Characteristics of Electronics Design Industry
Models keep changing very fast, as is envisioned by the rapid introduction of new models of mobile phones, TV and computers. The design engineers keep changing the designs and building in new parts in their prototypes. Some of these prototypes successfully reach the stages of commercial production and the designed parts then undergo major surge in their demand. It is because now these parts (samples) form part of the Bill of materials of the production run.
Typically, the design engineers procure the design parts (samples) on their own and do not involve the purchase departments. The vendors of electronic parts usually follow up with the design engineers and persuade them to use their products (samples) in their new designs. The design engineers, on their part, do not know the sources of supply of their requisite samples. And they often take the easy route of accepting first offered parts (these broadly meet their criteria) from those vendors who may have followed up with them during the design process.
Focus of The Portal
A B2B portal was designed to meet the aforementioned needs of the design engineers. It was positioned as one-stop-shop for entire design engineers to get their samples and complete their design activity.
Background To The Assignment
A software services company had been in the business to meet the design sample requirements of the design engineers of this industry. The company, however, had run out of funds and was not able to sustain the desired level of service to the design engineers.
This company was bought out and a major product upgrade was planned. The earlier product had used java technology so it was decided to use the same technology of higher version. The decision was taken in view of the preferred features of programming language and the associated operating system. Requirements to be changed were collated and listed during the regular operations. Further, pilot surveys were undertaken to cull out other requirement changes. The pilot surveys covered entire stake holders viz., the customers and every members of the supply chain including manufacturers and the dealers.
The Build Phase
The product was built in an outsourced environment i.e., developed in India and was deployed on the high-speed servers in the US. It was targeted to service, for the most part, the needs of the US based design engineers. A transition phase was meticulously planned and the existing data was migrated to the new system.
The Development Environment
The development environment consisted of two levels of servers – the development servers and the test servers. After the product was successfully tested, it was deployed on the pilot server where it was made open to testing by the sales staff and also by the manufacturer organization staff, especially those manufacturers whose change request would have been built into the product release. After the product passed through the pilot phase, it was deployed on the production servers and all the stakeholders (other than that of the design engineers) were sent the release notes.
The primary focus was US electronics manufacturers market. The sales function was therefore localized in the US. The customer service function was initially kept in the US. Slowly, it was shifted to India where the call center worked in the US times.
The function related to satisfying the queries of the design engineers and also following up with them post the shipment of the samples to find out the status of the designed parts.
The production function was kept in the India where major product enhancements were planned and undertaken. The system administration function was also kept in India. However, a token representation was kept in the US to take care of the immediate attention related to customer needs.
Traffic on Portal
The portal had a registered customer base of 40,000 design engineers and was growing progressively. Following strategies were used to increase the customer base.
The dealers were not charged any money to display their lines on the portal. It was argued that larger the product lines the more the portal would have traction with the design engineers
The design engineers were not charged any money to use the portal. It was argued that more the number of such engineers, the more the utility of this portal would be, for the defined niche and thus, in turn, would increase the customer base
The manufacturers were the only stakeholders who were asked to pay for being on the portal. It was argued that these stakeholders stand to benefit the most (directly as well as indirectly through the dealer sales) if the sample was designed-in and the prototype was to migrate to commercial production.
The Present Status
The economy, especially the electronic industry, underwent a downturn. Therefore, there was a significant drop in the new design activity. The portal, therefore, could not sustain itself at the prevailing scale of operations.
It was hence planned to upscale the operations of the portal in a significant manner. Towards this, funds requirements were worked out. Plans are underway to raise the funds from the market.