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Component Shortage Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Procurement executives concerned about digital innovation

Manufacturers are using digital advancements to battle current supply chain disruptions.

Almost all (97%) of those surveyed said they had significant disruptions in their direct materials supply chain.

67% said they were not confident that the technology can cope with the current or near-future challenges.

The most significant technology disadvantages seem to come with lack of visibility into supplier, ‘disjointed’ source-to-pay process with multiple systems, and a lack of spend reporting.

Even more (87%) said modernising the manufacturing procurement and supply chain takes precedence, and it is their biggest challenge yet. A further 92% said avoiding disruptions to their supply chain is their main goal for this year.

Among the main concerns for modernising the supply chain are potential disruptions during implementation, skills shortages, and scale and challenge of change management.

Around half of those surveyed (44%) predicted that the supply chain crisis would begin to calm by 2023. Significantly less (18%) thought it would reduce by the end of this year.

The study surveyed 233 senior procurement executives from US and UK manufacturing companies. It was commissioned by Ivalua, a spend management cloud provider.

See the original press release from Ivalua here.

While Covid-19 was seen as a factor in the supply chain instability, it was not the only culprit. Global supply chains had already been in a vulnerable position, partly due to factors like too much outsourcing and an overreliance on ‘just-in-time’ supply management.

What some are calling ‘outdated technologies’ are slowly being replaced in Industry 4.0. However, the implementation of tech like IoT, AI, machine learning and cloud computing is not a quick process.

The issue may be that this transition period would only further add to the current shortages rather than solving them in the short-term. Most companies are being deterred by this potential loss, and have been avoiding the change for as long as possible.

Whenever digital innovation comes, it will be a gradual and time-consuming process, but businesses will be better off for it.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Hard to Find Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

The global electronic component shortage – what happened?

Arguably the biggest ongoing crisis in the tech industry is the global semiconductor shortage. You can’t go far online without seeing news about it, and many people have seen it firsthand when trying to buy a brand-new car, or a recently released games console.

When did it start?

The obvious factor contributing to the shortage is COVID-19. The virus infected millions and sent the world into lockdown, which then led to the housebound masses logging in and going online.

At the start of lockdown in March 2020, 60% of 18-24-year-olds were increasing their use of home delivery instead of leaving the house. Amazon’s revenue also rose at a quicker pace than in previous years, with the company making $88.91 billion in Q2 2022.

Alongside the increase in online shopping came an increase in other digital activities like PC and console gaming. In the last quarter of 2020 desktop, notebook and workstation sales rose to a record 90.3 million units. Tech company Sony saw 25% of its revenue come from game and network services, and around 18% from electronics products and solutions.

In another case of bad timing, both Microsoft and Sony were about to release their next generation of game consoles, and Nintendo Switch sales were booming. All of this meant demand for components was skyrocketing.

This then led to delays in car manufacturing. Why? Because all the available chips were being bought up by computer and electronics manufacturers, so there were none left for the automotive industry. A car part may need between 500 and 1,500 chips, and are used for many parts including the dashboard display and to control the airbag.

There were other elements that contributed to the shortage before this: The US and China had been imposing increasingly high tariffs on each other for the past two years, and natural disasters and fires took out several factories in Japan, Taiwan and China.

When will it end?

The comeback from the semiconductor shortage will not be quick. Some factories that were shut down by natural disasters are still repairing the damage and trying to reopen production. But as the demand is staying high, there will need to be new facilities created to cater for the increase in demand.

The time, expertise and money needed to start a new factory will be too much for smaller firms to manage, so then the hole in the market needs to be filled by larger corporations like Intel and Samsung. Both companies currently have plans to open new fabs in America, but it will be a while before they can start production.

Intel’s ambitious plan to construct the one of the largest chip factories ever in Ohio would alleviate demand, but is not due to start production until 2025. Similarly, Samsung’s Texas fab will not be operational until 2024.

Despite smaller factories opening, the substantial backlog will not be solved by these alone. There will need to be a combination of an increase in production, time efficiency and, with the pandemic in mind, automation to decrease person-to-person contact. There will also need to be a stock of chips manufactured to avoid shortages in future.

