Has the chip shortage finally ended? 🤔 In this episode, we’ve got a special guest – Chris Torrioni, Co-Founder of Sensible Micro Corp. He’s here to share his journey and give his take on the whole situation. Tune in!
Dr. Bill Cardoso: Welcome to another episode of X Ray University podcast and I’m here today with my good friend Christopher Jani from Sensible Micro. Thanks for being with us today. Yes.
Chris Torrioni: Absolutely, Bill. Thank you so much for having me. I need to be here.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: I know it’s been, it’s been so long and we have so much to talk about. Let’s get started by starting from the beginning, because at the end, what we really want to explore is the chip shortage. Right. We’ve gone through some really rough times in our supply chains. And, you know, if you a year and a half, two years ago, if you’re trying to buy a car or a dishwasher, you just disappeared from from stores.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: But I want to share with you, Chris. Let’s go back to your entrepreneurial journey. Right. It’s something I’m very passionate about and I know you are to tell us about Sensible micro and how did you get started? And, you know, to the point where it really sucks, ask what your day.
Chris Torrioni: Sure. Yeah. It’s it’s an interesting journey for sure. You know, I got into this industry by accident. Really. I had just graduated college from the University of Central Florida. My first job was an interior career.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: I.T..
Chris Torrioni: Recruiter, and I see a recruiter. Wow. You know, brand new campus location. And we had zero visits. So we basically were interviewing people all day long for jobs. We didn’t have to offer. That’s perfect. Like, this is what the real world is about. Yeah, I was in a suit and tie from seven in the morning till seven at night, making $24,000 a year.
Chris Torrioni: And I was like, All right, this is kind of a better way. Just by accident, with lunch with a buddy. And he’s like, We’re working, you know, we’re selling parts over at this distributor in Tampa. And you need we need sales assistance. And so he’s like, if you’re not afraid of the phone and you like selling, he’s like, you can do pretty well.
Chris Torrioni: And I was like, I don’t care. I’ll try anything. Yeah, Yeah. This current venture. And and that’s how I started. I started with a local sugar. I was a sales assistant faxing and expediting post, trying to revive old accounts. So just cold calling all day long, trying to get people on the phone, trying to get them to like me.
Chris Torrioni: Trust me and give me a shot. And I had an knack for it. And within three months they put me into sales. And within a year I was the sales manager. Wow. At 23 years old. Wow. Yeah.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: So. Well, we might have to put a a link for the young people watching this. What a fax machine is. They might not know what fax is.
Chris Torrioni: Yeah.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: It wasn’t a logo, Chris.
Chris Torrioni: I was cold calling. I remember the sourcebook.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: I remember the sourcebook. It was a long time ago. Well, not that long ago. We’re not that old, but still old enough. So you’re doing well right at 23, making sure we’re making quite a bit of money. What? Explain to me that bug in your in your got writer told you that that there was something else out there.
Chris Torrioni: Yeah. Yeah. The company I worked for, they were great, great guys give you my star. But I mean, I literally couldn’t sleep at night thinking about starting my own venture. I mean, I just the first month I was there, I would get there an hour before the office opened because I was so excited and I just resting against the door, waiting for somebody to let me in.
Chris Torrioni: And like a month into it, the sales manager brought me a key. One day he’s like, Dude, you’re making me look bad. Just let yourself in and just show up. It was awesome. I just, you know, it’s one of those things I use. I kept a journal the first time in my life I ever kept a journal, and I would write in this journal about this industry opportunity and things that I wanted to do, and I couldn’t shake it.
Chris Torrioni: I mean, it was just it was in me. All I thought about. And, you know, my dad was retiring with IBM, and for 30 years he had not been exposed to the component industry at all. And I used to say, I don’t think we can do this better. There’s, you know, there’s there’s companies out there. This industry is really weird.
Chris Torrioni: You know, it’s really free, but it’s also really weird. There’s a lot of companies that, you know, they’re just flipping chips. Yeah, they don’t they’re just trying to make a transaction. They’re not focused on customer service, they’re not focused on quality. They’re just, you know, and there’s tons of them. And, you know, I’m like, there’s a better way.
