Costing of electronic parts is a whole different ballgame from mechanical parts, most of the time. While there are certainly custom ASICS and other custom electronic components, for the most part, electronics are more and more dominated by standard components (off the shelf processors, resistors, memory, capacitors, LEDs, etc.). One person at Morey Corporation who I interviewed for my upcoming book project on Product Cost Management, referred to these components affectionately as “popcorn.” The ME (mechanical engineer) equivalent of this is the beloved category of “hardware” or “fasteners.”
The good news is that there is a commodity market for these EE (electrical engineer) components. The “market” drives the cost down for you with many (theoretically) interchangeable vendors of the same part. This is very different from most mechanical parts, which are unique and must be sourced to specific suppliers for custom quotes. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that in the fast paced EE world, you have to start worrying about things, such as:
- Pricing Currency — How do I quickly find the lowest cost whenever I buy these components. Unlike the non-commodity world, the price will change often and quickly (and typically downward), until the component starts becoming obsolete.
- Obsolescence — Have you ever been looking for a new USB drive or laptop memory for your old computer, only to realize that the 2 GB stick is MORE expensive than the 4 GB stick? Well, you have encountered the effect of obsolescence in pricing. So you might ask, how to I know when the price is starting to rise due to obsolescence, because maybe I’ll make a large purchase at that point?
- Availability — where do I buy enough of what I need now?
Well, never fear, because the helpful folks over at Arena (a cloud based PLM provider) and Octopart (a search engine for electronic components) are here to help. Arena has a new (free) tool called PartsList that works like this:
- Download the tool here
- Put in your BOM (manufacturer and part number) to PartsList
- PartsList will link to Octopart to keep you aware of all pricing and availability, identify alternative sources, etc. goodness
You can also directly search for parts in Octopart. PartsList is FREE for personal use and, as of 4/6/12, was $9/month for commercial use. You can read more about PartsList on the Arena blog here article about it.
(p.s. Do check out Morey Corporation, if you need hardened and rugged electronics. Not only are they great guys, but they are the real deal — an AMERICAN MANUFACTURER with design and manufacturing in one building in the good ‘ol Midwest. They make stuff from advanced telematics to engine computers you can drop off a tall ladder on a cement floor without failure, to power inverters the size of card tables that move big equipment.)