Europe and America have both put an emphasis on increasing their domestic chip production in the next decade, in the hopes that this will prevent importing issues in the future.

The speed at which technology is currently being developed also puts manufacturers in a tight spot. Not only are more electronic devices being produced all the time, but the technology of the components within them is also advancing quickly.

While it is difficult to forecast entirely, experts say the shortage could last a few more years. Hopefully with the opening of the larger plants estimated for approximately the same time, the chip shortage might be mitigated by 2025.

We can help

The market is currently just as competitive in the case of other electronic components, but Cyclops can help. With our extensive stock of day-to-day and obsolete components we can supply you when others cannot.

For all your component needs, contact Cyclops Electronics today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com. Or submit a rapid enquiry through our website.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Latest electronic component factory openings

We’ve all heard about the shortages in standard components like semiconductors and chips. Cars, phones and computers, items we use every day, are no longer being produced at the speedy rate we’ve come to expect. The cause of this shortage is, in part, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is especially noticeable in Europe and America, where production has often been outsourced to Asia in the past.

So who are the latest companies expanding operations, and how much are they spending? Check out our quick run-down of factories and when they should open:

Company: Intel

Location: Ohio, USA

Product: Chips

Completion date: 2025

Cost: $20 billion (£14.7 billion)

The latest, and possibly greatest, announcement on our list comes from Intel. The corporation revealed in January that they would be committing to building two chip manufacturing plants in New Albany, Ohio. The move is said to be due to supply chain issues with Intel’s manufacturers in Asia, and should boost the American industry with the creation of at least 3,000 jobs. Construction should begin this year.

Company: Samsung Electronics

Location: Texas, USA

Product: Semiconductors

Completion date: 2024

Cost: $17billion (£12.5billion)

The household name announced late last year that they would begin work on a new semiconductor-manufacturing plant in Taylor, Texas. The Korean company stated the project was Samsung’s largest single investment in America, and is due to be operational by the middle of 2024.

Company: Infineon

Location: Villach, Austria

Product: Chips

Completion date: 2021

Cost: 1.6 billion (£1.3 billion)

After being in construction since 2018, Infineon’s Austrian plant became operational in September last year. The chip factory for power electronics, also called energy-saving chips, on 300-millimeter tin wafers began shipping three months ahead of schedule in 2021, and its main customer base will be in the automotive industry.

Company: Northvolt

Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Product: Batteries

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $200 million (£148 million)

The Swedish battery manufacturer is expanding its operations with a new factory in Poland. While initial operations are supposed to begin this year producing 5 GWh of batteries, it hopes to further develop to produce 12 GWh in future. Northvolt has also just begun operations at its new battery factory in Skellefteå in Sweden.

Company: Vingroup

Location: Hà Tĩnh, Vietnam

Product: Batteries

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $174 million (£128 million)

The Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer is due to start production at its new factory later this year, where it will produce lithium batteries for its electric cars and buses. The factory will be designed to produce 10,000 battery packs per year initially, but in a second phase the manufacturer said it will upgrade to 1 million battery packs annually. VinFast, a member of Vingroup, is also planning on expanding operations to America and Germany.

Company: EMD Electronics

Location: Arizona, USA

Product: Gas and chemical delivery systems

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $28 million (£20.7 million)

The member of the multinational Merck Group is expanding operations with the construction of a new factory in Phoenix, Arizona, to manufacture equipment for its Delivery Systems & Services business. The factory is due to be operational by the end of the year, and will produce GASGUARD and CHEMGUARD systems for the company.

A bright future

These electronic component factory openings signal a great increase in business, and will aide in the easing of the component crisis. But it will take a while for these fabs to be operational.

Can’t wait? Cyclops is there for all your electronic component needs. We have 30 years of expertise, and can help you where other suppliers cannot. Whether it’s day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, contact us today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Hard to Find Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Will continued global Covid measures extend electronic component shortages?

