As a youngster, I spent a lot of time hiking and camping. When you’re in the woods, it feels like time follows your pace instead of the other way around. The serenity of being far away from everything can be wonderful as long as you’re well-equipped with supplies. On the other hand, not being adequately prepared can transform a fun trip into an improvised test of your survival skills.
Failing to be prepared for a component shortage can, similarly, wreak havoc on your PCB development schedule. Some shortages are unplanned, including the current lack of passive devices affecting the entire electronics supply chain. Other shortfalls are planned, like the normal obsolescence that most components experience. Although your ability to prevent these contingencies may be limited, adequate preparation and optimizing component selection can minimize the overall impact of unexpected obstacles on your PCB development. Let’s take a look at the types of component shortages you may encounter and discuss ways to mitigate the negative impacts of shortages on your PCB development.
Types of Component Shortages
One of the many contingencies that may befall your PCB development and delay PCB manufacturing is not having sufficient quantities of components. Component shortages may be categorized as either planned or unplanned based on the level of foresight available in the industry before their occurrence.
Planned Component Shortages
- Technology change – One of the most common causes of planned component shortages is the introduction of technological changes due to new materials, packaging or processing. These changes may result from commercial research and development (R & D) or developments from basic research.
- Insufficient demand – Another reason for component shortages is normal obsolescence experienced at the end of the component lifecycle. This reduction in the production of a component may be a result of capability demand.
Unplanned Component Shortages
- Unforeseen demand increase – On some occasions, including the current electronic component shortage, manufacturers underestimate market demand and are unable to keep up.
- Manufacturer shutdown – Furthermore, demand increases may be caused by the loss of a major supplier, political sanctions or other unanticipated reasons. Natural disasters, accidents or other rare occurrences may cause a manufacturer to lose the capacity to deliver components. These types of availability losses typically result in price spikes that further exacerbate the effects of the component shortage.
Based on the stage of your PCB development and the type of component shortage, you may be required to redesign the PCB to accommodate an alternative or replacement component. This could add significant time and costs to your product’s overhead.
How to Avoid Component Shortages
Although component shortages can be quite disruptive and costly to your PCB development, there are measures you can take to mitigate the severity of their impact. The most effective way to avoid negative impacts to your PCB development from planned or unplanned component shortages is to prepare for them as though they are inevitable.
Preparing for Planned Component Shortages
- Technology awareness – The continuous demand for greater capability and smaller products coupled with the thrust for better performance means new technologies will continue to replace current products. Awareness of these developments can help you anticipate and prepare for component changes.
- Know component lifecycle – More immediate shortages can be predicted by being aware of the component lifecycles for products that you employ in your designs. Typically, this is more important for high performance or specialized components.
Preparing for Unplanned Component Shortages
- Alternative components – Assuming that your components may, at some point, become unavailable is merely good preparation. One way to implement this philosophy is to use components with available alternatives, preferably with similar packaging as well as performance characteristics.
- Volume buying – Another good preparation strategy buying a volume of components in advance. While this option may be cost-prohibitive, buying enough components to sustain your future manufacturing needs is the most effective safeguard against component shortages.
When it comes to avoiding component shortages, “be prepared” is an excellent motto to follow. Having your PCB development interrupted due to unavailable components can have severe ramifications; therefore, it is preferable to plan for contingencies instead of being caught off-guard.
As the component shortage of 2017-2018 illustrates, once a shortfall occurs, it is hard to predict the extent of the impact. This type of uncertainty is counterproductive for you and your organization’s product development; therefore, it is necessary to take timely action to prevent its impact. As the premier custom PCB prototype manufacturing company in the industry, Tempo Automation is well aware of the problems you may face if you run into component shortages. We can help you ensure the availability of components for prototyping and assist you while transitioning from prototype to high volume production.
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And to ensure that you do not experience other issues during your PCB manufacturing process, we furnish information for your DFM and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software.