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COVID-19 Electronic Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Price hikes in the electronics industry

Chip prices will continue to increase, despite some component lead times improving. This is due to inflation, labour shortages, and scarcity of raw materials, among other things.

Intel was the latest company to announce price increases, which it will supposedly introduce at the end of this year. It joins firms including TSMC, Samsung, and Texas Instruments in raising the cost of its products.

As has become very clear, the pandemic contributed to supply shortages the world over. However, there have also been issues with labour shortages, material sourcing and the increasing costs of everything.

Reverse psychology?

Processors are increasing in price at Intel and other companies. It has been suggested that this actually may be due to oversupply. If the cost of the components is increased vendors are more likely to buy the stock before it occurs. As they stock up, Intel’s supply levels will decrease. This may lead to shortages in the long-term.

These increases are due to be introduced at the end of 2022, but people are suspicious it may happen sooner. If prices are instead increased in autumn, they can be discounted for events like Black Friday and Christmas.

War and price

Inflation is causing the price of materials to increase also, which inevitably would be passed down the supply chain. The price of raw materials was always going to increase over time, but the conflict in Ukraine has exacerbated this. Gases like neon, which is used in semiconductor production, is almost wholly (70%) sourced by Ukraine. Similarly, 40% of krypton gas is also from Ukraine, which is in conflict with Russia.

Aside from these materials, the price of lithium, cobalt and nickel, used for EV batteries, is also rising. The EV industry already had price hikes when the pandemic began, when the chip shortage took its toll. Now, following the 15% increase in 2021, automakers are facing another potential price increase.

Expansion

One of the largest players in the industry, TSMC, announced its price increases would take place in 2023. Despite not being as severe as first speculated, the 6% price increase will be enough that customers will notice.

Aside from the cost of raw materials, electricity and labour expenses, TSMC is also expanding. To fund this expansion it is increasing the price of fabrication.

Could we have stopped it?

Years before the pandemic, as far back as 2017, there were signs that a shortage was on its way. New technologies were mounting and other geopolitical difficulties were afoot. Even then, the best way to avoid this would have been to redesign the tech and improve the fabrication process. This would have been a time-consuming and expensive process, and whenever it happened it would result in delays and losses.

Conclusion

The amalgamation of all these factors will lead to lasting price increases for electronic components. Even if these prices are discounted in peak times like Black Friday or Christmas, suppliers will still have to deal with inflation and material shortages.

The expansion plans of some of the industry’s big players, and the cost of the tech to sustain them will also lead to price increases. How long the effects of these will last, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Component Shortage COVID-19 Electronic Components Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

How Can Companies Combat the Electronic Components Shortage?

Electronic components shortages show no signs of abating, fuelled by growing demand for electronics, limited availability of raw materials, soaring manufacturing prices and lingering COVID-19 disruptions.

Shortages have hindered manufacturers since 2018, but things came to a head in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains.

The pandemic created an imbalance in supply chains, with demand for many components, from chips to actives and passives, outstripping supply. The question is, how can companies combat the electronic components shortage?

Partner with a distributor 

Electronic component distributors occupy a unique position in the supply chain, representing the manufacturer and customer. Distributors work for both parties to move components up and down the supply chain.

The benefit of working with a distributor is that your company will be in the mix for components not available through traditional channels.

For example, we specialise in the procurement and delivery of electronic components and parts for a wide variety of industries from the world’s leading manufacturers. We can help you beat allocation challenges and long lead times.

Diversify suppliers

Diversity is the key to strengthening your supply chain. You need multiple sources for electronic components. It’s a good idea to have retail and distribution channels, so you have several routes should one supplier channel fail.

Diversity can also be found in geography. A supplier in your home country is essential, but so are suppliers close to the manufacturing source.  

Expand storage capabilities 

If your company can expand its storage capabilities for essential components, this is the simplest way to combat shortages. By storing large quantities of components, you create a supply separate from the chain.

The risk with expanding storage is procuring more components than you need, resulting in oversupply problems that incur heavy losses.  

Source equivalent components  

When components are unavailable, you can specify equivalents that meet your performance and financial specifications. Equivalent components perform the same job as your original components, but another company makes them.

A simple example is Samsung, which uses its own Exynos chip or a QUALCOMM chip in the same smartphone model depending on where the smartphone is sold.

Visibility and proactive planning 

Supply chains are complex beasts that require visibility to manage. Monthly stock updates are no longer sufficient; to combat shortages, you need real-time supplier updates and an inventory catalogue to keep track of supply.

You can proactively plan component shipments and tap into price dips and new inventory when you have visibility over total supply.

Predict obsolescence

When electronic components become obsolete, manufacturers who haven’t planned for it scramble to find components that will work. This inevitably creates bottlenecks in the supply chain as many big companies compete for orders.

Obsolescence is predictable because all electronic components have a run date, and manufacturers update lifespans with inventory cataloguing. You can avoid shortages and soaring prices for rare parts by predicting obsolescence.  

Have shortages? Speak to us

We’re here to help you deal with electronic component shortages. Contact us here.

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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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Electronic Components

Causes of IC Shortage

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