Continued global Covid measures will likely extend electronic component shortages, hindering manufacturers for several years.

The coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the global economy irreparably. Demand for electronic components has shifted, supply chains are broken, and new, more infectious variants threaten to bend normality further.  

It looks like the world is running out of electronic components, but there’s more to shortages than meets the eye.

The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest reason behind component shortages. With this single statement, we can deduce that shortages will subside when the pandemic subsides, freeing up supply chains through fewer restrictions.

However, we know the coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, and its persistence and ability to evolve means we have to learn to live with it.

Add raw material shortages, soaring prices, low investment in new manufacturing facilities, and geopolitical issues related to supply and demand. Now we have a recipe for several years of component shortages.

How covid reshaped supply chains 

In May 2020, the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit most of the world. Countries locked down, and most sectors of the economy suffered.

Demand for some categories decreased, while demand for others increased. For instance, demand for vehicles evaporated while demand for home computers soared, creating an imbalance in the supply chain.

Estimates suggest that vehicle sales fell by 50% or more within a single month. In response, vehicle manufacturers scaled backorders for components.  

At the same time, demand for electronics chips and parts soared as more people spent time working from home.

When demand ramped back up for vehicles, there weren’t enough components to serve them and electronics. This is a story shared by multiple industries, with supply chains broken by supply and demand imbalances.

The matter wasn’t helped by local and national lockdowns, circuit breakers, new variants, and mitigating problems like floods and climate change.

There is no easy solution or fast fix 

The pandemic has also caused prices for common and rare earth metals to explode, increasing over 70% since the start of 2021 for some metals. These prices are made even worse by soaring inflation.

Trying to build supply chain resilience during the coronavirus pandemic is like trying to build a house of cards on a jittering floor. Just when you think you have it, something comes along that knocks it down, and you have to start over.  

The simple fact is that the world needs more factories to make components, and it needs to get a grip on inflation. The Covid pandemic is not going away, although the virus appears to be getting milder, which is a good sign for the future.

You can bolster your supply chain by working with an electronic components distributor like us, increasing your inventory, and quickly moving to equivalent components when you experience shortages of active and passive components. Email us today with your component inquiries sales@cyclops-eletronics.com

Although global Covid measures are likely to extend electronic component shortages, there is no reason why they should stop you from doing business.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electric Vehicles Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

A raw materials shortage is set to hit the EV battery supply chain in 2022

The automotive sector is on red alert amid speculation that raw material shortages will impact the EV battery supply chain in 2022.

The lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles use a combination of rare earth metals like neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and common and uncommon minerals like cobalt and lithium in great quantities.

Bloomberg blew the whistle in July, predicting that raw material shortages for batteries will be the next big test after the semiconductor crisis.

Recent reports back this, with the global lithium shortage giving EV manufacturers pause for concern. Sky News reports the world needs four new lithium mines per year to make supply meet demand, but the pipeline doesn’t come close to meeting this requirement.

Some EV manufacturers are hoarding raw materials, and the world’s biggest electric car maker, Tesla, is moving away from cobalt to LFP chemistry because they consider cobalt to be the biggest supply chain risk for EV batteries.

The EV industry has a battery problem 

Most electric vehicles have a lithium-ion battery pack because Li-ion has a high energy density for its weight and can charge and discharge at any state of charge. The technology is proven, and manufacturing Li-ion batteries is easy.

However, the growing demand for electric vehicles is fuelling demand for EV battery raw materials like lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and rare earth metals.

The mines in operation today are not sufficient to make supply meet demand one year from now, which is a cause of great concern in the automotive sector.

Additional factors could confound the problem:

  • Price volatility in raw materials (the price of rare earth metals has exploded, moving nearly 50% higher on average since March)
  • Battery composition changes (while lithium-ion is the top dog today, solid-state batteries use a lot more nickel and cobalt)
  • Trade tensions between countries (China controls 55% of global production and 85% refining output of rare earth metals).

Making supply meet demand

Accurate forecasting is crucial to making supply meet demand. Manufacturers must anticipate fluctuations in the supply chain and make allowances for events.

