PCB Assembly Services - Screaming Circuits: Component supply - Is it panic time?


Component supply - Is it panic time?

Is it panic time? If you know where your towel is, then no. But, it is time to prepare and take some action to protect yourself against supply chain disruptions.

Reels of parts

So, here's what we know:

  • A fair number of silicon components, such as microcontrollers and Mosfets are now in short supply
  • Tantalum capacitors and some critical crystals are being heavily affected as well
  • Shipping delays are adding to the problems

Why shipping delays, you might ask?

Why indeed? Well much of the fast-shipping international components orders ride on commercial passenger flights. With International passenger air travel being down by 80%, our industry has lost a huge amount of fast-ship capacity. That means that those component orders now need to go by boat or by more expensive air charter. Even shipping containers and sea port capacity are overloaded right now. It's a mess and will take a while to unwind.

Here are a few steps that can make your life a bit easier during this period:

  • First, accept that things are going to take a bit longer and cost a bit more. It's annoying, but is it the world we've got right now.
  • Build your bill of materials with multiple subs already in mind.
  • Be flexible with your MCU variants. Most MCUs come with multiple variants just differentiated by the amount of SRAM or FLASH. Prepare to pick a part up of down in capacity (and don't forget to accommodate that in your programming and fuse bits).
  • Do your best to plan as far ahead as possible. This means making final component decisions earlier in your design cycle and making the financial commitment to buy parts earlier.

The good news is that all of this bodes well for the long-term. It means a lot of people are buying and trying to build things. It's bad in the short term, but probably a good indicator for the long term.

The bad news is that, while this series of shortages is affecting active components more than passives, once silicon supply rebounds, everyone will be building again and passives may go into short supply.

  • Even if passives seem available now, prepare for them to be hard to get in a few months, so plan and order ahead now.

Download and read the full text of our corporate (Milwaukee Electronics) Supply Chain Bulletins here.

Duane Benson
Hang in there. This too shall pass (despite what Gandalf says)


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