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To distribution & beyond: Could your distributor be doing more for you?…

Author : John Macmichael | Managing Director | Solid State Supplies & Pacer

01 September 2021

Solid State Group_Handling chip on board assemblies at Pacer’s Value-Added facility in Weymouth
Solid State Group_Handling chip on board assemblies at Pacer’s Value-Added facility in Weymouth

In 2021, the Solid State Group celebrates 50 years in the semiconductor distribution business. Key to the group’s success has been its development of Value-Added Services – going above & beyond the core business of component supply to offer additional services & help customers solve problems.

This sponsored cover story was originally featured in the September 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.

From the outset, the company’s founders recognised how important it is to go that extra mile – to offer good technical support, suggest solutions to engineering challenges or find hard-to-source products. John Macmichael, Managing Director of Solid State Supplies & Pacer explains how this ethos is now more important than ever…

Our partnerships with customers often begin at an early stage of a project, when our engineers assist in specifying, evaluating and integrating components and technologies into new designs. Technical support continues as projects progress, to help resolve any prototyping issues. Then, in order to ensure a smooth transition from design to production, we offer a range of Value-Added Services from our secure, bespoke ESD facility in Redditch, in line with our AS9100 certification:

•  Device programming

•  Firmware version control

•  Tape & reeling and mini reeling

•  Bake & seal for moisture sensitive products

•  Re-testing and up-screening of components

•  Specialist kitting

•  Long term storage

Our acquisition of optoelectronics expert, Pacer Components brought us a dedicated Value-Added facility in Weymouth, complete with an ISO14644-1 class 7 70m2 clean room (with class 5 enclosure for critical builds), an environmental chamber and a range of specialist capabilities for precision optical assembly.

Particularly in demand right now is our Sourcing & Obsolescence Services team (aka, appropriately, SOS!). This specialist business unit offers a comprehensive sourcing service for obsolete and hard-to-find electronic components. As you might expect, the team has been especially busy recently, as lead times lengthen and allocation looms.

The following case studies illustrate how we’ve gone beyond distribution to develop our partnerships with customers by adding real value:

Case study #1: Putting the customer first

A long-standing Pacer customer uses two sizes of panel PC as the HMI to their combustion gas abatement systems. By chance, both panel sizes incorporated a common sole-sourced component; when the lead time for this crucial component extended to beyond 8 months, supply of both panel PCs was halted, jeopardising the customer’s ability to ship its system They turned to our Sourcing & Obsolescence Services team for help.

Fortunately, we were able to find a significant amount of stock of the component. The ideal situation for the customer was to split this stock between the two display sizes, thus protecting the supply of both. Although Solid State Supplies was only supplying the 8.4” model, in order to best support our customer, we agreed to share the stock and allow a proportion to be allocated to the 12” model supplied by our competitor. This meant our customer was able to continue to ship product and fulfil their order book.

Crucially, Solid State Supplies SOS only obtains product from approved sources, in accordance with our AS9120 and BS EN ISO 9001 accreditations. With over 20 years of industry knowledge and experience, we understand how important it is to offer an assured source for obsolescence requirements. We utilise the latest anti-counterfeit detection methods to protect this assurance.

Case study #2: Expanding our capabilities  

Pacer’s Value-Add team in Weymouth worked with Siemens Healthcare Diagnostic Manufacturing Ltd on a circuit board forming part of a diagnostic medical instrument. The board contained both surface mounted and wire bonded LED die, and we had originally assisted with sourcing this board and supplying some of the components. When the board manufacturer unexpectedly announced that they would be closing down their factory, in order to enhance supply for Siemens ‘Healthineers’, Pacer agreed to transfer the manufacturing tools and materials, including a large stock of die procured under a last-time-buy, to our Weymouth division.

Solid State Group_value-added services_clean room
Solid State Group_value-added services_clean room

As part of the transfer process, Pacer improved quality checks, introducing automated bond strength testing techniques and standardising processes where subjective, manual tests had previously been in place. For example, we designed a jig to test the bond strength on a flexible cable attached to the board, ensuring that the required quality standards were met or exceeded.

Investing to support customer requirements

Pacer took the decision to invest in a new Amadyne EMU automated die bonder to improve the speed and accuracy of die placement, improving throughput as demand increased, as well as improving yield, which was vital due to the limited stock of these die. A further investment was made in a Vision Engineering 360 degree microscope for inspection. When it became clear that some of the die had started to oxidise before being transferred to our nitrogen storage cabinets, we began work to improve the quality of the die using our plasma cleaner.

The full transfer process has facilitated continuation of the manufacturing process and supported several years’ future availability of the diagnostic instrument, while also complementing Pacer’s continued strategy of expanding our manufacturing capability based on customer projects that enhance our capabilities as an optoelectronics solutions provider.

Working together on process improvement

We often assist with the development of processes, as well as of the product itself. A design consultancy, working on behalf of a major industrial electronics provider, contacted Pacer seeking a manufacturing partner to build prototype and pre-production models of their label writing instrument, based on two coaligned lasers. Detailed drawings, assembly instructions and production equipment were not available at this stage in the process; however, Pacer’s engineering team designed and 3D-printed low volume manufacturing jigs, and developed manufacturing techniques to build the various different models of this instrument. We subsequently developed techniques for trouble-shooting optical components and the beam path to resolve performance issues with a particular model.

Solid State Supplies_Configurations & custom applications can be pre-loaded onto industrial routers
Solid State Supplies_Configurations & custom applications can be pre-loaded onto industrial routers

Case study #3: Configured & ready to go

Solid State Supplies offers tailored configuration services to ensure that devices delivered to customers are pre-programmed and ready-to-go. We can assist with pre-loading configurations and custom applications in routers, modems, network equipment and modules, ensuring reliable, uniform product delivery.

A customer recently selected Robustel routers to provide secure, robust and reliable connectivity to wind turbines, taking advantage of Solid State’s cost effective configuration services to remove some of the logistical headaches. We preload the configuration, install the security certificates, establish the connection to the customer’s VPN and ensure a reliable connection to their infrastructure.

For another company, providing retail digital signage solutions, we insert the SIMs, preload the configuration, and ship their routers with a custom PSU and custom antenna, so the system is delivered to retail sites ready for installation by non-technical personnel, helping keep costs down in the field. This process saves our customer time and money, as well as eliminating DOA routers, ensuring all are correctly functioning when shipped.

These are just a few of the many different ways in which the Solid State Group has responded to customers’ needs, invested in our services and added real value to the supply chain.


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