Spotlight on our experts: Balancing supply and demandNovember 16, 2021
With so many exciting events going on within Active Silicon at the moment, we thought we’d ask our team to explain more about their current projects and future plans in our “Spotlight on our Experts” series.
Supply chain issues are making headlines around the globe, so we spoke with our own Supply Chain Manager, Ian Lidington, to see how Active Silicon is managing the supply and demand predicament, and other factors that keep him on his toes!
You’ve been with Active Silicon for over 20 years but we’re betting the last 18 months have brought some unprecedented challenges?
Indeed! From March last year, when the first lockdown was introduced in the UK, we’ve had to manage our in-house production processes differently to maintain a COVID-secure environment. This meant working in different shifts with reduced staff onsite. It also made communicating with our suppliers trickier as many moved to home-working or even partial closures.
But I can say that we successfully navigated the changes and production continued uninterrupted through the difficult times, and our customers experienced minimal change in service delivery levels.
And now we’re dealing with global chip shortages, how has this affected your role?
Difficulties in obtaining certain components have meant that we’re having to push our lead times further than the norm for some of our products. But effective communication with our customers meant we were well prepared, and we had asked many for an idea of required volumes in the early stages of the shortages, enabling us to currently meet order demands.
As Supply Chain Manager, I am constantly monitoring changing component lead times and promised delivery dates, and trying to keep a step ahead of them. Fortunately we’ve built strong, long-term relationships with our key suppliers and have been working together to take the shock out of some of the more extreme lead time extensions. Where necessary, we have also been working closely with our engineers to identify alternatives with better availability.
How do you see the next few months going?
There’s good news here – this disruption will only be temporary. Our predictions are for the situation to improve during 2023 which should result in lead times coming back down for our customers. Although that sounds a long way off, our products are designed for long life and will be in use for many years so this should only be a temporary situation.
What would you say is the most important element in keeping the supply chain wheels turning at Active Silicon? How has this changed during your time here?
Much of our success comes down to our connections with suppliers; working with suppliers that understand the importance of a long term relationship, rather than a short term opportunity to make a quick buck during a supply crisis has been key.
Our adaptability to be able to meet customer requirements has been helped by a long-term strategy of investing in components stock and keeping component procurement in-house. We traditionally maintain high stock levels of components to deal with this type shortage and pride ourselves on being able to deliver consistently. We are winning business from manufacturers that were either too slow or unable to respond to the developing components supply crisis until it was too late.
What’s important to you outside your professional role that you’ve enjoyed during your long career with Active Silicon?
I enjoy keeping fit and, before lockdowns and remote working, I used to organize weekly badminton tournaments with whoever could spare a Thursday lunchtime. It was a great opportunity to bring staff from the R&D office and the Operations facility together and I hope we can instigate the games again soon.
Anyone who knows our CTO, Chris Beynon, will know he’s an avid cyclist and I try and join him when I can – even though one outing a few years ago resulted in me being helicoptered to hospital when I fell off and broke my hip!
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