changes to keep up with the ever-changing tides. EDC has always been creative in their problem solving, so it was an easy pivot for them to make a slight change in their project planning by sourcing parts as their first step, or as early in the process as possible.
“On the front end of an upcoming project’s discussion, we tend to now look at availability of parts even before we start our engineering process. We used to engineer it, then find out that certain parts were not available, and then we would have to re-engineer it if we wanted to meet a particular delivery,” said Chuck Dillard, vice president of EDC. “Now, it’s a lot of coordination between our purchasing and engineering departments to pick the right parts and design around what’s available.”
Through front end work on a project, engineers can predict pitfalls and pivot where needed. Having an early plan and changing where needed is better than coming in later and improvising when challenges arise. This flexibility can be crucial during supply chain constraints.
Utilizing Third-Party Manufacturers
EDC has also turned to third-party manufacturers to help address challenges. Third-party manufacturers can be difficult to choose from and it takes extensive research, time, and experience to understand how to credibly source parts. When you’re on your own, there are quality and safety concerns to consider when ordering off of the web – that’s why EDC has invested the necessary time and effort to research and connect with the right sources.
“For instance, if we want to get an Allen Bradley PLC, we go to Turtle & Hughes and we place an order with them. They order from the factory and then the factory says, ‘Oh, that’ll be four or five months,’ but we really need that PLC right away,” said Bob Pusateri, director of business development at EDC. “So, we purchase components from alternate sources.”
EDC keeps a well-researched list of possible sources in their back pocket to acquire parts as quickly as possible. They rely on their proven expertise to discern whether a part will be usable, even from somewhat-controversial online auction sites like eBay. They don’t make any sourcing decisions lightly, and they always employ a proper investigation before committing to a purchase. With the risk of faulty seals, or other safety measures at stake, working with an industry expert like EDC is crucial to ensuring the successful delivery of these hard-to-find items.
A Vendor-Neutral Strategy
As a system integrator and field service team specializing in over 40 drive brands, Electronic Drives and Controls maintains a vendor-neutral strategy, meaning they do not prescribe to only one OEM for all their projects. This has allowed the company to be more flexible and pull from an array of manufacturers. In turn, EDC is able to compare pricing and capabilities between vendors, allowing them to pass along the added value to their customers.
Having strong alliances with world-class hardware and software providers around the nation, EDC has done the background work to ensure that their customers are getting the quality that they have come to expect. Through good relationships and a strong network, EDC has lowered lead times and sourced parts that would have otherwise been inaccessible.
The Benefits of Mixing and Matching
With an ample and extensive network of contacts, EDC has the added benefit of being able to pull parts from multiple resources when they’re ready, and as soon as possible. By utilizing a vendor-neutral approach, EDC is able to ‘mix and match’ parts for systems. By sourcing appropriate parts from alternative resources, EDC is able to better maintain project timeline expectations, allowing projects to be completed faster and with much less downtime.
In addition, through mixing and matching, the more cost-effective alternative can be purchased. Using one OEM for the HMI and another for the PLC offers the option to now choose the less expensive parts. This can also help cut down on the time needed to make a purchase, which means more time is going into actual engineering for the project.
What Does the Future Hold for the Supply Chain?
Last summer, if you had asked a supplier when they expected the supply chain to start improving, they would have most likely estimated the summer of 2022. Yet, as most of us well know, that time has come and gone, yet supply challenges remain.
Today, there is a mixed review, with some saying it’s getting better, and some of the opinion that it’s getting worse. This unpredictability can understandably be worrisome, but it is not cause for panic.
When you’re stuck with downtime that is troublesome or you can’t get parts for the system that you rely on, EDC is proud to be your warranty. The supply chain is scraping the bottom of the barrel and the outlook is uncertain. Call on EDC, an experienced and knowledgeable integrator, to navigate this volatile landscape and make conscious decisions on your behalf. EDC has the resources to get your systems up and running.