Global component shortages

The world is currently facing an increasing shortage of many key electronic components. This is having an impact on supply and pricing and inevitably the ability of technology providers such as Steatite to deliver finished products on time.

In this article, we look at the reasons for this, which type of products are being impacted, and what we are doing to minimise the impact for our customers.

So what is going on?

Put simply, lead-times are longer and prices are higher.

The factory lead-time for virtually every class of electronic component has increased significantly over the past few months, taking the average lead-time for systems into the 16 to 24-week range.

With demand outstripping supply, the cost of all components has been negatively impacted, with increases reaching 60%+ on some popular component classes.

We’ve all seen various news stories about car makers having to temporarily close factories due to chip shortages, but the impact is much wider than this, with virtually every type of electronic device impacted to some degree.

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What is causing this?

There are various factors that have come together to cause the supply constraints we are currently seeing, with many being demand-side issues, caused by changes to the way people work and relax due to COVID-19.

Increased demand for laptops and smartphones, due to people working from home, is one of the main causes, with these devices requiring all major classes of ICs (Integrated Circuits), along with passives and displays.

Sales of games consoles, smart TVs and other entertainment devices have also soared, due to ‘stay at home’ orders, further compounding the issue.

Supply of some other components has been affected by some very specific issues, such as high cryptocurrency prices causing a spike in demand for GPUs, and greater than forecast demand from car manufacturers.

There have also been some supply-side issues that, in normal times, would have had a relatively minor impact on component supply, but when combined with significantly increased demand, have further exacerbated the problems the industry is facing.

These include things like unexpected EOLs causing problems with audio chips, to inclement weather or fires causing specific factories to close down for a period of time.

Add the US-China trade war into the mix, and you really do have a perfect storm.

How are computer products affected?

Below is an overview of how the supply of some key computing components has been affected over the past few months.

Motherboards

As one of the most complex components in any system, the factory lead-time of motherboards has increased the most, with 20 to 30 weeks not uncommon. The cost increase on motherboards has been more moderate than on other components, and sits in the 10-15% range, on average.

DRAM

DDR3 prices are up by around 60% so far this year, with factory lead-times in the region of 8-12 weeks.

DDR4 prices are up around 45% in 2021, and factory lead-times are generally around the 6 to 8-week mark, currently.

SSDs

The prices for MLC-based SSDs are rising very quickly, with the cost of some SSDs up over 40% in April alone, and lead-times for this older technology also edging up to around 12 weeks.

Newer TLC-based SSDs are not immune, but price rises have been more moderate, and factory lead-times are closer to the 6 to 8-week range.

CPUs

Intel have been struggling to keep up with demand for the past 2 years, and these problems persist. Compared to other components, prices are relatively stable when sourced through official distribution channels, but lead-times are very unpredictable, with some SKUs taking a few months longer than normal to deliver.

GPUs

Lead-times have gone from <2 weeks to 8+ weeks, and prices have increased by around 25% in the past few months alone. Stock and price visibility is very poor.

Others

Lead-times for pretty much all other electronic components have increased significantly over the past few months too, with the market bidding up prices to try to secure stock. On some specialist or high-demand components, lead-times of over 52 weeks is not uncommon.

If one of the off-the-shelf solutions doesn’t meet your needs, then a custom baseboard and/or enclosure may be required.

What can be done to minimise the impact?

Steatite is working hard with our suppliers to try and minimise the impact of material shortages. For commonly used components, we have increased our stock holding levels significantly, while also providing our suppliers with greater visibility of forecast demand for the coming months.

When particular components are causing major problems with lead-times, Steatite will also review whether any component changes will allow us to make a significant improvement to a delivery date. This could be as simple, and hopefully painless, as changing from a specific SSD to a newer model, or could require more radical changes, such as changing to a different motherboard.

In addition to the measures Steatite are taking, the industry as a whole is working hard to add additional manufacturing capacity to the system, but this will take several months, or even a year or two, to have any impact.

The only other solution falls at the feet of our customers, and at the feet of their customers too. This is planning and ordering further ahead than you normally would. For example, if you’d usually order 3 months ahead, perhaps consider ordering 6+ months ahead, instead. Steatite will be as flexible and supportive with delivery schedules as we possibly can – please speak to your Account Manager to discuss your particular situation.

Give us a call on 01527 512400 to discuss your requirements in more detail or email us at computers@steatite.co.uk