Avnet Inc., an Arizona-based company, earned a spot as a 2023 CIO100 winner through strategic initiatives that boost productivity and efficiency with the help of both established and emerging technologies.

The recent global pandemic cast the spotlight on the criticality of supply chains, exposing vulnerabilities and increasing public and corporate awareness of the importance of robust supply chain management. Companies across industries have felt the impact of disruptions, highlighting the need for adaptive strategies to maintain operations and meet customer demands effectively.

Design process improvements 

Initial design process challenges

Before the introduction of the Design Hub, Avnet engineers faced product design challenges due to how they operated in an isolated environment, selecting a core component and then building around it, which hindered efficient communication and limited customer involvement. This often led to delays and misalignment with customer expectations, further sending home the need for a more integrated and collaborative design process.

Innovative features of the Design Hub

Avnet tackled these challenges by launching the Design Hub, a platform that integrates all design-related tasks into a single, streamlined workflow. Engineers could design products, generate bills of materials, check component prices and availability, compile quotes, and make purchases, all within a unified interface. 

Design Hub offers thousands of proven reference designs and technical calculators, improving the efficiency and creativity of the design process.

Design Hub also has an interactive whiteboard or canvas for customers and engineers to collaboratively experiment with different components to find the optimal configuration for their specific requirements. Interactivity is instrumental here in fostering innovation and expediting the design process.

Direct benefits to customers

One of the primary advantages of the Design Hub is its ability to dramatically accelerate the design cycle. Customers can experiment with 20 to 30 different designs in the timeframe it previously took to complete just one or two, speeding up the innovation cycle and allowing for faster product development.

Design Hub provides what the company terms as a ‘single pane of glass’—a unified, comprehensive view of all relevant product design data so that all stakeholders, including customers and engineers, have immediate access to the information they need, when they need it. Ultimately, this facilitates better decision-making and leads to better overall project transparency.

Business and operational impacts of Design Hub

Supplier interaction and business model

Avnet’s Design Hub improves operational efficiency with its automated supplier notification system. Once engineers finalize a bill of materials, the system automatically alerts the relevant suppliers, streamlining the procurement process. This both speeds up the supply chain and reduces the potential for human error for a smooth transition from design to production.

Avnet also secured a system of preferred pricing with its suppliers allowing them to boost its sales margins by reducing costs on high-volume or frequently ordered components. Preferred pricing agreements are key in competitive industries like electronic component distribution, as they contribute directly to profitability and give Avnet leverage in negotiations.

Development and integration

The transformation of the Design Hub from an internal tool to a customer-facing portal took approximately 12 months. Avnet’s decision to make the tool accessible to customers was driven by the need to extend the capabilities of Avnet’s digital infrastructure and work on its customer engagement and satisfaction.

Avnet built the Design Hub using an iframe, which allows integration on platforms within the Avnet ecosystem. This was done so that Design Hub can function effectively across different operating environments and device types, giving it versatility that further supports a cohesive user experience no matter where customers access it.

Change management and staff adaptation

Introducing Design Hub has led to a shift in the roles of Avnet’s engineers. Previously focused on designing entire systems for clients, engineers now adopt a more consultative role. This shift builds up the interactive aspect of customer service, as engineers provide guidance and expert advice, helping customers make informed decisions about their designs. 

Transitioning here required careful change management so that staff members are comfortable and proficient in their new roles, thereby maintaining high service standards and customer satisfaction.

Feedback and strategic insights

Customer feedback and business impact

Since its launch, the Design Hub has received generally positive feedback from users. Customers appreciate the ability to experiment with designs and access a wide range of components and tools in a single, unified platform. The ease of use and the speed with which customers can develop prototypes have increased the tool’s adoption rates.

To add to this, Design Hub also provides Avnet with valuable insights into supply chain dynamics by monitoring the popularity of various components. Supply chain data helps Avnet anticipate market trends and manage inventory more effectively, preventing overstocks and shortages.

Tim Boesen

April 23, 2024

4 Min