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Electronic Components

Upskilling and STEM investment: how to combat the semiconductor worker shortage

Noticed that you’re waiting longer than usual for your electronic parts these days? You’re not the only one.

The lack of chips is considerably noticeable, but it’s also drawn attention to how desperate we are for more electronics workers. There’s a lack of highly skilled people in the tech sector right now, and with the States aiming to increase its share of semiconductor production, we’ll need to fill out this workforce fast.

But the experts have a few ideas up their sleeves, here’s what they think:

It’s a BIG industry

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) released a report in 2021 that said for every US worker directly employed in the semiconductor industry in 2020, another 5.7 jobs were supported. This means that two years ago at least 1.85 million jobs were supported, either directly or indirectly, by the sector.

The 277,000 people that work specifically in the sector, in manufacturing, design, testing and research, are enabling around 300 downstream sectors, according to the report.

Upskilling/Reskilling

As the electronics industry is constantly changing and evolving it might be difficult for longer-serving employees to be equipped with currently relevant skills. The increasing automation of production lines, while efficient for manufacturers, requires highly skilled workers for operation and maintenance. Therefore, the upskilling and reskilling of employees is essential.

In another SIA report, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the association said that only 20% of employees in the semiconductor industry actually attended university in 2019. To add to this, the higher-skilled members of the STEM sectors were more likely to go on to work for consultancy or investment firms. Giving the current workforce the option to upskill, and the potential extra wages that would come with it, might be an easy and enticing way to bulk up the thin-on-the-ground areas of employment.

Similarly, giving skilled workers the chance to re-specialize within their areas of expertise could ease the shortage relatively simply.

International talent

Joint workforce development may also be an avenue for investment. The US’s international partners could well help bridge the gap in the electronics industry, something that the 2019 European METIS initiative explored.

The electronics industry project, co-funded by the student exchange programme Erasmus+, looked to fund the education, professional mobility and recognition of electronics industry qualifications. The project aimed to encourage international students to study and work in the sector in different countries.

Employees and Incentives

It’s probably no surprise that there are more men in electronics manufacturing, with the US Bureau of Statistics saying that women made up less than 30% of the sector in 2021. The majority of women were white, with approximately two in five women being Asian or Hispanic. Black or African American females were the most underrepresented at about 4%

Students are another source of untapped potential. Thankfully, the new semiconductor legislation that could soon be signed into law will increase funding for STEM students. The US Innovation and Competition Act, passed by the Senate last year, promised $5 billion in scholarships for STEM-specializing students, $8 billion for workforce programs and almost $10 billion for university technology centers and innovation institutes.

These employee groups might be ideal targets for recruitment and development in the industry, and since the CHIPS Act promises so many additional jobs in the next four years, employers better get on it!

But you don’t need to worry until then. Thankfully when it comes to electronic parts, Lantek always has your back. Talk to us today at sales@lantekcorp.com and we’ll help you find what you’re looking for.

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Electronic Components Semiconductor

The CHIPS for America act

The Biden-Harris administration is trying to bring semiconductor development home to the US.

Once a superpower in the chip-making industry, America’s share of the semiconductor market has plummeted from 37% in the 1990s to only 12% this decade.

The demand for chips is constantly increasing and production cannot keep up, it’s left us all wondering when we’ll manage to get a PS5 and a new car.

The majority of the US’s chips are sourced from Asian countries like China, Japan, and Taiwan, whose Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) sells the most chips globally.

But then when the pandemic hit, the US chip stocks fell. As outbreaks overseas caused factory closures, it became more and more difficult to get hold of the stock suppliers were looking for. The closures and delays led to raw materials and logistics increasing in price too, making the whole situation pretty dire.

Suddenly, finding affordable stock that would arrive swiftly and safely was much harder than it used to be, and it showed. A report from the US commerce department said the chip shortage was hitting the country hard, all while demand rose by 17% from 2019 to 2021.

The Senate passed an act in June 2021 called the US Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which detailed several initiatives to increase technological autonomy. This included the ‘Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors’ (CHIPS) Act, which would allocate $52 billion for domestic semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing.

The act’s House of Representatives equivalent was passed by the Senate on February 4th 2022 titled the ‘America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength’ (America COMPETES) Act. The package, worth $250 billion, would invest in the improvement of domestic manufacturing and research.

The act will encourage investment for the building of new fabs, create incentives for manufacturers who want to upscale their equipment, and will provide funds to improve research and communications in the semiconductor field.

Aside from these incentives, Intel also pledged $100 million to fund partnerships with universities located near its new factory to “build a pipeline of worker talent and bolster research programs in the region”.  

