The Electronic Component Shortage Crisis: A Veteran Engineer’s Perspective

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Most of us are familiar with the defense readiness condition (DEFCON) levels. If we could apply such a DEFCON level to the electronics industry and how it relates to the issue of component shortages, we would be sitting at a DEFCON 1, meaning nuclear war is imminent.

This issue has a huge effect on everyone who works in the electronics field, impacting schedules and how things are done. The problem began to hit in earnest about a year ago in 2017. It first appeared as longer lead times on multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) and tantalum capacitors. With longer lead times, the available stock began to disappear, and before we knew it, we had a perfect storm and an international crisis.

From where we stand now, at the beginning of 2019, we see lead times for some components in the short range of up to 16 weeks; medium-to-high is 32 weeks, and long lead times are as far out as 80 weeks. In other words, if we ordered a component today, it would arrive in over a year a half from now (maybe).

This all started with the capacitors (we will see why later), but we now see other component series being sucked into this problem.

With such volatility in the market, it has brought those who were not prepared for it to a standstill.

What Is Driving This Crisis?

It has come down to a simple principle of economics supply and demand. While the supply has gone way down, the demand for many components has exploded. The component manufacturers have not kept pace with the demand for several reasons.

There are three main sectors of the electronic industry driving these component shortages.

To read this article, which appeared in the January 2019 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.


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