For instance, no one can predict the next coronavirus pandemic, but a 25% drop in raw material mining output can be incorporated into forecasts.

Manufacturers might also like to look into alternative battery chemistries. As we mentioned before, Tesla is switching the chemistry of its long-range batteries to reduce dependency on cobalt. Other battery manufacturers can do the same to fortify their supply chains.

The downside to switching chemistries is it is only possible following extensive (and expensive) research and development. The world’s leading EV battery manufacturers won’t invest in this area without proof it will turn a profit.

EV battery recycling is another important future step. Swedish company Nothvolt made the world’s first fully recycled EV battery in November. Today, however, Li-ion battery recycling is not economical on an industrial scale.

Another option is limiting EV battery production, either in total volume or in cell volume (installing smaller batteries). With EV batteries becoming more efficient, smaller capacities might not be detrimental to range in the future.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Future Hard to Find Components Supply Chain Technology

Global chip shortage to impact electronic retailers holiday season

The holiday season usually marks the start of an electronics sales boon for retailers. Consumers buy more electronics in the lead up to Christmas than at any other time of the year. This year, however, things are different.

This holiday season, the global chip shortage is set to impact electronic retailers, with shortages of popular products like games consoles, graphics cards, smartphones, laptops and tablets likely to persist through to 2022.

Due to problems buying stock, most retailers are bracing themselves for low Christmas electronics goods sales. The global chip shortage means fewer electronics goods are being made, so there is a long lead time from suppliers – some retailers are waiting several months for new stock, only for it to sell out within days.

Consumers should start holiday shopping now 

Chips are in critically short supply this year, which has reduced manufacturing output at many of the world’s biggest factories.

Companies like Samsung, Apple, Intel and AMD are experiencing problems getting the chips they need. Today, some chips have delays of over a year, and inventory supplies for chips are running low, putting pressure on supply chains.

All of this means there is a shortage of in-demand electronics goods, from games consoles to smartwatches. The message is simple – consumers should start holiday shopping now to ensure they can get hold of the electronics they want.

It is also crucial that consumers don’t take stock levels for granted. What’s in stock today might be out of stock tomorrow, and many retailers have lead times of several months for new stock. So, if you need it, you should buy it while you can.

Is the chip shortage being blown out of proportion? 

We are so used to next-day Amazon delivery and seeing shiny electronics on store shelves that chip shortages appear to be a fantasy.

However, the chip shortage is real – manufacturers are struggling to create enough chips, and suppliers can’t get hold of the inventory they need.

Another fox in the henhouse is chip price increases. Companies are bidding through the roof for components, and prices are rising rapidly. Manufacturers don’t absorb these price rises – they are passed down the supply chain, and eventually, they find their way to the consumer (creating consumer inflation).

Chip prices are increasing for several reasons. The obvious reason is supply and demand economics – the less available something is, the higher the price.

Another significant reason is prices for rare earth metals have exploded over the last 12 months, moving nearly 50% higher on average since March.

Summing up the chip shortage

There is a severe chip shortage happening right now that threatens the availability of electronics goods this holiday season. Prices for chips are also skyrocketing, increasing the price of devices like smartphones and smart devices.

All of this is to say, if you plan on buying some chip-reliant electronics this holiday season, you should start shopping now or face being disappointed.

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Component Shortage Electronic Components

What Shortage? How Electronic Component Distributors Make Supply Meet Demand

When buyers can’t find electronic components, they turn to distributors like us who can source scarce and obsolete parts.

Our experience has been tested to new extremes over the last several months due to the semiconductor and wider electronic components shortage. This shortage was years in the making but has been amplified by COVID-19.

It says everything about the state of the electronic components supply chain when Samsung, who make their own chips, don’t have enough chips. Shortages have affected brands like Samsung, Apple, Volkswagen and Nintendo not just in terms of supply, but also prices, which have skyrocketed in 12 months.

When the chips are down, prices go up.

