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Flash memory selection – Our checklist for Procurement managers

procurement managers

Procurement managers have to ensure that all the component parts required for manufacturing and assembling products arrive on time, on budget, and in good order. 

When flash memory is a component in a product, it is only one of a potentially very large number of parts to be obtained. But that doesn’t mean it is insignificant. As my previous blog Checklist for design engineers makes clear, a lot of work will have gone into specifying the flash memory required for a product, and there may be very little room for compromise on that specification.  

For example, where a product must withstand particular environmental conditions, or where it requires fast read/write times, the choice of flash will be crucial to delivering on the promise. It falls to the procurement manager to ensure that flash memory meets the specification required and does so consistently for the entire production run. Here’s a checklist of some of the important questions they need to consider.  

Will the product be available for the lifespan of my project? 

Sometimes this will be an easy question to answer. If the item the flash memory is needed for is only going to be manufactured for a limited time, it may be possible to secure flash memory products at the start in enough quantity to complete the build. But many products are made over a longer period of time, and in this case, it will be important to find a supplier that can deliver long term. In addition, the product design process could take years to complete, and during that period flash memory products may cease production, while new ones appear. The procurement manager needs to have an overview of the flash sector to understand the impact of component supply on the product. 

Will stock be available to meet our production requirements? 

The rise of Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing, where components are delivered sometimes within hours of entering an assembly line, means supply must be guaranteed. For want of a flash memory card, production could be halted. A flash memory card might be small, but a manufacturer may be disinclined to store a great deal of stock, both from a space and a revenue perspective. The logistics of supply, for a product that might be manufactured halfway across the world, are a vital consideration. 

What are my timelines? 

It will be important to have a very good understanding of production timelines so that any Just In Time requirements are met, any periods when bursts of production might take place can be supplied, and similarly, any periods of production slowdown can be managed without a stockpile of flash memory building up. It isn’t always possible to foresee these issues, so a procurement manager needs to be constantly in touch with both supply chains and those setting production schedules.

Can the supplier meet long term demand? 

As already noted, some items may be manufactured for a considerable length of time, or there may already be a product development plan that will rely on the same flash memory components in the future. It will be important to ensure that a supplier can meet longer-term demand, and the procurement manager will need to understand suppliers’ plans around changing product specifications and the withdrawal of products from the market in order to ensure supply needs are met.  

Does the price meet my budget? 

There are many different standards and types of flash memory, and the design engineer will have specified what they require. It is the job of the procurement manager to ensure the best value while meeting quality and performance requirements. This may mean shopping around and negotiating prices with suppliers. 

Is there support from the manufacturer for information regarding materials used? 

In some industry sectors, such as automotive, there are manufacturer agnostic systems for storing information about materials used within that industry. For automotive, this system is the International Materials Data System (IMDS). This system ensures that manufacturers can track hazardous and controlled substances in components, and meet the international standards and legal requirements that they are subject to. It also means manufacturers can track products back to their source, which is really useful if there’s a problem with them. IMDS is also used in disassembly, where there are standards and legal requirements to meet. The procurement manager will need to ensure that any requirements to be registered on a system like IMDS are met by a supplier.  

Does the product meet required environmental standards? 

The procurement manager will need to be satisfied that the products they acquire meet a range of standards, such as the EU RoHS directive, which is focused on control of the amount of hazardous materials that can be included in a range of consumer products, and REACH, an EU regulation which requires the registration of certain chemical substances with the European Chemical Agency.  

Is the supplier on the approved vendor list?  

A device manufacturer may have an approved vendor list (AVL) – a list of suppliers which it has used before and which it knows meets its standards in terms of quality, supply, price and other requirements mentioned in this blog. The procurement manager may find that an approved vendor is a preferred supplier for a new product. 

Author: Paul Norbury

Date: Monday 10th August 2020