Short circuits: The global shortage of electronic components
The global shortage of electronic components poses many challenges for a wide range of industries, from automotive to aerospace to medical devices. What will the long term ramifications be?
Fascinating research that looked at commuting patterns before and after a 2014 transport strike in London found that the lack of route experimentation by commuters caused sub-optimal routes before the strike, but improved efficiency. network-wide after the strike. This is mainly because commuters were forced by an externality to consider their options, and some clung to new, better routes after the event causing the change had passed.
As hardware developers, we know that the scarcity of resources (memory, pins, space, cash, etc.) has always been a catalyst for creativity. We are now in the midst of a serious shortage of electronic components, from microcontrollers to capacitors, and I wonder about the long term effect on the way we do things. While the obvious short-term solutions are hoarding, looting and questionable supply chain decisions, in the long term we could see what Transport for London had seen: a process of forced discovery that results in new reflections, ways and perspectives as well as the abandonment of “that’s how we’ve always done”.
Needing to secure components early in the design process could lead to less feature leakage and better planning in a much more robust way than we may have been used to. (The move from three weeks to 13 months will do that!) We will build new relationships with smaller, perhaps niche and yet unknown manufacturers and suppliers, and strengthen existing relationships with those who continue to support us for a long time. hard time . We can become less price sensitive and more sensitive to consistency, i.e. prefer those who can provide us with what we need consistently, not necessarily the cheapest at some point. Finally, we could better assess, casually as it may sound, whether a product is worth developing in the first place.
Hardware development cycles are long and even a supply chain disruption can last a long time; it’s a consequence of how modern supply chains were imagined (a recent recall is an oversized container ship blocking the Suez Canal). This current component “crisis” isn’t a blip – the effects could last for years or maybe less if you’re an automaker – so I predict the effect will be habit-forming, for the better.
Many colleagues are struggling to have their existing products manufactured, with my sincere sympathy, but it seems that dealing with creativity is already at stake and that is what many of us love about our work. What are your short and long term plans to deal with all of this?
Learn more about circuits and the shortage of components
Interested in circuit design, component shortage and related topics?
- Articles on Circuit Design, ElektorMagazine.com.
- C. Abate, “Apple Silicon News, The State of Global Chips and More,” ElektorMagazine.com, 5/3/21.
- S. Larcom, F. Rauch and T. Willems, “The Benefits of Forced Experimentation: Striking Evidence from the London Underground Network,” July 24, 2016.
- B. Vakil and T. Linton, “Why We’re in the Midst of a Global Semiconductor Shortage,” Harvard Business Review, February 26, 2021.
- Microchip Technology, “A Message from Our Leadership Regarding Capacity and Supply,” February 4, 2021.
- Economist, “Why is there a semiconductor shortage?”, February 25, 2021.
- Subscribe to the “Circuit Shorts” tag to be notified when new articles are published.
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