Distributors are busier than ever

Cyclops Electronics, as well other distributors, have become more essential than ever in supply chains since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

It’s no exaggeration to say distributors like us are keeping many businesses going. We keep production lines going by sourcing scarce parts from around the world – parts that would be impossible to source without excellent connections.

We are seeing desperation from companies that have never experienced supply chain problems. We’re talking about global companies listed publicly.

The situation is so bad for some components that some companies are paying a 100% premium just to secure them. Supply and demand is driving fierce competition and bidding wars are not uncommon.

If these revelations shock you, consider this – the electronics components shortage isn’t expected to abate until late 2021 at least. By then, there should be more order to the chaos, but some industry experts expect it to persist longer.

For example, IBM has said the chip shortage could last 2 years.

A 2 year extension would extend the chip shortage to 2023 at least. This is likely to be the case for other components too, including memory, integrated circuits and display drivers. A huge number of companies will be affected.

Playing a crucial role in the supply chain

Distributors like us are able to source hard-to-procure components because we have rapport with the best suppliers in the industry. In other words, we have immense buying power, and we put this to use for our customers.

Another way we are playing a crucial role in the electronics components supply chain is the reduction of counterfeit components.

Counterfeiters are taking advantage of weakened supply chains, lapse quality control processes and inadequate reporting to flood the market with illegal components. This has affected thousands of buyers and will affect many more.

Our role in this is to deploy anti-counterfeiting technologies including a SENTRY machine, die testing and decapsulation testing to test the components we procure. This ensures the components we supply are genuine parts.

We provide industry-leading chip testing to catch counterfeit parts. We have ISO 9001:2015 certification and ESD qualified staff.

If you need to buy parts and the only way to get them is with a distributor, don’t rush in – make sure your distributor is as equally qualified as us first. If you need help, feel free to call us on 01904 415 415 for a chat with our experts.

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Component Shortage Electronic Components

Perfect storm’ creates electronic component shortages

A perfect storm has hit the electronic components market, creating supply chain problems that will be felt for several years.

The perfect storm

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, most electronic component manufacturers were running at 95-98% capacity.

This high demand for electronic components was fuelled by growth in technologies like automation and the Internet of Things – technologies that are only in their infancy now but will mature in the next decade.

This high manufacturing output was felt across all types of components, especially chips (semiconductors, memory) and integrated circuits. It was even difficult to get a hold of some active and passive components in 2019.

Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Car manufacturers and other manufacturers affected by shutdowns paused orders for electronic components. Meanwhile, manufacturers benefitting from lockdowns scaled up.

Now, with the development and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, industries that shut down have opened up again. But there’s a problem – demand for electronics has not wavered and there isn’t enough manufacturing capacity to serve everyone.

Quite simply, there isn’t enough bread to go around.

Demand is ramping up

We are now in a situation where electronic components manufacturers are running at 99-100% capacity. Demand has soared for all types of components, from chips and memory to diodes and displays. This is squeezing most supply chains.

There are so many contributors to this squeeze. Emerging technologies like AI, automation, virtual reality, augmented reality and machine learning are fuelling demand for smarter chips and data centre modernisation, while technologies like 5G and Wi-Fi 6 are demanding infrastructure rollout, which requires a significant effort.

When it comes to chips, however, cars are the biggest users. Cars can have as many as 22,000 multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) each. This will increase as cars get smarter (a self-driving taxi sounds great, but it’ll need around 30,000 chips).

Suppliers are slowly adapting

There have been years of under-investment in new foundries and plants. This under-investment has affected manufacturing capacity today.

To their credit, most manufacturers are looking to expand capacity by setting up new foundries or acquiring plants. Trouble is that most plants take years to set up. Some plants that started a build-in in 2017 are still being built.

Staffing is also an issue. The biggest challenge suppliers face is social distancing and COVID prevention policies, which have reduced staff numbers in many factories.

You can’t automate every process in a factory, so it is a given that having limited staff will increase lead times. Some manufacturers have been harder hit than others with this, but all will experience staff shortages during the pandemic.