One of the driving factors to increase the domestic stock of chips is the rise in production of Electric Vehicles (EVs). The current administration wants to raise the number of EVs being produced so they make up half the cars in production by 2030. However, a typical EV will need twice the amount of chips a regular car takes at around 2,000.

The America COMPETES Act will also contribute funds to the improvement of Homeland Security, a move that has been welcomed by industry leaders. President Joe Biden received a letter early last year from professionals in the security sector, showing their support for funding the production and design of semiconductors. A supply of domestic chips would no doubt benefit this sector, as chips are used in security devices and infrastructure.

The two houses are expected to discuss the reconciliation of the act by conference committee later in February.

Despite the current shortages, Lantek are here to help. We have a range of day-to-day and obsolete electronic parts to suit your needs and will go the extra mile to help. Send us your enquiries today at sales@lantekcorp.com.

 

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component shortage

What is causing the surge in semiconductor and passive components?

As the world becomes smarter and more connected, the components used in electronic circuits are seeing a surge in demand.

Semiconductors and passive components (resistors, capacitors, inductors, transforms) are seeing a surge in demand as chip-heavy vehicles, consumer electronics and smart, Internet of Things devices are produced in larger quantities.

This demand is creating a shortage of semiconductors, integrated circuits and passive components. The situation today is that the factories that make certain components can’t make enough of them. This squeezes supply chains and ramps up the price, creating a high level of inflation passed down the supply chain.

The surge in semiconductor and passive component demand has reached an inflexion point. Demand has outstripped supply for many components, leading to car manufacturing lines shutting down and companies delaying product launches.

Tailwinds fuelling demand  
  • Smart vehicles
  • Consumer electronics
  • Military technology
  • Internet of Things
  • Data centres
  • 5G
  • Satellites
  • Artificial intelligence and robotics

At no other point in history has there been so many exciting technologies developing at the same time. However, while exciting, these technologies are putting strain on the electronic components supply chain.

Passives surge 

Passive components include resistors, capacitors, inductors, and transforms in various specifications. There are thousands of makes and unit models. They are essential to making electronic circuits. Without passives, there are no circuits!

Cars, electronics, satellites, 5G, data centres, Internet of Things, displays, and everything else powered by electricity, depends on passives. As devices get smarter, more components are needed, creating a cycle that will only go up.

Passives shortage 

Certain diodes, transistors and resistors are in shorter supply than in 2020. This is partly because of the coronavirus pandemic, which impacted manufacturing lines. Still, many manufacturers also shifted manufacturing investment to active components with a higher margin, creating a supply imbalance.

Even without these significant bottlenecks, the supply of passive components is downward while demand goes up. For example, a typical smartphone requires over 1,000 capacitors and cars require around 22,000 MLCCs alone. We’re talking billions of passive components in just two sectors.

Semiconductor surge 

Semiconductors (chips, in this case, not the materials) are integrated circuits produced on a piece of silicon. On the chip, transistors act as electrical switches that can turn a current on or off. So, semiconductors and passives are linked.

Chips are effectively the brains of every computing device. Demand for chips is increasing as circuits become more complex. While chips are getting smaller, manufacturing output is only slowly increasing, creating a supply shortage.

Semiconductor shortage 

The semiconductor shortage was years in the making, but things came to a head when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

At the start of the pandemic, vehicles sales dived. In response, manufacturers cancelled orders for semiconductors and other parts. Meanwhile, electronics sales exploded, filling the semiconductor order book left by the automotive sector. When vehicle manufacturing ramped up again, there weren’t enough chips to go around.

Manufacturing limitations are confounding the problem. It takes 3-4 years to open a semiconductor foundry or fabless plant, but investment in new plants in 2018 and 2019 was low. So, new plants are few and far between.

 

 

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component shortage Electronic Components

Semiconductor Supply Chain Will Remain Vulnerable Without Robust Investment in Advanced Packaging

new U.S. study has found that the advanced semiconductor packaging supply chain needs strengthening to meet the increasing demand for chips.

According to the report, without robust federal investment, the semiconductor supply chain in the U.S. faces an uphill battle to meet demand.

The study also highlights the crucial role of advanced packaging in driving innovation in semiconductor designs. At present, most of the chips in the U.S. are sent abroad for packaging and assembly into finished products. By moving packaging to North America, the entire electronics ecosystem can be improved.

“Semiconductor chips are critically important, which is why IPC supports full funding for the CHIPS for America Act. But chips can’t function on their own. They need to be packaged and interconnected with other electronic components to power the technology we all rely on, from cell phones to automobiles and beyond,” said John Mitchell, IPC president and CEO. “The data in this report shows that North America is well behind Asia in the advanced packaging of chips and in other key parts of the electronics manufacturing ecosystem.”

