Five Questions to Ask Your Electronic Inventory Storage Provider

By Logan Wamsley

With electronic OEMs being pushed to their limits in terms of production schedules, in-house storage capacity, and working capital, the use of third-party service providers is quickly transitioning from being a luxury to a necessity. One of the first services OEMs look to have fulfilled by these third parties is electronic component storage sufficient to cover extended product lifecycles. Not only does this allow for OEMs to dedicate more in-house storage space for increased production capacity, but it also helps them greatly reduce annual inventory storage costs.

But not all long-term electronic component storage services offer the same levels of security and insulation from potential disruptions. Before moving forward, it is critical for OEMs to ask the right questions to determine if the long-term storage strategy is appropriate for the critical electronic inventory in question. Below are five critical questions OEMs should keep in mind when selecting a third-party service provider to fulfill their long-term storage needs:

1. What protections does their storage infrastructure offer?

Are interior climate conditions properly regulated? Is the infrastructure secure against disruptive environmental catastrophes such as fire, flood, hurricane, and electromagnetic interference? Do the staff tasked with handling the inventory follow proper ISO standards to mitigate electrostatic discharge? All of these questions should be properly taken into consideration.

2. What are the storage specifications of your particular inventory, and does the storage provider understand them?

Just as every service provider in the industry has different offerings and capabilities, every electronic component and semiconductor will have its own unique requirements for long-term storage. If you are unsure what they are, contact the electronic component manufacturer to verify. Once these are known, cross-check them with the capabilities and offerings of the third-party provider.

3. Does the storage provider have a detailed process for securely packing and shipping critical electronic inventory?

One of the inherent risks of storing inventory offsite is that it requires manufacturers to add in an additional variable into their supply chain: fulfillment. Unfortunately, not all third-party storage providers take on this responsibility — and even some that do, lack the knowledge, experience, or capabilities to pack and ship inventory effectively. To ensure that the inventory in question arrives in optimal condition, it is imperative to know in advance what their process is. If this question is overlooked, the consequences can be severe for the integrity of the OEM brand.

4. How long do you need the inventory stored, and is what the storage provider offers sufficient to reach the end of the product’s lifecycle?

Verify if there are any limits to how long the inventory will need to be stored. Medical OEMs, for example, often have to support product lifecycles 20 or even 30 years in length. Also, some OEMs will need to maintain a rigid delivery schedule regardless of if the OEM needs the inventory at that moment or not. It is critical that the OEM finds a storage partner that creates a plan to fit the customer’s needs, not the other way around.

5. What additional storage features does the service provide, and would they be right for your inventory?

Don’t assume that generic climate-controlled warehousing is ideal for all components. Certain pieces of inventory, for example, may be so valuable that additional above-and-beyond protection could be needed to guarantee business continuity. In Partstat’s case, we offer customers the option of storing their inventory in the industry’s only custom storage vault designed specifically to safeguard inventory against any and all known variables, regardless of the inventory’s sensitivity. Even raw die and wafer, which is particularly sensitive to moisture, can be safely stored in our vault with the help of zeolite-infused dry cabinets. Offerings such as this are what separates some storage providers from others, and all of these should be considered when making a storage decision that could come to form the basis of your supply chain for years to come.