Through regular exchanges of industry perspectives, long-standing strategic supply chain partners Supplyframe and Jabil, a global manufacturing solutions provider, have developed insights indicating that the electronics supply chain’s new normal is neither new nor unusual. Disruption may ebb, but it is, and has always been, present in the electronics supply chain. Mixed end-market signals and difficulty forecasting demand, paired with the pandemic, have evolved from a black swan event into a black swarm of events. New supply chain approaches and intelligence sources are needed to navigate the electronics ecosystem amid the swarm.
“Global supply and demand imbalance persists in the electronics value chain, with specific end markets such as automotive still facing long lead times and constrained supply,” said Supplyframe CEO and founder Steve Flagg. “Availability and prices are improving for many component categories, but shortages and increasing prices remain. Recessionary fears and worldwide inflation have dampened consumer electronics demand, led to skyrocketing inventories of certain passive components, and are driving memory and other prices significantly downward. And yet, parts like microcontrollers and analog components remain troublesome to secure and highly priced.”
In 2021, the global chip shortage robbed automakers of an estimated $210 billion in revenue, according to AlixPartners. Automotive microcontrollers often have lead times of a year or more. Other automotive-grade semiconductors are also constrained, with lead times averaging over nine months, according to Jabil and Supplyframe.
Automotive-grade integrated circuits remain significantly restrained, with lead times averaging between 40 and 60 weeks, the partners say.Commodity IQ analysis from Supplyframe indicates that significant to severe constraints of complex semiconductors such as automotive microcontrollers will persist into the first half of 2023.
The partners add that contingent labor availability and cost issues, in addition to decreasing but still elevated logistics and raw material costs, continue to plague semiconductor production operations. Climate change, geopolitical upheaval, and a global shortage of electrical engineering talent further add to the black swarm.
Supply chain impacts on electronics design
The 2022 Lifecycle Insights Electronics Design for Resilience (EDfR) Study commissioned by Supplyframe parent company Siemens revealed most engineers regularly must remove and replace electronic components from designs due to supply chain issues.
Over 30% of the respondents indicated their company must replace components between five and 20 times per design. An incredible 99% said they are executing spot buys, with 15% doing so daily. Another 9% reported spot buys on an hourly basis due to late-stage component supply chain issues. And nearly half of the study participants reported that they saw their approved vendor lists grow by 10% or more in 2022.
Initiating real-time, real-world change
Jabil and Supplyframe believe organizations must lay the foundation for resilience by treating commodity/category management as equally important to transactional sourcing; ensuring short-term wins are not at the expense of long-term needs; reducing cognitive overload by viewing partners and ecosystems as strategic imperatives; and investing in third-party, real-time predictive analytics and demand-forecasting solutions.
“Beyond such arrangements as producing custom chips with partners for future supply assurance in the automotive space, manufacturers across industries must address the daily as well as the strategic challenges of component availability, lead times, and pricing dynamics to build resilience into their supply chains,” added Frank McKay, senior vice president, chief supply chain and procurement officer at Jabil. “It’s clear that they require objective market-in analytics and analysis to augment their enterprise information and move from fragmented data culled from multiple, often inconsistent and stale data sources.”
“It’s time for OEMs and other electronic components buyers to move beyond biased, incomplete, spreadsheet-based datasets that focus on web pricing and factory lead times,” said Supplyframe Chief Marketing Officer Richard Barnett. “Instead, they should collaborate with manufacturing partners and solution providers with deep domain experience to receive holistic and real-world views of their supply chains. Companies with access to commodity-level intelligence can respond to changing market conditions, more thoughtfully select which components and materials to design into their products and align sourcing teams to ensure supply is available when and where it is needed. This will better position them for fluctuating demand, lower their costs, and reduce their risk of product delays while affording advanced protection from the next, inevitable black swarm.”