My two-year-old granddaughter loves to mimic animals – at the top of her lungs. While this can be adorable, any attempt at adult conversation during her animal impressions tends to get disrupted. Disruptions like this are to be expected with two-year-olds, but disruptions to critical work that has to meet schedule and budget commitments can spell disaster. This scenario has never been so obvious before as it has been recently with the electronic component supply chain problems.
The world has seen major markets, such as the automotive industry, face serious challenges with their inability to procure the parts they need for production. Other products have been dropped, and entire businesses have closed down because of these problems. To keep production on track, original equipment manufacturers must avoid supply chain disruptions in PCB assembly. Here we’ll look at the electronic component supply chain problem and how you can avoid its potential disruptions to your circuit board manufacturing.
Supply Chain Disruptions in Circuit Board Manufacturing
The world is in the grasp of an electronics component shortage. With the pandemic came changes in multiple industries as the public’s need for electronic devices changed to reflect their altered lifestyles. For instance, the need for automotive electronics all but disappeared when car sales slumped, while the demand for personal electronics for work and entertainment at home skyrocketed. The manufacturers of electronic components struggled to comply with these changes while at the same time dealing with labor and supply problems, and then the unexpected happened. The demand for automotive electronics took off again, catching the semiconductor industry completely by surprise.
Chipmakers are working to rebuild their ability to supply the demand by retooling existing foundries and building new manufacturing facilities. But until these changes are completed, the semiconductor industry is also changing how they are doing business. Some of these manufacturers are now working directly with large OEMs who purchase their entire supply of specific components. These practices have left the normal distribution channels struggling to keep up in the race to find components for their regular customers. The volatile environment in the industry has also encouraged component counterfeiters to ramp up their efforts to take advantage of the unsuspecting.
The lack of components is a huge problem for the electronics industry. Additionally, transporting semiconductors from their manufacturers to the end-users is taking longer and costing more because of the global shipping problems. Like many other industries, shipping companies were struggling with labor and infrastructure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the world re-opening, the need for freight movers has accelerated rapidly, leaving shippers in the same struggle as the semiconductor factories. Cargo is stacking up in ports due to the lack of trucking, and current estimates in North America alone show a shortage of 85,000 truck drivers to deliver these products.
For OEMs like you, this means that the parts needed for your circuit board manufacturing may be in short supply. Let’s look at some ways that design teams like yours can avoid these supply chain disruptions.
Methods to Avoid Electronic Component Supply Chain Disruptions
With all of the problems with the global supply chain just discussed, OEMs need some practical ideas on how to avoid the disruptions that can derail their circuit board manufacturing. Here are some that should help.
Avoid using popular parts that are in short supply
On a new design, make sure to consult with your PCB manufacturing partner on the components list long before you commit to using those parts in the design. They will be able to advise you of which parts are available. It is also a good idea to use components with alternatives that can serve as form, fit, and functional replacements if need be. Another good idea is to leave room on the board for part changes that might not be exact form and fit replacements. Some of the parts you may be forced to use may only be available in older and larger package sizes or multiple component configurations.
Engage your manufacturing partner early
In addition to verifying the component availability in your design, the earlier your PCB contract manufacturer can start procuring the parts, the better. The extra amount of time will give them a chance to work with longer lead-time components or work alternative sources through their supply chain network. With more time up-front, the CMs engineering department will also have more opportunities to examine your design and recommend potential circuitry changes to avoid short-supply parts.
Be prepared to adjust your schedule and budget accordingly
If some of your parts do end up being in short supply, be prepared to make some changes. You may need to reset expectations with your marketing department and other key players and expand your schedule to accommodate longer lead times. You may also have to pay higher prices or allocate more funds for redesigns to work around some component shortages.
The key to avoiding supply chain disruptions in PCB assembly is to be ready for the unexpected, and the best place to start is by leaning on your manufacturer for help.
Getting the Help You Need to Avoid Supply Chain Disruptions in PCB Assembly
PCB contract manufacturers typically have many years building circuit boards for their clients, which puts them in a unique position of understanding when it comes to this business. With over 35 years in this industry, VSE understands your needs. Our engineering team regularly works with customers that need to refine their designs to work around part shortages. Simultaneously, our procurement team has a vast network of component manufacturers, distributors, and brokers that we work with to find the best parts for the best price as quickly as possible.