Since the invention of the relay, buying electronic components has been a manual process. Enter 2022, after two years of a pandemic and untold supply chain disasters and shortages, and many buyers are taking a new look at what can be done, including:
- Modifying the time it takes for purchase approvals
- Streamlining the quotation process before purchasing
- Forecasting requirements further out (less JIT buying when possible)
- Redesigning what emergency processes look like
- Figuring out how to combat shortages
When the advertised available inventory is quickly gobbled up, and with lead times pushing out in some cases as far as 85 weeks or more, everything is moving rapidly, making “standard buying processes” a thing of the past.
A severe supply shortage means that purchasing pros must do even more work, and it will take more people to do that work. There have been numerous instances of employees being shifted out of their engineering and production jobs to assist in the parts purchasing search alongside procurement pros.
There is a solution, though.
The use of an Application Programming Interfaces (API) enables procurement teams to adjust more rapidly to changes in the volume of work and pivot faster. APIs provide additional bandwidth to procurement without moving it from another department.
APIs also alleviate some historical tension between engineering and procurement teams, involving engineering requesting products out of stock or at the end of life. An API provides information to engineering faster, enabling them to pick available parts and meet specs. A significant benefit to procurement—APIs help with those sometimes-impatient engineers.
An API can help shorten sourcing hours, but what exactly is it?
What is an API?
We run into APIs daily without realizing what’s in the background, coordinating information. For example, we can easily access multiple hotel options, rates and amenities with a few keystrokes. The information is pulled from a variety of external applications or databases and presented in an easy-to-digest list to help with decision making. After making our selections, we directly access our credit card provider to pay. This is just one example of an API, but its use is growing dramatically on the business front as information is exchanged via integrated applications.
An API is a software-based capability within a system that establishes how other systems or components can access that system. APIs provide a sort of contract between systems. They enable applications to communicate via a user interface and tap into technologies and capabilities that provide value. Examples include not only artificial intelligence AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) but also communicating data to customers, including, in this case, parts, and their availability.
APIs are proactive rather than reactive. It can be as easy as uploading a spreadsheet of part numbers and immediately accessing part availability, pricing, lead time and other information. You can get this information by emailing the spreadsheet to various distributors; however this process often relies on waiting for a response from multiple sources which could take more time than you have available. The buyer that receives available stock is the one who can find ways to cut out unnecessary steps and wait time. With an API, your spreadsheet is completed in seconds, allowing you the best possible opportunity to secure the parts you need.
Change Your Role
You already know that there are better ways to handle procurement than on a manual basis. Part of the reason why an API is essential in procurement is that buyers shouldn’t spend all of their time chasing parts, but rather doing bigger things such as strategically assessing lead times against deadline demands and finding or changing preferred suppliers. APIs can take care of some of the more minor things—the cutting and pasting, while buyers are free to develop their professional careers.
How to Implement
At first glance, it’s impossible to know whether API implementation can be handled without modifying your existing systems. Some may feel they don’t want to rock the proverbial boat amid the existing chaos. However, once you grasp the inherent benefits of an API and the company’s ability to better weather challenges, you’ll feel more comfortable having the conversation.
APIs are technical, and little creates more fear than suggesting your company add technology without fully understanding the underlying algorithms and bits. You don’t have to. If you are excited about how APIs can help free you to accomplish more on your job, take a stand and be that hero. APIs can be a great implementation—schedule a quick consultation with a company such as Mouser, or other distributor that may appeal to your particular business in a different way.
Where to Start
APIs have been around in general for a long time. One company with a vast API offering is Mouser Electronics. The distribution industry is growing in terms of offerings and most savvy businesses are actively utilizing an API. The pandemic and global supply chain shortages have turned users’ heads towards API technology and the many benefits made possible by its use. Mouser’s API hub saves time and money. It integrates Mouser information and processes without going to its website for searching, building a cart/parts list, or placing an order.