Even though inventories have recovered, many delays and other snags remain. To eliminate them or reduce their impact, AutomationDirect reports that quicker forecasts, diversifying suppliers and product redesigns can help. However, all of these can be aided and improved by learning what options are available and which will be the most effective.
“We’re still seeing impacts on the supply chain due to disruptions by COVID-19, but many of the logistical issues related to scheduling times, pricing, and shipping and transportation have mostly returned to normal,” says Jeff Payne, team captain of business development at AutomationDirect. “However, there are still many shortages of microprocessors, related components and the devices they’re installed in, such as Ethernet switches, PLCs, HMI, variable frequency drives and many others."
Payne reports that AutomationDirect’s inventory percentage has climbed back up to respectable levels, enabling it to keep its promise of making products available. “There’s relief in sight, but some shortages are still expected to continue through 4Q23,” says Payne. “We provide updated forecasts like this to our suppliers, and give them advance notice on our upcoming purchases, so they can plan their own production. We’re also diversifying our suppliers for similar product lines, so we can give our customers more options. We also work with our suppliers to absorb some of their costs due to delay and shortages, such as expediting products by flying them in. We’ve also operated our web store, offered free tech support, and been the low-cost solution for so many years that we're able to experiment and develop more useful options.”
Video instruction boosts resilience
Another helpful resource from AutomationDirect is its longstanding library of more than 1,500 videos on a variety of process control, automation and other technical topics. Located at its website and on YouTube, the library includes basic and advanced product introductions, technical support, training and supplier introductions. “The library was well-used before, but it really ramped up during COVID-19,” says Payne. “During the last 12 months, we’ve had about 13 million views across all topics.”
While a regular call to tech support can yield a detailed, one-time explanation, the videos can be re-referenced anytime a user needs it. This is particularly useful as in-house engineering department have dwindled over the years due to layoffs, retirements and the more recent pandemic. “We’re seeing more OEMs and other users taking advantage of the expertise of their system integrators and panel builders because they may lack the resources to keep that know-how on staff,” adds Payne. “We’ve also offered our SI Direct program for 10 years, which allows customers to consult with its 80 system integrators and panel builders. Its members work for companies that have bought and applied our products for years, and have demonstrated their competency with them at different levels.”