In addition to this, freight has become more challenging during the pandemic. Things are taking longer to move and there are fewer commercial flights. Global shipping rates have skyrocketed during the pandemic because of this. Higher shipping rates have contributed to price increases for most electronic components.

Weathering the storm

We predicted the electronics component shortage in early 2020 following the UK Government’s national lockdown. We knew supply chains would be squeezed and stretched due to changes in economic output and industry trends.

The best way to weather the storm is to work with us or another reputable electronic components distributor. We focus on delivering outstanding service, with industry-leading quality and dependability. Call us on 01904 415 415 for a chat.

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Active Components Component Shortage

Active Electronic Components Market Growing Demand

Active electronic component demand is soaring. The market is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 4.8% during 2021-2026, fuelled by new technologies and faster and more globally available internet connectivity.

What’s driving it?

An explosion of new products with AI and IoT support and tailwinds like 5G are fuelling demand for active components.

Semiconductor devices, optoelectronic devices, and display technologies are significant applications. Examples include smart home appliances, virtual reality headsets, connected medical devices, and electronic ordering systems.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of active components in high demand:

  • Diodes
  • Transistors
  • Integrated circuits
  • Optoelectronics
  • Sensors
  • Digital and analogue circuits
  • Batteries and power supplies
  • Generators
  • Vacuum tubes
  • CRT / LCD / VFD / TFT / LED displays

The increasing trends of the Internet of Things (IoT), automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual/augmented reality are expected to fuel demand for active electronic components for years to come.

Challenges lie ahead

This growing demand is not without its challenges. How will manufacturers get a hold of active electronic components if there isn’t enough to go around? Will geopolitical tensions affect supply? How will COVID-19 play a role in the future?

COVID-19

COVID-19 can create supply chain and market disruption and have a financial impact on firms and financial markets. If the virus persists in causing global disruption, this is likely to cause a shortage of active components in the future.

Geopolitical tensions

The US and China’s trade war in 2020 affected chip supplies around the world. Geopolitical tensions remain a risk in the future. Who knows if certain brands will be banned? It’s important that manufacturers stay in the loop to avoid supply chain problems.

Manufacturing bottlenecks

The world is advancing at a rapid rate and electronics components manufacturers are struggling to keep up. While investment in new factories is ongoing, demand may exceed manufacturing capacity, causing a shortage of components.

Price increases

Inflation is making everything more expensive. Add wildly fluctuating exchange rates and increasing demand for active components and you have the perfect recipe for price increases. This could cause a bidding war.

Active components and the future

The future is filled with more technology than you can imagine. Everything will be connected, including your car to your smartphone and your TV speakers to your smart home assistant (e.g. Alexa). Anything electronic can have a chip these days and you can bet innovators will find a way to make everything smart and connected.

With the active electronic components market predicted to increase in value significantly over the next five years, it is essential that companies have a reliable way to source the active components they need.

This is not a matter of beating the competition but a matter of staying operational amid impending shortages. The current chip shortage is a prime example of what can happen if a perfect storm of industry issues occurs.

If you need to source active electronic components, we can help. Email us if you have any questions or call us on 01904 415 415 for a chat with our team.

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Component Shortage Electronic Components

Why We’re Facing a Global Semiconductors Shortage

The world is experiencing a semiconductor shortage at a time when demand for semiconductors is at an all-time high. Manufacturers can’t make enough of them and this is now having an affect on the availability of products.

You probably remember last year Sony released the PlayStation 5 and Microsoft released the Xbox Series X. AMD released the Big Navi GPU (RX 6000) and Apple released the iPhone 12 range. What all these products have in common is they were all directly affected by the semiconductor shortage. Demand well and truly exceeded supply.

What’s causing the shortage?

A perfect storm has hit the semiconductor market. It isn’t one thing but a combination of different things that’s causing the shortage today.

The COVID-19 pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, car and commercial vehicle sales took a hit. Estimates suggest that sales fell by 50% or more within a single month. In response, car manufacturers scaled back orders for semiconductors and other parts.

