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How Electronic Parts Distribution And The LCD Industry Are Changing

The electronic parts industry boomed in the 1990s and early 2000s, but major industry changes are forcing companies to adapt.

In those days, middlemen such as parts brokers thrived on wide profit margins for parts and direct access to manufacturers in Asia. It was a simple formula: find buyers and sellers of parts and turn part numbers into profits.

But profit margins on electronic parts have eroded with improved manufacturing and lower costs. Even giant corporations like Sharp are in trouble. According to the New York Times, Sharp’s profits grew 150 percent between 2000 and 2007. In 2012, the company admitted to having "material doubts" whether it would even survive.

Mass Integrated, Inc. was founded in 2002 as a distributor in the emerging LCD industry. In 2007, the company was named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s Hot 500. Mass Integrated witnessed first-hand the shift in the electronic parts industry.

"The days of parts brokers are numbered," said Thomas Roklan, who has been with Mass Integrated since 2005. "The Internet has opened the market up and cut out the middlemen. Everything is transparent now: part numbers, prices, and Asian suppliers."

Mass Integrated distributes LCD panels and works primarily with OEMs in the medical, military, industrial, avionics, and consumer electronics markets. The company's niche is industrial and end-of-life panels, which can be hard to source without a distributor. Still, Mass Integrated recognizes that the broker model of distribution is a thing of the past.

"Distribution today is about added value and solutions rather than part numbers and Asian suppliers," said Roklan. "This is what OEMs want and need. Otherwise, they can go direct to the manufacturers, and many of them are already doing that."

To meet the new model of distribution, Mass Integrated created a division called Smarter Glass to expand its value-added services. An OEM that needs to enhance or modify an LCD panel could go to Smarter Glass not just for the panel but for modifications such as backlight replacement, repolarization, and high bright. Smarter Glass also provides projected capacitive (PCAP) touch solutions and touch integration for legacy products.

"Mass Integrated was founded in the midst of an emerging LCD market, when the broker model of distribution was still viable," said Roklan. "Smarter Glass is the future of that market, both in terms of touch technology and added-value services. But beyond those core services, Mass Integrated adds value to OEMs just by being a US-based company with benefits such as net terms, scheduled orders, and excess inventory management. Those are things that the Internet can never replace."

In 2012, Mass Integrated launched a new website ( with a display database for engineers that can search thousands of display panels and compare results side-by-side. The company also operates a display industry knowledge base called Display Alliance ( which features industry news, technical Q&A, white papers, EOL notices, and more.

"The Internet is a digital continent, the new Asia," said Roklan. "The Mass Integrated website is the foundation of a web-based infrastructure that drives a new model of distribution and adds value to the entire display industry through resources such as the display database and Display Alliance. The electronic parts industry as a whole has to make the same transition to value-added services and resources."

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