The big players in the U.S. include Applied Materials, Amkor Technology, Ayar Labs, Lam Research, Microsemi Semiconductor and KLA-Tencor Corporation. These companies have seen unprecedented demand for semiconductor packaging, with growth predicted to rise as the world becomes smarter and more connected.

Other report findings 

The study also found that while the U.S. can design cutting-edge electronics, it lacks the capabilities to make them. This is creating an overreliance on foreign companies, including companies in China, creating considerable risk.

Looking at the most recent data, the study highlights that North America’s share of global advanced semiconductor packaging production is just 3 per cent. In other words, at present, the U.S. is incapable of assembling its own chips.

The study concludes that the U.S. also needs to invest in developing and producing advanced integrated circuit substrates. Advanced integrated circuit substrates are crucial components for packaging circuit chips. Currently, the U.S. has nascent capabilities, putting it behind Europe, China and most other countries.

What can we deduce from the report? That the U.S. is behind in most aspects of semiconductor packaging. Decades of low investment and overseas partnerships have led to a manufacturing ecosystem devoid of domestic talent.

“The findings of this report make clear that, as a result of decades of offshoring, the United States’ semiconductor supply chains remain vulnerable, even with the new federal funding that’s expected,” says Jan Vardaman, president and founder of TechSearch International and co-author of the report. “It’s critical that the U.S. government recognises and responds to industry needs on these systemic vulnerabilities, particularly integrated circuit substrates, where domestic capabilities are severely lacking.”

As the U.S. comes to terms with its poor manufacturing ecosystem, China is ramping up assembly plants. In the face of increasing competition, the U.S. must focus on domestic investment in the near and medium-term. Without robust investment, they could fall further behind and lose out to their biggest competitors.

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component shortage

The tech industry is bracing for a potential shortage of passive electronic components

By now, everyone has heard of the global semiconductor shortage. Still, the tech industry is bracing itself for an altogether larger shortage of passive electronic components that could reduce manufacturing output across multiple categories.

Passive components do not generate energy but can store and dissipate it. They include resistors, inductors (coils), capacitors, transformers, and diodes, connecting to active elements in circuits. Passives are necessary for circuit architecture, so the shortage is bad news for the electronics industry as a whole.

The current state of the passive component shortage 

The truth is there has been a shortage of certain passive components since the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, particularly with multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs), which can be difficult to get hold of in large quantities.

Certain diodes, transistors and resistors are also in shorter supply than they were in 2019, partly because of the pandemic and a shift in manufacturing investment for active components, which have a higher margin.

You also need to look at consumer trends (what people are buying). Smartphone and smartwatch sales are higher than ever, and smart ‘Internet of Things’ devices are growing in popularity rapidly, not to mention in availability.

These devices require a lot of passive components. For example, a typical smartphone requires over 1,000 capacitors. Cars are also huge consumers of passive components, with an electric car requiring around 22,000 MLCCs alone.

The trend for next-generation technology adoption is up across all categories, be it the Internet of Things, edge computing, semi-autonomous cars and 5G. Passive components are in more demand than ever at a time when supplies are under pressure.

Price rises are now inevitable 

The price for most passive components has risen by the largest amount in over a decade in 2021, caused by supply and demand economics and a price explosion for common materials like tin, aluminium and copper, as well as rare earth metals.

While some suppliers can afford to take a hit on profits, for most, raising prices is inevitable to ensure the viability of operations.

With higher component prices and greater shortages, it is more important than ever for companies to bolster their supply chains. Complacency is dangerous in today’s market, and no company is immune to disruption.

How to beat the passive components shortage 

The passive components shortage is likely to get worse before it gets better, but there are several ways you can bolster your supply chain:

  • Equivalents: Specifying equivalent passive components is a sound way to keep your supply chain moving. When a specific passive component isn’t available, an equivalent may be available that functions in exactly the same way.
  • Ditch outdated components: Outdated components have limited or no manufacturing output when discontinued. Upgrading to modern components that are manufactured in larger quantities can help you meet demand.
  • Partner with a global distributor: Global components distributors like us source and deliver day-to-day, shortage, hard-to-find, and obsolete electronic components. We can help keep your supply chain moving in uncertain times. Contact us today with your inquiries. 
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component shortage

Chip Shortage causing car manufacturers to cut production levels

A week doesn’t pass without an announcement from a car manufacturer that they are cutting production levels. Idling shifts and even entire factories has become normal for an industry that thrives on maximising output. 

Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai and Toyota have cut production levels to prioritise their most lucrative models. In some cases, plants have shut down for weeks at a time to allow supply chains to catch up to one another.

To understand how big this is, a 1-2 week plant shutdown will cost a car manufacturer millions of pounds at the very least. No manufacturer would willingly do this, but the global chip shortage is forcing them to.

