If you have watched any news the last few weeks, you have likely noticed that a global issue has surfaced around the availability of electronic components and raw materials that are used in nearly every industry and sector of manufacturing.

There are many combined reasons for the shortages.

In the United States, substantial sub-freezing weather in February caused outages for several manufacturers in Texas such as Samsung and NXP.

Across the world, a fire in March at the Renesas plant near Tokyo shortened supplies even more.

Furthermore, manufacturing was not prepared for the increase in purchases of electronics and automobiles that has been driven by the multiple stimulus packages that have given the public extra money to spend.

All of these things added to the COVID pandemic that still looms across the world has created a difficult scenario for possibly hundreds of manufacturing markets.

It is my understanding the automotive industry is one of the hardest hit of them all. This is evident when you drive past a dealership with historically low inventory levels.

The reality is, that not all sectors are having shortages, but the ones that are can make getting parts that you may need, difficult to obtain in the amount of time that you would normally see them.

Some preventive measures that we should all think about during this time:

Evaluation of Critical Spares:

  • It could be the right time to evaluate your control systems and look for any critical spares that you do not currently have in stock. It could take longer to obtain those spares in an emergency.

Projects in the Works:

  • Are you about to embark on a new project? Whether it is a new controller, a new line of VFDs or smart MCC, don’t delay on getting orders in. Automation vendors have dedicated teams to do everything they can to get you the parts that you will need for your project, but if you wait until the last minute, lead times could set you back.
  • Not all parts are affected, so reach out to your distributor or vendor and see what lead times are published for any project parts that you are considering.

References:

Conclusion

Being aware of the problem is most of the battle, not simply just aware, but thinking about what affects it could have on your project, your operation, your company and taking action to minimize the risk whenever possible.

I’ve seen projections from one to three years of how long this component crisis could last. As with any difficult crisis in manufacturing, or specifically in automation/control systems, the best defense is to be proactive and not complacent.

Written by Brandon Cooper
Senior Controls Engineer and Freelance Writer

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