We love Mouser and Digikey. They carry everything. On the flip side, we like to think we are the ‘filter’ to Digikey; when you’re just getting started in electronics Digikey can be overwhelming! We know you probably just need the red 5mm LED. Where Digikey has over 445,000 different LEDs, SparkFun tries to carry the LEDs you will probably need. Once you learn how to navigate these two sites you’ll be able to find the more esoteric parts that you might need for your project. But how much do they actually have in stock, ready to ship? It’s actually pretty shocking how little they have in stock.
At the time of writing, Digikey has:
On the flip side, SparkFun has been working hard to produce and stock the correct volume of product. Thanks to the work of a big group of extraordinary people (Jordan, Joe, Randy, Prashanta, Kim, Dean, Matty, and all of production), SparkFun has 98% of our products in stock at any given moment. Jordan is our director of inventory and has been working hard to keep our inventory in stock and turning over regularly. Here is a snapshot of the weekly graphs she’s generating and watching:
This graph shows all the parts we have in the building that are actively being sold.
The moral of this graph: we keep everything in stock nearly 98% of the time and we’re generally getting better at it. Let’s start with some terminology:
Here we break apart components (stuff we resell) and assemblies (the products designed and produced here at SparkFun). When we’re at the mercy of suppliers, our stock is a little lower at 97%. When we build it ourselves, our production department does a pretty amazing job of keeping the SparkFun products in stock (as high as 99%).
The graph shown above is a fairly nuanced. This shows that around 1% of our products have parts on the shelf (physical inventory) at any given time, but they are shown as virtually out of stock on the website. This gives us a feel for how many open orders we have that are tying up physical stock on the shelf and causing products on the storefront to be out of stock.
We split our stock into different tiers. The A-list contains the products that are the highest volume, highest profit, and have the most number of peripheral products that rely on it. We try to keep everything in stock but we focus on the A-list. You can see it’s more volatile because these products are in higher demand.
It’s a constant battle and the DoI (department of inventory) is always working hard. We think we’ve struck a pretty good balance between the size of our inventory and keeping the really important stuff in stock. We don’t have a forklift yet, but the day is quickly approaching!