Chip shortage in numbers

Just 53,438 cars rolled off assembly lines in the UK in July 2021, making it the lowest output in the month of July since 1956.

In June 2021, data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that car production was down 52.6% on the same month in 2019. Telling us that we’re a long way off reaching pre-pandemic levels.

According to research firm AlixPartners. The chip shortage will collectively cost the auto industry $110 billion in revenue in 2021. A revised figure and an increase of 81.5% over the same firm’s figures in late January.

More telling figures come from Fitch Ratings, who estimate the chip shortage will cost automakers 5% of production. North America and Europe will be the hardest hit, with Asia and China coming in third and fourth respectively.

What’s happening with chips!?

The automotive sector has been hit harder than any other by the chip shortage due to cancelling orders for chips at the start of the pandemic.

Anticipating a slowdown that would last months, most car markers cancelled orders for chips. Semiconductor manufacturers filled order books with orders from companies making smartphones, laptops and other devices.

When the automotive sector bounced back sooner than expected, semiconductor manufacturers had hardly any capacity to meet demand. This has led to the situation today, where car makers can’t secure the inventory they need. 

Now, there are not enough chips, foundries are running at 99% capacity and new foundries take years and billions in investment to set up.

Changing the production line for a chip costs tens of millions and takes months, labour shortages are causing a manpower crisis, and the pandemic is causing short-term factory shutdowns at foundries and fabless plants.

When will the global chip shortage end?

It will take at least five years for the global chip shortage to subside. Assuming investment in new foundries begins in 2021/22. New factories are the only the way out of the shortage because demand for chips is only going to increase.

Opinions on when the shortage will end vary from early 2023 to 2025. The last 18 months has tested supply chains and wreaked havoc on production, but the automotive industry is experienced enough to cope with future problems.

When you need to source hard to find electronic components quickly because of allocation, long lead times, obsolescence or quality issues, contact Lantek Corporation for a fast response to your enquiries and reliable on-time delivery. Our Team are here to help. 

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Electronic Components

Chip shortage hitting auto jobs

The global semiconductor shortage is hitting automotive manufacturers where it hurts, which will inevitably lead to job cuts across the supply chain.

We are already starting to see this with Stellantis, the car company formed by the merger of Fiat and Peugeot, saying it will cut over 1,600 jobs at its Illinois Jeep plant.

Elsewhere, the first sign of job cuts will be found in production cuts. Ford Motor Co has outlined a series of plant shutdowns due to the chip shortage, with five facilities in the US and one in Turkey affected. They have also cut output in Europe.

Meanwhile, GM has been forced into production cuts and Nissan recorded its worst annual loss in decades because of the global chip shortage.

Volkswagen AG has also sounded the horn, warning that chip shortages will curb output in the coming months of 2021. VW expects worsening production from the chip shortage and for it to affect all their cars groups, including SEAT and Audi.

Billions in losses

Job cuts appear to be inevitable across the automotive industry as manufacturers count the cost of production constraints caused by the chip shortage.

It is estimated the global auto industry will take an £80 billion hit in 2021. Several manufacturers have come forward with their own estimates. Ford says the chip shortage will cost them up to $2 billion in 2021 alone.  

Unfortunately, it is ordinary workers who will be punished. With fewer cars to make, workers involved in the manufacturing of cars will be cut first. We have already seen this with Stellantis. Other manufacturers will likely follow.

Why the chip shortage?

Modern cars have more than 1,000 chips in them and the smartest, most connected models, such as those with ADAS systems, have over 3,000 chips. So, even a small supply constraint can set back production.

However, this is no small supply constraint.

It appears that no auto maker is immune to the chip shortage brought about by cancelled orders at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, auto makers cancelled chip orders. Electronics manufacturers filled this gap in demand with soaring sales. Now that auto makers need to ramp up chip orders again, they have nowhere to go because most chip makers are running at 98-100% capacity making chips for other booming sectors.

This has caused a global semiconductor shortage that has affected all industries and all players. Even Samsung, who make their own chips, are struggling. The shortage is predicted to last 1-2 years until new foundries become operational.

Looking ahead

The semiconductor shortage will not last forever, and people need cars. Production will accelerate in the years to come. However, jobs may still be at risk.

Sadly, the chip shortage could accelerate digital transformation in manufacturing facilities, with the displacement of human workers for machines.

This is commonplace, but traditional brands may now seek a permanent solution to job cuts through technology. Automated plants are inevitable.

In any case, the future of the automotive industry is bright so long as you extend your horizon. The chip shortage is likely to last for the next 2 years. If you work in the automotive sector, strap yourself in. There is more drama to come.