Catching Up With ASC’s Bob Duke

(November 16, 2022)

Bob Duke has been involved in global sourcing for over 20 years, and by global sourcing, it’s far beyond basic PCBs and PCBAs. Bob was doing this sort of thing before it was cool. He has been involved in everything from metal and plastic fabrication to cables and wire harnesses— just about anything an electronics customer might need.

So, when American Standard Circuits started a new division to expand its global sourcing solutions, it was no surprise that CEO Anaya Vardya tapped his long-time friend Bob Duke to lead the way. I sat down to have a talk with Bob about this new division and his plans for the future.

Dan Beaulieu: Bob, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. I can only imagine that you are a pretty busy guy right now.

Bob Duke: Dan, it’s always good to talk to you. I’m excited to talk about this new position.

Beaulieu: I understand that ASC has named you the head of a completely new division.

Duke: Yes, ​I am happy to have the opportunity to join ASC in this capacity. I have been in the electronics industry for over 40 years and have a great deal of experience sourcing custom electronic products in low-cost countries. This new division positions me in what I do best and will allow me to utilize my experience and strengths to manage this new division. We are calling it ASC Global Sourcing, a division of American Standard Circuits.

Beaulieu: Can you elaborate on what this new division will be offering?

Duke: We provide customers with custom products such as printed circuit boards, wire harnesses, transformers, metal fabrications, plastics, and other custom products from low-cost country partners to help them keep their material costs down. ASC Global Sourcing is responsible for qualifying and managing the supplier as well as determining the best method of transportation to the U.S. Some products ship air very easily whereas other types of products are best shipped by ocean. Once the product reaches our warehouse in West Chicago, we ship only what our customer needs for their production schedule and hold the balance of the product until it’s needed. We can ship the product within 24 hours’ notice. This saves the customer valuable warehouse space and the cost of inventory and the lead time it takes to get the product from overseas once the product is in stock. We understand and can manage our customers’ MRP and create min./max. levels and reorder points to make sure there is always product available when needed.

Beaulieu: What is your new title and exactly what will you be doing?

Duke: ​I am the president of this division and delighted to be working within the American Standard Circuits family of companies. I’ll be responsible for actually starting and growing this division, using my years of experience and my contacts to make that happen.

Beaulieu: Let’s focus on you for a minute. Tell us about your background, Bob.

Duke:  ​Prior to joining ASC, I was vice president and a managing partner of M-Wave Controls. MWC designs and manufactures custom controls for food service equipment and various other industries. I was responsible for global sourcing of critical electronics parts and components. I have been involved in the electronics industry since the mid-1970s. I’ve worked for various PCB manufacturers in the early days of my career and migrated to electronic component distribution and supply chain services prior to co-owning a PCB assembly company that had operations in the U.S. and China. I’ve also held the position of general manager at Hamilton Hallmark, a division of Avnet Electronics, in Chicago where I gained a great deal of experience in electronic component distribution.

Beaulieu: Obviously, you and the team at ASC felt that there was enough of a need for global sourcing to start this division. Please talk about that need.

Duke: ​All companies need an advantage wherever possible when it comes to remaining competitive in today’s marketplace. Many companies focus on market share, which is one indicator of how well you’re doing amongst your competitors. But all too often a company will notice they are losing market share and their margins are eroding. In many cases, it takes much longer than you think to get things turned around and back on track. It takes a major effort to identify, developm and qualify a supply base overseas. This is where ASC Global Sourcing comes in. We have an established supply base that I have developed and have been working with for over 10 years that our customers can take advantage of out of the gate. Give us an opportunity to quote and start taking advantage of lower costs sooner than you can if you were to try to do it on your own.

Beaulieu: Who are your customers?    ​

Duke: We have customers in most of the traditional market segments such as industrial, telecommunications, medical, automotive, and lighting. These are companies generally with a low-volume, high-mix product offering vs. those that focus on high-volume products. This allows us to deal with companies that can range from $10 million in overall sales to hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s all about having the right supplier in place to produce a quality product on time at a completive price that carriers the day.

