CES 2018 and Beyond: A Meditation on the Future of EDX

By Logan Wamsley

Each year at Partstat is special in one way or another. But having said that, we have pegged 2018 to be a particularly memorable year for our company. Why? Because after 26 years interacting with customers and determining what exactly is required of a supply chain partner in today’s market, we have finally decided, to a greater extent than ever before, to share our story with the world. It’s an incredibly exciting time, to say the least.

As a platform to share stories with other like-minded professionals inside and outside your industry, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas needs no introduction. As an attendee, CES presented us a perfect opportunity prove to the world’s leading manufacturers what we already know: In terms of purchasing, storing, and fulfilling last time buy inventory, our solutions have no equal. In return for their time, we were gifted with a glimpse behind the curtain to see how some of the today’s leading innovators reacted to us – and if the need for our solutions was as significant as we believed it to be.

As it turns out, we couldn’t have been more right.

Everything is Connected

Every trade show, whether intentional or not, seems to coalesce around a specific theme. This year, that theme seemed to be interconnectivity. The A.I.-driven “smart” home has long been a pipeline dream of the electronics industry — at least in theory — but it appears that we have entered an era of market maturity where manufacturers are finally moving out of the conceptual stage and are ready to dive headfirst into our daily lives.

The Internet of Things (IoT) trend is also very much alive and well. Mirrors, ceiling fans, light switches, sinks, televisions, audio devices, trash receptacles — everything down to the most mundane product that plays a part in our day-to-day will soon become optimized and automated in the name of convenience. Some products have benefits that are as subtle as saving the owner a few extra seconds, but others have the potential to alter our perceptions of what is possible forever.

In the case of the latter, few displays exhibited more potential than the strides automotive manufacturers have made toward the realization of automated vehicles. Toyota, Ford, Mercedes, and even promising up-and-comer Byton all were on hand to exhibit their own unique spin on what many claim to be the future of the driving experience.

Of course, when most consumers think of automated driving, their minds don’t wander far beyond the idea of letting the car drive itself. What we find interesting is that this scenario is just the tip of the iceberg. Instead of trying to fulfill a singular idea, manufacturers are looking at self-driving as a launching platform for a nearly infinite amount of applications.

For the retail industry, imagine a vehicle that drives to your house containing outfits for you to try on at your convenience. For the service industry, imagine a vehicle that rushes you hot takeout without the need for a delivery guy. For the transportation industry, imagine a fleet of semi-trucks that can travel coast-to-coast without the need to stop and rest. From a single concept, nearly every industry stands to benefit. That, we think you’ll agree, is truly a wonderful thing.

Where Partstat Fits In

Consumers aren’t the only people that stand to benefit from the innovations on display. As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace across all industries, the component manufacturers that make these innovations possible are poised to be more vital to OEMs than ever before.

But if component manufacturers do indeed intend to be a part of this exciting future, then they know as well as anyone that something in their aging supply chain model needs to change – even if they are not sure how. After meeting with several of them over the duration of CES, it quickly became apparent that the fulfillment models they have long operated with are no longer sufficient to meet the needs OEMs now require – at least not without the OEM taking a significant financial risk.

In order to supply automotive manufacturers, for example, component manufacturers are now often required to commit to a seven-year supply agreement. Component manufacturers, of course, want the business, but such a long-term agreement means that they will still be obligated to fulfill its terms long past their component’s natural end-of-life. As OEM products continue to increase the length of thier lifecycles, the lifecycles of the components required to create them continue to decrease. As a result, if an OCM decides to transition a critical component toward obsolescence and cease its production, they will still have to fulfill the inventory agreement even if they do not have the proper supply chain infrastructure to do so. Authorized distributors often can hold inventory on the OCM’s behalf for up to 12 months, but if the OEM agreement requires several more years of fulfillment, that obviously does not work as a long-term solution.

A Partstat Last Time Buy Solution easily fills that void in a way OEMs and OCMs mutually benefit; while an OCM can realize up to 10 years of revenue with a single transaction, the OEM can secure up to 10 years of critical last time inventory without spending a cent of their own working capital. If there is one thing that we have learned from sharing these merits with CES exhibitors, it’s that no one is currently offering something even remotely like this. Manufactures were incredibly receptive to our vision of the future of the supply chain, and we feel confident that the path we are currently on grants the industrial marketplace exactly what it’s missing. That validation alone was enough to consider our experience at CES an overwhelming success.

Being First is Good – Being the Best is Better

Every year, CES is filled with two different kinds of companies: those that are offering something new, and those that are striving to refine and perfect something already created. As the only company in the world that offers last time buy services on the scale we do, we feel that we have accomplished the former.

But we don’t want to rest on our laurels. In 2018, our focus needs to be not on being the first in our industry, but on being the definitive supply chain partner for manufacturers across the globe.

The ability to store and fulfill inventory for up to 10 years is good. The ability to also offer OEMs up to 10 years of guaranteed business continuity is better. But what ties all of our solutions together is a single underlying thread: We are the world’s leader in the field of supply chain management.

Our time at CES only further confirmed that the future of the supply chain industry goes through our front door, but there is still much work to be done. We can’t wait to get started.