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Smith Paves the Way for Future Supply Chain Innovations

The unprecedented semiconductor shortages in recent years sent shockwaves through the industry. The limited available inventory moved at lightning speed and prices fluctuated by the minute, leaving companies around the world scrambling to find crucial parts to complete their builds.

Marc Barnhill
By Marc Barnhill, Chief Executive Officer

But after 40 years in the business, Smith has developed a keen understanding of the ebbs and flows of the market. We know how delicate the balance is between supply and demand, and we’ve seen that balance disrupted time and again. A single incident, such as a fire or an earthquake, can often have lasting impacts on the entire supply chain.

When the whims of the industry can turn on a dime, Smith must always be ready for the next market situation. Our worldwide team of commodity experts constantly survey the global semiconductor supply chain and identify gaps where we can support our customers. Each partner has its own unique needs and challenges, but Smith’s customizable service model allows us to build flexibility and agility into our programs.

None of this would be possible, however, without Smith’s continuous efforts to reinvest in our people, processes, and infrastructure. As the world’s leading independent distributor, we don’t make the products we deliver. Rather, our customers come to us for our industry expertise, certified processes, and global reach, and these investments ensure that Smith is providing the best and most up-to-date market knowledge, inspection and testing services, and supply chain solutions to position our customers for success.

People Shape Smith

Smith’s people are one of our greatest assets, and we harness their impact through ongoing employee recruitment, retention, and development. Our focus on creating a welcoming environment filled with rewarding opportunities has helped us to attract and retain the best talent in the industry. We celebrate our team members’ milestones and recognize their outstanding achievements, which helps to foster a collaborative and cohesive workforce.

At the same time, we refuse to preserve the status quo and provide our employees with the tools and resources needed to take the next step and drive innovation. From their first days at Smith, our employees have access to our comprehensive learning and development program. Our online learning platform, Smith University, houses more than 1,600 courses in English, Chinese, Mandarin, and Korean on topics ranging from market intelligence and operational processes to cybersecurity best practices and effective communication. New and tenured employees alike benefit from this wealth of knowledge, and together, our global team members completed more than 43,000 courses last year.

Furthermore, our management team actively identifies and evaluates high-potential employees to help fast-track their advancement. Additional opportunities, including Smith’s Leadership Development Program, Level Up, and Impact Coaching and Mentoring, are also available to deepen Smith’s collective thought leadership and strengthen our business strategy. These investments have generated exponential returns for Smith, as demonstrated by the remarkable tenure of our senior leadership—which exceeds 22 years on average.

Faster, Smarter, and Better Solutions

Coming out of the most recent shortages, we have leveraged those experiences to identify our areas of greatest success and pinpoint opportunities to streamline our processes. A leading example of this work is the launch of our Employee Suggestion Program. Through this formalized process, employees from our regional operations hubs have the opportunity to submit ideas to save Smith time and money while still maintaining our high standards for quality and safety. These ideas are reviewed and evaluated by our Operations leadership, and the most promising ones are implemented. The results are assessed at the end of the review period, and employees are rewarded on a tiered system based on the success of their ideas. More than 100 ideas have been submitted since the program was introduced in 2022, and new ideas continue to roll in every week.

Other departments—including Trading, Purchasing, Accounting, and IT—have also prioritized the creation of efficiencies within their processes. From streamlining cross-department communication to standardizing workflows, these subtle tweaks to our operating procedures help our global employee base to work in unison and amplify our reach and capabilities.

Foundations of Success

This practice of evolving with the market is not new to Smith, which is why we have continued to build upon our successes year after year. The first year we ever generated more than a billion dollars in global revenue was in 2017—and we’ve done that and more every year since. The last three years have yielded our highest annual revenues to date, but we are growing and preparing for the record-breaking years still ahead of us.

In the wake of the shortages, Smith has continued to increase our global footprint. In the last two years, we have added two new distribution centers in Houston and Singapore, three new sales offices in London, Tokyo, and Detroit, and relocated or expanded ten existing sales offices worldwide, with additional growth planned in the near future.

Additionally, we’ve purchased more than USD $4 million in new testing and inspection equipment for our five distribution hubs worldwide. Coupled with the expanded space, our operational output capacity has more than doubled since the onset of the shortages.

Elevating Technology

Elevate 2024Some of our most noteworthy investments, however, stemmed from the multitude of ideas generated at last year’s ELEVATE technology summit. During the three-day event, representatives from every department gathered to discuss our technology products and solutions and proposed ideas for Smith’s next generation of proprietary information technology. Together, we launched more than 150 initiatives to enhance our IT infrastructure.

Over the last year, our IT team has set out to implement these initiatives with tremendous success. During our ELEVATE workshop this past February, we gathered once again to hear progress updates on our major initiatives as well as success stories from ideas that have already been implemented with positive results. We also developed new initiatives that will carry us into the next wave of the semiconductor market cycle.


Smith has made incredible strides as a leader in semiconductor distribution. Our journey from a small family business to a global powerhouse has taken decades of effort and ingenuity, but I firmly believe that the best is yet to come. There are still countless untapped partnerships, solutions, and opportunities in front of us, and we will continue to develop the knowledge and resources needed to reach Smith’s next milestone. The investments we are making today will pay dividends toward our successes tomorrow, and I look forward to leading those efforts as we march ahead into the next 40 years.

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