May 31, 2012

Dynamic Memory Serves Commodity Manager Well

Want to gain a better understanding of the memory market? Then Paul Zecher is your man.

Zecher is the memory commodity manager for Converge – a position he has held since flash memory components erupted into the consumer electronics industry in the nineties. “Around 1995, I started to follow the cellular market,” Zecher recalls. “Remember that basic gray cell phone we all used to have? They were just starting to mass produce those at a price that was affordable, and I noticed there was a specific type of memory called NOR flash that went inside them. No one else was paying particular attention to flash, so I decided to focus on this new component and become an expert on it.” Flash memory quickly became an essential part of the technology landscape.

As Zecher explains, tracking NOR trends soon led him to closely follow other types of memory, like NAND flash and DRAM (dynamic random access memory). So when Converge decided to create a memory commodity manager position, it only made sense for Zecher to lead the way. Many years later, his obsessive knowledge continues to make him an invaluable resource to Converge buyers and sellers, as well as their customers.

“The memory market is difficult to follow,” says Zecher. “At least one type of memory goes into almost everything – PCs, notebooks, tablets, phones, digital cameras, printers, TVs, DVRs – you name it. That makes it the most volatile of all the commodity markets. With memory, the market could go up and down five times in a week.”

So when the market changes dramatically, and OEM or CM customers suddenly find themselves with a shortage or surplus of memory, they know that their best chance of getting the problem resolved quickly is by working with an independent distributor with market intelligence and commodity experts at the helm. “You can’t predict the DRAM market, just like nobody can predict the stock market six months from now,” says Zecher. “So my job is really just to stay on top of developments in the market and help buyers and sellers get what they need when they need it.”

It helps that Zecher has a dynamic memory of his own. Not only does he remember and recognize most memory part numbers instantly, but he also leads a team that strives to know every product and company using those parts around the world. “If a customer needs something that’s gone on allocation, we know who might have extra. When another customer needs to unload some excess, we know who might be interested in buying. That’s the kind of information manufacturers just don’t have access to, because it’s not what they do.”

While Zecher says it’s impossible to predict the future of the memory market, he can easily reflect on how much it has changed in the past 15 years. “DRAM modules are the sticks that go inside computers and notebooks, and DRAM chips can be used in just about anything. That used to be our primary type of memory, hands down. But in the last few years, we have started selling an equal amount of NAND flash, which is what goes inside most of your wireless devices. So the market has completely changed, and the one thing I can predict is that it will continue to change.”

At the end of the day, who do you want helping your company navigate changes in the memory market? The broker that has to look up DRAM part numbers or the independent distributor that has a veteran commodity manager with global insights and a dynamic memory?

May 16, 2012

Converge Security Backed by TAPA Certification

Consumers wouldn’t want to put their money in a bank if they weren’t sure that the money would be properly secured. In the same way, no company wants its valuable electronic component assets stored in a facility that is not adequately protected from theft or tampering.

Converge has long been committed to providing state-of-the-art security to protect all electronic assets within our 83,000-square-foot facility in Peabody, Massachusetts. In March, that facility received TAPA (Transported Asset Protection Association) certification for Freight Security Requirements through a third-party audit. TAPA certification has become a worldwide benchmark for security handling guidelines and practices to prevent cargo crime. The Freight Security Requirements set minimum standards for security and industry best practices for facilities that store and handle HVTT (high-value, theft-targeted) assets.

TAPA-certified companies must pass a stringent independent facility audit to ensure compliance with numerous requirements surrounding monitoring systems, access control, employee background checks, intruder security devices, and other areas of concern in warehouses and distribution centers.

Increasingly, manufacturers and suppliers of electronic components are looking for TAPA certification when vetting supply chain distribution partners. Whether the assets are passing through the Converge testing and inspection facility after purchase or being stored on consignment in our warehouse, our customers want assurance that we have the controls in place to keep their high-value assets safe. We understand why. At Converge, we are proud of our new TAPA certification and believe it serves as a testimony to our high security standards and our commitment to our clients’ needs.

May 2, 2012

The ABCs of CPU Testing and Inspection

Before your company buys CPUs through an independent distributor, what kind of inspection capabilities should you check for to ensure that quality can be completely verified? 

Converge CPU commodity manager Matt Bergeron says that beyond doing the typical visual inspection, the best distributors will offer additional in-depth testing services. In fact, the industry veteran says there are three key capabilities buyers should look for. We’ll call them the ABCs of CPU testing and inspection:
  • Authenticity Tool – Does the distributor use a processor identification tool to verify the authenticity of all incoming CPUs? This tool will verify that the CPU type, family, model, stepping, revision, and frequency are consistent with the manufacturer’s specifications, and it will also verify that the CPU is not an engineering sample – all of which are impossible to tell from a visual inspection alone. 
  • Barcode Scanning – Does the distributor use a 2D data matrix barcode scanner? This enables inspectors to quickly capture the serial numbers of each CPU and verify that there are no discrepancies or duplicates.
  • Controlled Environment – Is the distributor ANSI ESD S20.20 certified? This verifies the implementation and maintenance of an electrostatic discharge (ESD) control program to protect ESD-sensitive electronic parts. CPUs can be unintentionally damaged by static electricity if handlers are not properly protected. At Converge, inspectors wear grounded wrist straps and ESD-control foot straps and work on ESD-protective floors and workstations. CPUs are securely packaged in ESD-protective JEDEC trays. Would you want your order being handled with any less control? 
It sounds like simple advice, but not all independent distributors follow the ABC rules. Some manufacturers have learned that the hard way.

Converge, on the other hand, carefully follows the ABCs of CPU testing and inspection – and has an unsurpassed quality track record to show for it. “Our CPU customers typically buy from Converge again and again,” says Bergeron. “And I think the top reasons are the security and peace of mind that our testing and inspection program gives them.”