PCN AI: A Way for Distributors to Engage Customers and Build Trust




Brad Hudon


July 2023

PCN AI: A Way for Distributors to Engage Customers and Build Trust

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the opportunities for distributors to create differentiating value with customers through smart software were easier to find. Now the landscape is cluttered with heavy commercial best practice software and heavy methodologies. Areas of differentiation are more rare, but they still exist.

Often they can be found in areas that are seen as non-value added costs or where responsibilities cross functional departments such as PCN/PDNs. Distribution, not of inventory, but of the various essential product-related communications critical to suppliers and customers, is a good example of this. 

Initial responsibility of sending notifications usually falls to the operations and quality teams. These teams will just include a note within their emails to contact sales for further information or questions. The sales team then attempts to pick up the ball and assist the customer through an impact assessment and/or sourcing alternatives. PCN AI turns this activity into a closed-loop change review process that forges stronger relationships, both with suppliers and customers and shortens cycle times.

Existing Process

The distribution vertical has a number of problems that the supplier doesn’t have when communicating these changes to their direct customers. One of the problems is scale. Distributors are often dealing with hundreds, or, in the case of online self-service disties, thousands of suppliers, and tens of thousands of customers. That amounts to an incredible number of notifications to receive, untangle, and send forward. For example, a recent implementation with a tier 1 global distributor received 8,500 PCN/EOL/Alerts/etc., which generated over 400,000 email notifications. PCN AI automates non-value added tasks, such as: 

• Validation of customer contacts 
• Validation of in-bound communications from franchised suppliers for compliance and part lists 
• Correction of compliance issues through a self-serve supplier portal 
• Automatic identification of recipient customers 
• Delivery and tracking of email notifications 

A second problem is the different tiers of customers served by distribution and the different levels of compliance specified in the various standards: notify only, awareness, review/accept and, in some cases, customer-specific contractual agreements that might even require approval before change. PCN AI supports these multiple tiers with features such as:

• Configurable notification/review feedback templates, including the following options: Notification only, acknowledgement required, JEDEC review/respond, industry-specific review/respond (Ex: ZVEI), customer contract specific

Compliance is also now a bit of an after-thought. Most distributors interpret compliance to JSTD46 or other standards as simply sharing the document received from the suppliers within a certain time period. 

PCN AI for distribution not only reduces the non-value added activities with the aforementioned features, it also adds value with a set of features that promise to be game-changers.

1. Customer Self-Service

• Contact lists with designated signing authority 
• Subscribed multi-level parts number lists (BOMs), including purchased and non-purchased parts 
• Enriched PCN/PDN search with where-used function. 
• Detailed audit trail of notification history 
• Shared action requests

2. Supplier Self-Service

• Detailed audit trail of notification history 
• Shared notifications for tier 1 customers serviced through distribution 
• EOL and LTB forecasts with tracking and escalations 
• PCN/EOL agreements

3. Internal Team

• ​Multi-level tracking with centralized audit trails and PCN/PDN related communications 
• Configurable checklists that include tasks and how-to information 
• Escalation/action requests 
• On-premise integration with internal business systems 
• Insights based on PCN/PDN type and content, like sourcing changes that add or reduce supplier capacity 
• Dashboards with user-defined KPIs, insights based on notification type and content, like sourcing changes that increase supplier capacity 
• PDN/EOL specific functionality to track bookings, number of customers affected, number of customers intending to place a LTB, booked, billed, tracking of EOL to closure for each customer

In conclusion, distributors can seize this opportunity to increase their strategic value both to suppliers and customers or the can continue to treat PCN/PDNs and other essential product-related communications critical to suppliers and customers, as a non-value added cost. Customers deserve and require more than a process that relies on “fire and forget” emails and open-loop notification systems from their distributors.

PCN AI is the tool that will solve existing problems and bring distributors’ game to where it should be.

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