Unlocking the supply chain gets “intense”

It’s not just heavy industries such as auto manufacturing that have felt the effects of the current supply chain crisis, but tech startups as well.

The pain is especially acute for tech companies that use certain types of circuitry and microchips, participants at the Making Physical Products with Part Shortages roundtable Monday at Boulder Startup Week said.

“We have experienced supply chain shortages in the past,” mostly due to one-time incidents related to geopolitical issues or natural disasters, said Todd Hochwitz, chief electrical engineer of Zebulon Solutions LLC. But the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a supply chain disruption that is “unprecedented”.

Competition between startups seeking similar types of components has “become very intense,” said Zebulon COO Jenney Loper, forcing companies to devote more and more resources to sourcing and support functions. inventory management.

Monday’s panelists suggested an aggressive approach to sourcing materials.

“If you see parts, don’t assume they’ll still be available six months from now,” Loper said.

If parts are available, Hochwitz said, buy as many components as possible. Companies, he said, can always try to resell what they don’t use.

Big companies with strong economies of scale often get the first bite of the supply apple, so startups need to be patient, experts said.

“If you’re a small fish in a big pond, you probably won’t get your allocation when you expect it,” said Teresa Neeley, supply chain manager for Zebulon.

Relationships with component manufacturers and brokers become increasingly important as the supply chain tightens.

“Some brokers are reputable and some are not,” Hochwitz said. Unscrupulous brokers “maybe taking advantage of the supply chain and making as much money as they can these days.”

Neeley encouraged startups to carefully consider the components they buy.

Get photos of parts and packaging, like copies of certifications and business licenses, and ask for warranties, she recommended.

Local supply chain partners are often more reliable because they demand business returns from local operators, experts said.

“Don’t go to Amazon,” Neeley said. “I mean, you can if you really want to, but I wouldn’t trust him.”

This article was first published by BizWest, an independent news agency, and is published under a license agreement. © 2022 BizWestMedia LLC.

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