Chris Torrioni: And that’s how the name Sensible came out. It’s perfect. Nothing really comes to me. I’m like, This doesn’t make any sense. And so he and I started the company back in 2005. Wow.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: No, going back to the early 2000. Right. Industry was much different than it is today. Who are the players? I mean, who are the people? You know, like you described flipping chips at the time?
Chris Torrioni: Well, there is. You had a lot of stocking distributors that were good companies, right? You know, there was there was a guy. The names back then, I think Quest was still around. Prison was still around. Mm hmm. You know, companies like that were I’m not sure if they did a lot of direct OEM business, but they certainly had channels to access an access program.
Chris Torrioni: But, you know, in the late nineties, there was a lot of spinoff companies, especially here in Florida. And it was like mothership at a C Petersburg. Yeah. Gave birth to, you know, how many companies if you just look at I did not come from there but it was super saturated I’m sure you remember. Yeah. So you know, there was it was a bunch of sales guys who started companies and and that’s what I was I’m sales guy thought, hey, I can run a company, I can start a company.
Chris Torrioni: But I don’t know. It’s just it seemed to work out for me.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: Yeah. Because. So one question I have is what did it take at the time to start a company? A company distributor, you know, other than a phone number and, you know, and, and some books and some context. Why did it take to start a company for you?
Chris Torrioni: Yeah. You know, the barrier to entry was not a lot, right? You needed a computer. You needed a way to inspect parts of the inspection process back then was, you know, checking to make sure the leads weren’t damaged. You got the right part packaged properly. You know, it was very, very basic stuff. You know, the quality infrastructure that you need today is eons compared to what you needed back then.
Chris Torrioni: Right. And so I grew up in that environment where you had good companies selling parts, and sometimes they were bad or sometimes they were damaged. And, you know, you you got hopefully you caught it in-house and it didn’t get to the customer. Yeah, but over time, we just started outsourcing. Mm hmm. In the very early days, we had, you know, a couple of local companies that that we would work with.
Chris Torrioni: And, you know, that took time and it took money. And we didn’t put in our own in-house lab facility until 2011. We built our new headquarters, and then we we opened in 2012 that location.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: Which is a beautiful location, by the way. It’s just gorgeous. Did you think…
Dr. Bill Cardoso: When when a lot investment is actually inventory, right. When did it start for you guys?
Chris Torrioni: You mean bringing in inventory? Yeah, probably around. So seven years into owning the business, we had moved three separate times, and the last time is when we built our facility. We have almost four acres of land. We overbuilt on purpose because we were growing so quickly. We didn’t have any room, any more room for inventory. And and we certainly didn’t have room or ultrasonic for all the lab analysis equipment that we needed.
Chris Torrioni: Um, but, you know, we started, I would say 2008, 2009, we started buying access, we started partnering with customers, um, trying to schedule out, trying to do, you know, small consignment deals. Just, it was never a big focus. It was just kind of part of the relationship. Got. Hey, we have access. Are you guys interested in that? You want to buy it now?
Chris Torrioni: We’re not sure if it’s really good material. I mean, we’ll just playing it. Yeah. You know, And so, yeah, it started quite a bit ago, but I mean, now, I mean, it’s it’s a different level. Different. Different game. Yeah.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: No I don’t think a real one. I mean to say they know that the when COVID hit you guys of course you know much. Well you know much more comfortable position companies mature um talk to me about the process. You know how the pandemic impacted you guys internally. Right. Holding back you with your customers. And how did you deal with that nightmare that were those first few months?
Chris Torrioni: Yeah. Was super crazy at first, right. And didn’t know what to do. And so like a lot of company, we immediately we just sent everybody home to work remote and thank God we had an amazing I.T. director who had us up and running within a day, a day or two.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: So all of those things you like, Oh, that’s why we have that guy. No, no. You never know what you have. Right? And do you actually need them?
Chris Torrioni: I mean, is Johnny on spot? He was unbelievable the way that we were able to just navigate super quickly because we had, I think, five or six customers under the defense Production Act, building ventilators. Wow.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: So they they knew the parts they couldn’t stop. Yeah. Busier than our.
Chris Torrioni: Part D and I’m quick and we were able to support them and which was good for us because, you know, nobody was doing anything for at least the first months due to COVID. It was just a standstill. Yeah. So yeah, really, really fortunate. You know, I was concerned because we had never tried remote work before. And, you know, you don’t know how people are going to adapt to that.
