Online Innovation; the Essential Support for Engineering Creativity

Internet-based services are evolving to support professionals perhaps even more quickly and extensively than consumer-oriented services. Imaginative Internet applications hold the keys to overcome electronic product design challenges, by helping engineers to capture information and apply knowledge within increasingly tough timeframes imposed by today’s market demands.

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Online design tools like EnVision™ by Arrow support collaboration across multiple locations

 

Accelerating Processes

When Arrow Electronics asked designers to name their most-needed online resources, the majority said datasheets were their top priority. Arrow’s research also showed that engineers see ever-shorter time-to-market as a potential threat to their careers. Speed is of the essence, then, but assessing components and gathering data at the beginning of a project can be extremely time consuming.

Online datasheets and other resources make the required information available at the click of a button, and today’s distributors are ideally placed to consolidate data from multiple manufacturers in a single place on the web. Their goal is to become the screen of choice for engineers seeking the information to begin their projects, and hence become the preferred partner throughout the product lifecycle. In focus groups and surveys conducted by Arrow to investigate engineers’ digital needs, respondents have said they want to see detailed product pages in addition to gaining easy access to datasheets.

Saving Creative Energy

However, speed is not the only advantage the Internet can offer. Vendors can deliver extra value by taking the initiative to develop new applications and connect with forward-thinking partners to help further streamline design and engineering activities. A traditional product-realization flow is hampered by numerous barriers: these can be as trivial as the fact that needed information may not be in the right place or even up to date, or that processes for requesting components as engineering samples are complicated and laborious. On the other hand, a desired component may be unavailable from an approved supplier, or specialist technical support may be difficult to find within the supplier’s organization. Overcoming barriers such as these saps energy from the project team that is obviously better directed towards more constructive tasks. The Internet is an ideal platform for tools and services that can help relieve these burdens.

Today’s Internet means that every organisation can become a publisher, and suppliers have been taking advantage of this to create vast libraries of technical literature useful to engineers. These include not only application notes but also reference designs and development platforms that support an increasing diversity of projects. Arrow’s recent collaboration with Renesas and embedded-systems designer RELOC, resulting in the ARIS (Arrow Renesas IoT Synergy) development platform, is just one example. The ARIS platform comprising optimized, scalable hardware, RTOS, middleware and software including communication stacks provides a convenient turnkey package that eliminates numerous barriers to developing high-value differentiated applications.

There are also over 30,000 reference designs available online at arrow.com. Customers can pick and choose from these resources, and use them in any way that helps solve the challenge at hand. Live links between the components in reference designs and essential resources such as datasheets, production status, stock levels, and sample request forms exploits more of the power of today’s Internet to help minimize energy-sapping barriers and help meet those challenging time to market targets.

Live chat is an increasing feature of customer-service initiatives throughout the commercial world, and electronic component distributors are also embedding live-chat in their digital presence. Engineers can use this to connect directly with experts who can answer technical questions about components or designs, and live chat is also invaluable to procurement staff for confirming arrangements such as pricing and delivery. Distributors like Arrow can exploit their global scale to make hundreds of experts reachable online around the clock to give advice to customers.

Increasingly, today is also the age of the Internet “how-to” video. Again, the electronic design community is poised to take advantage, as a growing library of videos posted online by distributors and their supplier partners provide rapid access to know-how that would be difficult and time-consuming to put across in a presentation. They can deliver a similar experience to the traditional hands-on workshop of the real world, without requiring engineers to leave their offices.

Underneath the attractive multimedia content, the sheer limitless connectivity made possible by today’s Internet a major factor that enables the tremendous convenience on offer to users. Online design tools conceived to support collaborative working, such as Arrow’s enVision™, link to large component libraries, facilitate sharing designs with colleagues or supplier application engineers, and automatically compile the bill of materials for the design. Arrow has partnered with Transim to create enVision, as well as other focused electronic design tools such as Lighting Designer and Embedded Systems Power Designer that help overcome engineering challenges such as component selection, basic calculations, design optimization, system-level design assessment, and Bill of Materials (BOM) generation.

All aspects of the supply chain are also being improved. In addition to simplifying access to component samples, the transition into full production can be made far easier with purpose-designed online tools that enable purchasing professionals to establish prices, order components exactly as specified, and be sure of on-time delivery. Arrow has, in fact, created a separate space called MyArrow, which is architected to support services such as order-book management, BOM archives, Product Change Notice (PCN) management, shipment tracking, invoice history, delivery scheduling, local stock indication and price checking, as well as component reservation. 

 

Spreading Seamless Connections

The services available online to aid realization of high-tech products continue to move forward quickly, as suppliers seek to harness the power of the Internet as a means of differentiation and securing customer loyalty. Arrow, for example, has recently publicized its partnership with the crowd-funding innovator Indiegogo. The two companies identified the opportunity for Arrow to support startups by connecting proposals with the engineering resources needed to deliver successfully funded new products into the market quickly. The Arrow program is a neat fit with the latest services Indiegogo is introducing, such as InDemand and Marketplace, which are aimed at helping entrepreneurs manage their business and gain access to online sales channels after the funding cycle is complete.

Another powerful example of how companies can exploit the Internet to deliver seamless supply-chain experiences for their customers can be seen in Arrow’s close cooperation with Verical. Verical, the eBay of the electronic components world, enables companies to deal with unused inventory and quickly secure supplies of parts that are difficult to find, and takes away the Number One worry of customers interested in taking advantage of the grey market: namely, counterfeit components in the supply chain. Verical’s founders have established a robust process for verifying the credentials of traders and the provenance of components in their marketplace, to give the best assurance for buyers that all components are genuine and of high quality.

The future of this seamless Internet-based connectivity can also be seen in the way services are evolving to support emerging opportunities such as the Internet of Things. IoT services will establish completely new business models and supply chains, and arrow.com equips technology companies to respond by providing services to support the entire value chain from device design and production to the Cloud services that complete the delivered product: a complete digital solution.

Just as the Internet is the center of innovation as far as consumer retailing and social media are concerned, inventive web services are also changing the way professionals work. It is the place OEM organizations and their engineers, under growing pressure to keep pace with markets and ahead of their competitors, are looking for help to maximize their creativity and deliver quickly.

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