At the same time, demand for electronics chips soared as more people spent time working from home and on furlough.

Laptops, smartphones, drones, smartwatches, tablets, kitchen appliances – everything has a semiconductor nowadays. Then you have IT, data centres, internet infrastructure and cloud and edge computing. All are powered by semiconductors.

And so, the factories that were at capacity making semiconductors for cars switched to making semiconductors for electronics. This caused semiconductors for electronics to have a higher margin which benefited these factories. However, it has caused a problem for car manufacturers who now need to ramp up production.

The situation now is this – car sales are picking up and car manufacturers are fighting for orders against electronics manufacturers. Factories are at capacity and can’t make enough to go around. This is feeding through to nearly every sector.

Ultimately, this is the result of poor planning from car makers who cut orders too deeply last year at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manufacturing limitations

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there weren’t enough factories to meet semiconductor demand. There were long lead times in 2019 because semiconductor demand outpaced the ability of factories to make them. This problem has persisted through to 2021 and has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With most factories running at 99-100% capacity, there is very little room for boosted output. You would think that the solution is to build more factories, but this would not solve the problem today or even a year from now because semiconductor fabs take at least a year to build with another 6-12 months in setup time.

Semiconductor manufacturers are investing in new factories, expansion and more efficient technologies, but short-term solutions these are not.

The US is attempting to bring semiconductor manufacturing to US soil to remedy this or at least reduce dependency on foreign suppliers.

US and China trade war

Calls for domestic manufacturing are heating up in the US and China, the result of a trade war brought about mostly by supply chain disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reports in May 2020 that the Trump administration was in talks with Intel, TSMC, and Samsung about building US chip factories proved true. In 2021, with a new president and Biden administration, these talks are persisting.

The reason a technology trade war broke out between the US and China is because the US imposed a 25 per cent tariff on $34 billion of Chinese imports in 2018. There has been bad blood ever since with threats and action on both sides.

This eventually affected the semiconductor supply chain because in 2020 the US turned to export restrictions targeting the semiconductor supply chain to safeguard critical infrastructure in the telecommunications sector. This followed a 2019 ban on the Chinese company Huawei for “national security reasons”.

For example, one of the consequences of export restrictions was that American firms were cut off from chips made by China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation – the third largest chip maker in the world with 11% market share.

Local production problems

Factory shutdowns due to natural disasters, bad weather and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused semiconductor supply chain issues.

Most of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured in Taiwan. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest contract chipmaker, has a 28% market share. The second largest, UMC, also based in Taiwan, has a 13% market share.

Taiwan is experiencing serious water droughts in 2021. Millions of tonnes of water are required to manufacture semiconductors every week. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing is having to bring water in on trucks and UMC are doing the same. This has caused significant drops in manufacturing efficiency.

The US is also experiencing shutdowns. NXP Semiconductors had to shut its plant in Austin, Texas, due to winter weather in February 2021.

Factory shutdowns cause order backlogs and extended lead times. Orders persist and pile in whether a factory is down or not. This squeezes supply chains, causing a shortage.

How long will the semiconductor shortage persist?

We expect the semiconductor shortage to persist through 2021 but ease towards the end of the year as demand for electronics chips decreases as COVID-19 lockdowns end. This will cause a shift in supply from electronics semiconductors to automotive semiconductors which will provide the industry with a much-needed equilibrium.

The world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers – TSMC, UMC, SMIC, Samsung, Intel, SK Hynix – are investing in increased output. Many investments were in the pipeline as early as 2019 and are expected to yield results at the end of 2021.

Right now, there is a serious imbalance in the demand for semiconductors, one that our existing infrastructure is not built to cope with. This imbalance will ease over time. 

How can supply chains continue to meet demand?

If you have been impacted by the semiconductor shortage you can meet demand by partnering with an electronics components distributor like us.

We specialise in the procurement and delivery of semiconductors and parts for a wide variety of industries from the world’s leading manufacturers. You can find out more about what we do hereEmail us if you have any questions.

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