Chris Torrioni: Exactly. Yeah. You’ll be able to function well. You know, some people can work great on their own and some people they can’t. I need to be around people and they need more focus. And it’s just different. Right? But our team is right. You know, we even have remote schedules now for the team because you just carried it through.
Chris Torrioni: And, you know, they’re they’re professionals and what they do and they can handle it.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: That’s awesome. Yeah. So used to carry on for some functions. All right. A more hybrid approach for scheduling.
Chris Torrioni: Yeah, the inspection team, warehouse team. Obviously, they have to be. Yeah, right. Yeah. We had socially distance all their workstations in the lab in inspection areas because they were really the only ones not in the building. And myself and maybe a few others.
Chris Torrioni: And some of these chips.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: I love who have levels of bunkers, it went from mobile bunkers to send bunkers.
Chris Torrioni: You just when you thought it couldn’t get any more crazy.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: Wait, there’s more?
Chris Torrioni: Yeah. Yeah. As customers, they can absorb that kind of thing. And we get it. The demand is still there, you know, We’re still looking for that. The hardest of the hardest chips. And when they pop up, we can get them. We get them for them. But yeah, it’s just a strange market. There’s the sense of urgency has diminished, right?
Chris Torrioni: You don’t see the larger players coming over and the volumes that they were coming over and but the demand is still good. But it’s it’s just it’s just a weird market. You got inflation, you got interest, interest rates rising. You know, there’s there’s a lot of uncertainty. And so, you know that that tapers things way down.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: What new opportunities this economic landscape offers for you guys?
Chris Torrioni: Yeah, I think the value add is a big, big opportunity for us.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: Which is something you guys were doing before this whole thing started, right? So you were able to put in overdrive. Is that what we’re doing?
Chris Torrioni: Yeah, we’re able to tweak certain programs, certain inventory management programs, things, you know. Oh yeah, they need they need a true partner That’s really thinks outside the box because everybody’s business is different. They don’t want to go through with what they went through for the past two plus years. They need to have that flexibility. They need to have somebody who’s nimble, who can handle their business the different way and really be that that go between, you know, just managing crisis parts, but also, you know, dealing with the contract manufacturers.
Chris Torrioni: A lot of them are not set up to to be able to handle the sourcing requirements for for a critical shortage move quickly. So so, you know, we put together custom programs and things that that makes sense for them so they don’t have to be put in that box and go, oh, no, what do we do? Just go out and buy their hair on fire?
Chris Torrioni: Yeah, You know, and so it’s we see value add everywhere. I mean, it’s it’s tremendous.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: Because not only even if they had right to program, if they have a process, that process is likely obsolete by now. Right. And that’s where you guys can help both from the sell and the buy side of things. Right. If you have company has too much inventory. Right. And maybe doesn’t want to sit on inventory for a year and a half or two.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: And then for people who need parts, you know, yesterday to get Kip. So it’s a it’s very interesting in that there’s going to be my last question looking back. Right. What prepared you to be in this position that you are today to take advantage of this crisis that killed so many people that made you stronger?
Chris Torrioni: You know, I think us just having our team, I mean, first and foremost, you have people on your team who don’t treat this as just a job like they truly, truly care about what they do. We’ve got our core values bolted to our walls right on our floor. We’ve got our mission statement which says we exist to help overburden manufacturers when it’s right there in front of their face every day.
Chris Torrioni: And they truly operate that way. You know, we’re a family run company. We treat people like family. And I think when you have that kind of culture, it’s just a different it’s a different environment. People respond differently. They take their jobs with passion, you know, and they truly try to do the right thing and deliver for the customer in the right way.
Chris Torrioni: And so, you know, without the team that we have, I don’t know how we would have done it in another circumstance. But, you know, we’re very fortunate. We try really, really hard to have the right environment, the right atmosphere, and it’s worked out tremendous. Well.
Dr. Bill Cardoso: That’s awesome. Chris, thank you so much for your time and then we’ll have to set up another time to chat. There’s too much to talk about, but this was awesome. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much. And thank you all for listening and we’ll be back with more of our podcast. Thank you.
Chris Torrioni: Thanks, Bill. Appreciate it. Thanks.Dr. Bill Cardoso – Founder and CEO of Creative Electron & Chris Torrioni – President and Co-Founder at Sensible Micro Corp.