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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Swimming in the Channel

A Look at the Electronic Imaging Supply Chain
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By Dave Brambert

How important is the supply chain? To consumer businesses, it's everything. But, to an industry like electronic imaging, not enough critical mass exists to leverage huge economies of scale in the same fashion as providers of auto parts, textiles, or plastics. Instead, one could argue that the electronic imaging supply chain is a value chain.

In many ways, electronic imaging counts as a mature industry; the magazine you are now reading was founded 20 years ago. Yet the supply chain has not evolved as quickly as the technology, and for good reasons. Our value chain does not deal with millions of numbers of commodity items, and therefore product managers are not concerned about such issues as box shapes affecting how many products fit into an airline freight container.

Consumer supply chains are being optimized today to wring cost out of procurement, logistics, and even payment. Once supply chain management is introduced, it can also provide better service to the end customer by reducing shipping delays and increasing availability.

Interestingly, in our electronic imaging value chain, timeliness in shipping is still a problem, but we'll get to that later in the article. Let's take a look at what constitutes our value chain.

Manufacturers. Often, manufacturers are seen as the first step in the value chain, although we can admit that the manufacturers have their own suppliers, whether they are board fabricators, lens manufacturers, hired-gun code slingers, etc. In fact, a company that we label as a manufacturer might in fact be an OEM, more of an assembler than a fashioner, providing a unique product just the same, and supporting the market through the same market entry point as a classic manufacturer. Any company producing products in the eight core technology areas of electronic imaging—illumination, optics, backplane/sensor/cameras, data path, processing, storage, display, and software—are included in this category.

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