I recently had the opportunity to interview Mark Larson, the vice chairman of electronic component distributor Digi-Key Electronics. The company was founded in 1972, and Larson joined only four years later to what is now one of the largest such companies not only in North America but the world. He led the company as president for an astounding 39 years, just recently stepping down in July.
In the four decades during which Larson ran Digi-Key, there was considerable change -- in the electronics being sold, in whom the products were sold to, and in the supply chains the products traveled through. The other thing that has changed is the way Digi-Key interacts with different points of contact at each customer. Although it has always aimed its marketing efforts at design engineers -- and continues to do so -- it has had to adapt to the growing role of centralized procurement in managing purchases.
Since the interactions between engineering and procurement have not always been naturally easy, the insertion of a third party into the electronic component purchasing process has brought some benefits. When looked at from an outsider’s point of view, the two teams may have more in common than they realize.