Many years ago when I was shopping for a boat, I was having a difficult time finding examples of what I was interested in. I had narrowed my selection criteria down to a fairly new type, and of course, those were the models that weren’t in use yet. After not finding anything, I finally gave up on looking and instead went to a dealer to ask them if they had any printed information on the boat that I was searching for. To my surprise, the salesman replied, “Sure, we do, but why don’t we just take a look at the one that we have in the showroom instead?”
Lesson learned; instead of beating myself up trying to find something elusive, go to the experts for help instead. That has ended up being good advice in many areas of life, especially when trying to design a printed circuit board with parts that are hard to come by. More so today than in a long time, it can be difficult to find some of the components that we need to build our PCB designs. Here are some reasons why we are facing electronics component shortages, and how your local PCB contract manufacturer can help you through it.
Why do Electronics Component Shortages Happen?
Component shortages can happen for a number of reasons, and while some of those can be planned for, others often sneak up behind us when we aren’t expecting them. Here are some of the reasons why the parts you need may be in short supply:
- Unavailability:When a new part is introduced, it is possible that the demand for the product will exceed the planned production. This can be because the part has proven to be more popular than expected, or that manufacturing hasn’t been able to ramp up production as quickly as desired.
- Overseas holidays: Many countries have national holidays when manufacturing plants for components shut down. Usually, these shutdowns are planned for in advance, but they can still cause problems for the supply chain, especially if they happen in conjunction with other problems.
- Materials shortages: Another reason for part shortages is if the component manufacturers can’t get enough raw materials to meet their production quotas.
- Political disturbances: These problems can affect everything from manufacturing to shipping, and they will result in higher than expected prices or reduced production.
- Coronavirus: With the restrictions imposed in many countries to combat the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus, manufacturing plants have seen their workforce diminished. New social distancing requirements require workers to be more spread out, while other employees are unable to work due to family conflicts or being sick themselves. In many cases, manufacturing plants were shut down entirely, which further damaged the supply chain.
Thankfully, there are people with an understanding of these different supply chain dynamics that can help.
How a Local PCB Contract Manufacturer Can Work Around These Problems
You may be surprised to find out that your local PCB contract manufacturer has many skills beyond simply assembling your circuit boards. Among their considerable capabilities, they are also an expert in the art of navigating the PCB component supply chain. This expertise gives them the ability to be prepared for many of the problems that can affect the component supply chain.
PCB CMs will typically employ a staff of component experts including engineers and purchasing agents who understand the intricacies of the PCB component supply chain. This team will have a network of component manufacturers and distributors that they work with regularly in order to find the parts that are needed for your designs. By working with such a large network of vendors, the component team will have advanced notifications of part availability and prices, plus any change to status and component life cycles. This knowledge also gives them a better insight into other potential problems that might disrupt the supply chain, such as political unrest, and ways that they can work around those problems.
|Contract manufacturers are experts in the art of navigating the PCB component supply chain.|
The component team of the PCB CM also has another tool to work with when dealing with the component supply chain. In addition to manufacturers and distributors, the PCB CM will also have relationships in place with part brokers who can supply components that are no longer available in the mainstream. This becomes more important than you may realize when building legacy designs that require parts that are end of life (EOL) or obsolete (OBS) and are no longer being produced. The component team will work with these brokers to verify the quality of the parts that they supply in order to ensure the overall quality of the boards that they are building for you.
Why You Need the Services of a PCB CM that You Can Trust
Although you can pick a component to use in your design straight from a catalog of parts, you need the expertise of your PCB CM’s component team to verify that the part is what you truly need. For instance, a part that may work in a prototype build may end up being too expensive or not available in large enough quantities for production builds. There also may also be more desirable parts available to you with a simple redesign of some of your board’s circuitry. And in case you do run into an unexpected component shortage, you need someone who can either find you the parts that you need or help you to work around the problem with alternatives.
At VSE, we have had our teams working through PCB component supply chain problems for over 30 years now. Our component engineers understand how best to resolve any component or design issues that you may have, and our purchasing agents have a vast network of component manufacturers, distributors, and brokers that they work with on a daily basis.