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RANT: The woeful state of eCommerce in the Electronics Industry


I recently returned to electronics design after twenty years in software. I was blown away by the improvement in the variety, sophistication, performance and cost effectiveness of components and the mind boggling range and stock management of the component suppliers. But I was shocked by the primitive state of eCommerce and information standards in the industry.

The way it should be in 2017:

1. Manufacturers should provide standardised electronic data sheets which can be read directly into PCB design software, 3-D design software, simulation software and pick-and-place machines. Copying stuff on-screen from PDF files into settings dialogs is so 20th century!

2. PCB manufacturers should provide an end-to-end fully automated service. I am 'surprised' by how few manufacturers provide pick-and-place assembly combined with photo-etching. I am shocked by the woeful state of file standards that demand users navigate pages of obscure output settings in PCB design software to get the manufacturing data output right.

3. PCB manufacturers should supply the design rules for their various processes in electronic form which can be automatically read into PCB design software for rules checking. The chip fab industry has this sorted, why does the PCB industry find it so difficult?

4. You should be able to create a BoM in a standard electronic format and have it quoted by multiple suppliers and then ordered without having to type it into multiple different web sites with different layouts.

5. Suppliers web sites are just awful! They seem unable to get even the basics right such as linking between a plug and the compatible sockets or a housing and its pins. And when you have a parametric pick list PLEASE can you make sure the values are correctly sorted numerically rather than alphabetically taking proper account of SI prefixes? And when the same component is available in different quantities or packaging or temperature variants etc. all the variants should be collected together not randomly dotted about at different places in the listing. And pictures are an important visual searching aid: do not just use the same picture for all the pin number variants of a socket for example.

Really, if this Industry cannot get eCommerce right, I despair of any industry managing it!