Debi Fisher, Assistant Purchasing Manager, OSI Electronics UK

Debi Fisher, Assistant Purchasing Manager, OSI Electronics UK.

Debi Fisher (pictured) is OSI Electronics UK’s new Assistant Purchasing Manager – she joined the company in June 2021, having spent seven years in a variety of buying roles with another contract electronics manufacturer (CEM).

She reports directly to Derek Williams, OSIE UK’s General Manager, and is part of a team currently comprising a senior buyer, a buyer and an expeditor.

After graduating from University of Plymouth with a degree in English Literature, Debi began her career in logistics then moved into the world of electronics, working her way up the buying ladder from expeditor, to buyer, to senior buyer, while also studying for the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) Procurement and Supply Qualifications, obtaining her Diploma, Advanced Diploma and, recently, Professional Diploma.

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How do things compare between CEMs?

We’re part of the chain serving our customers, and often their customers too. If we can help them by buying quicker and more efficiently, we can have a considerable impact on our value to them and, for them, to their customers.

The buying process starts with a bill of materials (BOM) specified by the customer. We need to know the customer’s priority – is it lead time or cost? We also need to understand customer forecast and likelihood of project to repeat, and whether the customer is prepared to underwrite long lead time or high minimum order quantity (MOQ) material.

Due to market conditions, we also need to work closely with both our in house and customer engineering teams in the event we need to explore alternatives for parts in short supply or on long lead times.

We also have to take into consideration our stores department who prefer deliveries to be scheduled and staggered, firstly so they are not overwhelmed with the amount of product through the door at any one time, and also to ensure we have the space available to store product until it is needed in production.

It is also important to consider the finance side of things, in terms of payment dates, and payment terms.

I may be new here, but…

I like to have good relationships with people internally and externally. It’s a very useful asset in what is a quite a complex job shuffling around a lot of differing requirements, while balancing things to avoid upsetting anyone. Trying to keep a lot of people happy at the same time can be challenging!

Having considerable experience in electronics and good relationships with a lot of suppliers is certainly a benefit. Even coming into a new business I am already familiar with most of our key vendors and have an existing relationship with contacts within the companies.

As a fresh pair of eyes, I’m keen to see how we can make our systems and processes more efficient.

Finding sources

Experience certainly helps as a BOM can look daunting given there can be hundreds of components making up an individual product. Much of knowing where to source them has been learned over the past few years, based on who can supplier which manufacturers – and who is strong on each product type or commodity.

Our preference is to buy through franchised distributors, electronic wholesalers or direct from the manufacturer, but there are various other factors involved in the decision process, such as availability, price and quantity required.

With unfamiliar products, there are suppliers and internal colleagues I can speak to and websites I can look at for data sheets. If a manufacturer has been specified, it’s a little easier to gauge where it needs to go. If parts are bespoke then I’d need guidance from our commercial or engineering and also a drawing to ascertain where to send.

In the new year I’d like to start quarterly meetings – monthly might be a bit ambitious – with some of our key suppliers to help build relationships.

What’s one of the most valuable skills needed in purchasing?

I do think emotional intelligence is key.

The approach needed for different vendors and different internal stakeholders varies – there is no one size fits all.

Obsolescence, Brexit and Covid – and the strength of OSI group purchasing

Obsolescence has always had challenges: with new technology, manufacturing disruptions, freight issues, electronic trends, availability etc.

Brexit and Covid have only complicated things further. It used to be if you couldn’t get something from one manufacturer or had a problem with a specific part, there were alternatives, but now it seems there’s a problem somewhere with everything – even cardboard and resin are in short supply.

Matters have not improved since the February and March ‘Snap shot’ reports were published on this website highlighting semiconductor shortages and market tightening of components and commodities. The electricity rationing currently going on in many of China’s industrial regions is also affecting supplies.

Lockdowns and social distancing caused by the Covid pandemic meant many manufacturers had to reduce capacity – with a knock on for associated services like shipping.

Now there’s a massive increase in demand, which manufacturers are struggling to resolve, the cost of freight has tripled. All these impacts are not making our life easy… if you want an easy life, don’t be a buyer – although as we in St Neots are part of the much bigger OSI global group, our purchasing power is significant. 

Business hero

It seems to be a tradition to end these articles with a mention one’s business hero – for me, it’s my dad!

My dad gives me my business advice – and usually it’s very good advice.

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OSI Electronics UK is a subsidiary of Californian based OSI Electronics.

Posted 8th November 2021