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component shortage Electronic Components

Global chip shortage to impact electronic retailers holiday season

The holiday season usually marks the start of an electronics sales boon for retailers. Consumers buy more electronics in the lead up to Christmas than at any other time of the year. This year, however, things are different.

This holiday season, the global chip shortage is set to impact electronic retailers, with shortages of popular products like games consoles, graphics cards, smartphones, laptops and tablets likely to persist through to 2022.

Due to problems buying stock, most retailers are bracing themselves for low Christmas electronics goods sales. The global chip shortage means fewer electronics goods are being made, so there is a long lead time from suppliers – some retailers are waiting several months for new stock, only for it to sell out within days.

Consumers should start holiday shopping now 

Chips are in critically short supply this year, which has reduced manufacturing output at many of the world’s biggest factories.

Companies like Samsung, Apple, Intel and AMD are experiencing problems getting the chips they need. Today, some chips have delays of over a year, and inventory supplies for chips are running low, putting pressure on supply chains.

All of this means there is a shortage of in-demand electronics goods, from games consoles to smartwatches. The message is simple – consumers should start holiday shopping now to ensure they can get hold of the electronics they want.

It is also crucial that consumers don’t take stock levels for granted. What’s in stock today might be out of stock tomorrow, and many retailers have lead times of several months for new stock. So, if you need it, you should buy it while you can.

Is the chip shortage being blown out of proportion? 

We are so used to next-day Amazon delivery and seeing shiny electronics on store shelves that chip shortages appear to be a fantasy.

However, the chip shortage is real – manufacturers are struggling to create enough chips, and suppliers can’t get hold of the inventory they need.

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Electronic Components

Memory suppliers to benefit from strong demand and supplier shortages

While the downsides to electronic components shortages are well known, business is booming for smaller memory suppliers.

Sales of Samsung DRAM grew 26% in Q2 2021 without meaningful production capacity growth, and as supply/demand imbalances grow, memory suppliers like Samsung, Micron and others are turning to smaller suppliers to fill gaps.

As chip shortages continue, demand grows. Order books get filled off the page, creating longer lead times (up to 40-weeks) and extending standing orders. This is bad news for the end-product manufacturer but great news for suppliers, who see sales rise and bids increase to fuel record turnover and, in some cases, net profits.

The sector as a whole is booming, but no better example of taking the bull by the horns exists than Alliance Memory.  

Alliance Memory is a US-based 30-year-old DRAM manufacturer, billed as a legacy SRAM supplier and a leading domestic supplier of DRAM and flash memory. The company’s run rate in 2021 is double what it was in 2020.

In an interview with EPS News, Alliance Memory CEO David Bagby explains why: “we went out to customers struggling to get Samsung. Now we have maybe the best representation of DRAM and SRAM product of anybody out there.”

Memory upturn forecast to continue

IC Insights, the foremost authority on memory and chip demand, has predicted a new record high for memory demand in 2022.

Stronger DRAM pricing is expected to lift total memory revenue 23% in 2021 to $155.2 billion. The memory upturn is forecast to continue into 2022 to $180.4 billion, surpassing the all-time high of $163.3 billion set in 2018.

Demand for memory, including DRAM, SRAM, and flash, is being driven by economic recovery and the transition to a digital economy. Unlike other technological cycles, the current cycle of digitalization has weight behind it, fueled by innovations in data centers, 5G and space networks, AI, robotics and IoT.

Sequentially, the average price of DRAM rose 8% in the first quarter of 2021. Another increase of 18-23% in Q2 sent memory suppliers into a spin. Demand is outstripping supply, creating a perfect storm for continued price increases.

Price increases expected to continue until late 2022

The price of memory is more sensitive to other electronic components because supply is controlled by a few big players. Smaller memory suppliers fill in gaps in supply, but the big guns like Samsung and Micron rule the roost.

When demand outstrips supply at the big guns, prices explode. We’ve seen it several times before, such as the memory price increase of 2018. Prices fell again in 2019, recovered a little in 2020, then soared again this year.

Memory is a commodity and companies are willing to pay big to get a hold of it. Bidding wars are not uncommon and 40-week lead times are normal today.

However, while the memory upturn is predicted to continue into 2022, Gartner says memory prices will dive at the end of the year, predicting that an “oversupply” of memory chips will develop as demand eases and supply increases.

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Electronic Components Semiconductor

Semiconductor production capacity expected to hit records highs in 2021

As you probably know, we are in the middle of a global semiconductor shortage. Auto manufacturers are cutting jobs, brands are delaying the release of new products, and people are struggling to buy things like games consoles.

It’s a grim situation predicted to last a few years, but behind the scenes, semiconductor companies are preparing to come out of the chip shortage swinging.

In fact, it’s predicted that semiconductor production capacity will reach a record high in 2021 so long as additional production lines are completed. This is reliant on production lines coming online following investments made at the beginning of 2018.

According to industry forecasts, next year, another 10 production lines for 300mm silicon wafers will be added worldwide. These will contribute millions of semiconductors each year, helping to release some pressure on demand.  

IC Insights also provides the following forecasts for chips: “By 2024, the average annual growth rate of semiconductor production capacity will be 5.9%. Compared with the average annual increase rate (5.1%) of semiconductor production capacity in the past 5 years (2014 ~ 2019), the growth rate slightly increased.”

Record demand for chips

The semiconductor market is experiencing record demand across all sectors. Chip manufacturers are struggling to keep up, but they are investing in new production lines to meet predicted demand several years from now.

The latest report from IC Insights’ McClean Report says that the semiconductor market will shake off the Covid-19 pandemic with 13% growth in 2021.

Semiconductor unit shipments are expected to hit 1,135.3 billion in 2021, fuelled by chips that target connected devices, VR and AR, network and cloud computing systems, contactless payment systems, automotive electronics including autonomous systems and consumer electronics including smartphones.

As technology advances and the world becomes more digital and more connected, chip demand will increase ten-fold over the next few years.

Semiconductor manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand now but there are signs of life as the IC Insights’ report demonstrates.

The world’s biggest chip companies, including TSMC, UMC, SMIC, Samsung, Micron and SK Hynix are going to play a leading role in how technologies roll out long into the future. There should be no doubt these companies will power our future.

What next for semiconductors?

The prices of semiconductors are expected to increase by 20% in 2021 due to a shortage in production capacity and higher silicon prices.

However, the future may not be silicon at all. Graphene chips are 100 times smaller than silicon chips and thousands of times faster. This technology is in its infancy but it’s showing great promise. We expect big things in the next decade.

We also expect the semiconductor shortage to persist until 2022. Shortages should lift beyond this as production capacity increases from new production lines. Chip makers will need to manage supply and demand better in the future. The current shortage is bad news for everyone. Thankfully, it won’t last forever. Of this we’re certain.