Beaulieu: So, you are a global company selling offshore products to North American companies. How does this work?       ​

Duke: We are responsible for managing our customers’ order from the time it is initially quoted up until the time it is received and consumed at their factory. We take responsibility for the whole supply chain beginning to end.

Beaulieu: What products are you handling currently?

Duke: Printed circuit boards, wire harnesses, transformers, metal fabrications, plastics, and other custom products. ​These products make the most sense because they are very labor-intensive and labor rates in the U.S. are considerably higher for commodity type products.

Beaulieu: How did you choose the suppliers?

Duke: We have an extensive qualification process in place at ASC Global Sourcing. We start with a thorough search for the commodity or the product we are looking for and compile a list of candidate suppliers. Next, they are all sent a market basket to quote so that we can validate their competitiveness. Then a quality survey is sent out for each of them to complete. We ask for customer references, verify industry certificates, obtain financial data, and research public information. An audit of their factory is a must. We begin our audit in sales where the order starts off and we visit the engineering department, tour the manufacturing floor, quality department and finally shipping.

Those that pass our high standards are added to our approved supplier matrix and are given qualification orders so that we can further validate quality, service, and on-time delivery. One of the most important elements of the approval process is having a relationship with the top management or the owner of the company. We want to be able to elevate an issue in the event something goes wrong. As we all know, even the best supplier can have an issue, and being able to resolve it quickly is critically important in the supply chain business.     ​

Beaulieu: How do you make sure you are providing the very best products? ​

Duke: Having qualified suppliers is key, and having good documentation is critical. We make sure that if information is missing from a drawing, we get those issues cleared up in advance of placing an order. Products that are delivered on time and meet or exceed the customers’ drawings and specifications are a good start.

Beaulieu: Aren’t other companies doing this as well?    ​

Duke: There are other supply chain companies out there. But what differentiates us from the others is that we focus on low-volume, high-mix and high-volume and we support an array of value-added services such as demand forecasting, stocking programs and local warehousing.

Beaulieu: What makes your company outstanding?

Duke: ​Our people and our hands on approach to providing our customers with a solution to a sourcing challenge when what they’ve been doing isn’t working any longer. Take advantage of our experience and leave it to us to help save you money and help you reduce the inventory in your warehouse.

Beaulieu: What would your customers say about ASC and this new offering?

Duke: Sourcing printed circuit boards overseas is not new to American Standard Circuits as they have numerous satisfied customers taking advantage of this service for many years. The new Global Souring Division will allow our existing and new customers the option of sourcing other custom products they may need with the same level of service they’ve come to expect from ASC. We also offer the advantage of having the product shipped from our warehouse in West Chicago when the product is needed.

Beaulieu: Do you plan on extending your product lines?

Duke: ​At the present time I believe we cover a fairly broad spectrum of products aimed mainly at supporting our customer base in the electronic industry. However, we are open to adding additional product categories if the opportunity presents itself.

Beaulieu: What do you see as the timeline for rolling this out?

Duke: We are in the process of setting up our marketing program for this new division which will include a press release announcing ASC Global Sourcing Division in addition to digital advertising, website, and literature. Educating our sale organization is also very important. They need to know everything about this new division and be able to communicate our capabilities to the customer base. After the training has been completed, we will be rolling it out to customers that have a need for these services. It’s important to make sure the rollout is smooth and well organized.

Beaulieu: Where do you see the division in a year?

Duke: I’m confident that we will see significant interest in the Global Sourcing Division, which translates to orders and the need to hire additional people to help manage the growth I’m expecting in the first 12 months.

Beaulieu: What about in five years?

Duke:​I believe a new office and warehouse will be in order by that time.

Beaulieu: Let’s talk about the electronics market. How do you see the market today?

Duke: While backlog with electronics companies remains strong, the chip shortage is still a significant issue for most companies. Shipments may not be as robust as they could be, but our customers are still shipping product. Companies still need to save money to remain competitive in the global market, which is where ASC Global sourcing comes in. We can help in this area and the customer can focus their efforts on finding the electronic components they need for their products. ​

Beaulieu: Good luck on this new venture, I’ll make sure to come back next year and check in on how things are going.

Duke: That’s be great Dan. I look forward to it.