The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Matthew Haber, CEO and co-founder at Cofactr, a supply chain platform in New York that helps companies procure and manage electronic components. Haber discussed how manufacturers can use real-time technical, inventory, and sourcing data to operate more efficiently and better navigate electronic supply chains.
Morgan Stevens: You started your career in media design and then moved into the technology industry. How did that trajectory lead you to starting Cofactr?
Matthew Haber: I had always worked at the intersection of design and engineering, and this led to the founding of my previous company, BeSide. We did design-focused contract R&D work, mostly in the entertainment and architectural industries to begin with, but ultimately evolving into autonomous vehicles, medical devices, and consumer electronics. We experienced the pain of navigating the new-product-introduction phase of engineering an electronic product first-hand, and it gave us the opportunity to witness how those same challenges impacted clients working at the largest scale across a number of industries. After BeSide was acquired, my co-founder, Phil, and I had the opportunity to look back on the past several years of our work and identify where we had seen the biggest, most exciting challenges. Electronic supply chains impact just about every facet of modern life and are ripe for innovation, so we started Cofactr.
Stevens: Can you explain how Cofactr’s platform works?
Haber: It’s impossible to construct a modern, agile supply chain when the information you need is split across a million spreadsheets full of stale information. Cofactr’s platform gives engineering, procurement, and product teams a single view of their technical, inventory, and sourcing data so they can see the real-time truth of their supply chain, make informed strategic decisions, and enact them efficiently. We provide the underlying logistics infrastructure to ensure that the inventory data in our platform is 100 percent accurate and collect real-time data from hundreds of distributors on hundreds of millions of unique components so our customers can count on the data they see in our platform to make their most important engineering and business decisions.
Stevens: Between the pandemic and geopolitical tensions, the electronics supply chain has faced a number of challenges in the past couple of years. How does Cofactr’s sourcing assistant take volatility and future uncertainties into account?
Haber: A big element of managing an agile supply chain is balancing the parts that a manufacturer buys just-in-time and the parts that they stockpile in advance, just-in-case. With so many external factors impacting supply chains, it’s impossible to predict the future perfectly, but we give teams the data to balance the risks around which parts they might want to stockpile in advance and which they can safely wait to procure until later. Crucially, we also provide the secure, compliant logistics infrastructure to allow customers to safely stockpile their most critical parts and the procurement automation to make managing this process easy, so teams can focus on their product, not chasing supply chain volatility.
Stevens: What are the biggest challenges you face in getting sufficient data to make accurate production forecasts?
Haber: One of the big challenges of the electronics supply chain is that manufacturers working and the distribution networks they rely on are running on decades-old technology. Every day we collect vast amounts of data from global suppliers, but, in many cases, the accuracy of the data that we receive is hampered by their antiquated systems. Our platform has the unique advantage of being closed loop; we aren’t just presenting the data to users, we are powering the resulting purchasing and supply chain activities. This gives us an added layer of information on the real-world outcomes, which we use to qualify and calibrate the incoming data to show our customers a picture that is closer to reality than systems that just present the raw data can possibly provide.
Stevens: What does the future look like for both Cofactr and the electronics supply chain?
Haber: Electronic supply chains face years of challenges ahead. There is inherent latency in semiconductor manufacturing due to the time and expense of constructing foundries, and this prevents supply and demand from finding quick equilibrium. The good news is that the past few years of disruptions have started to catalyze a long overdue realization that it is possible to design products in a more adaptable way and to manage supply chains with more agility. Every day we talk with customers across a broad spectrum of industries, from aerospace to medical devices to robotics, that are hungry to tackle these challenges head-on and understand that doing so effectively can be a competitive advantage for them. Cofactr’s future is in providing the end-to-end platform, data, and infrastructure required for electronics manufacturers to thrive.