Semiconductor Shortage Impact Extends Beyond Automotive

Article By : George Leopold

Apart from the automotive industry, other hardest hits sectors include industrial and IT hardware manufacturing.

While much of the attention regarding semiconductor shortages has focused on the automotive sector, other industrial and digital sectors are being hit equally hard by IC supply chain disruptions.

According to a survey of manufacturers commissioned by software vendor Qt Group and conducted by Forrester Consulting, the industrial machinery and electrical equipment segments are hardest hit by the chip shortage. Not far behind are the IT hardware and computer sectors, having registered this highest percentage of product development slowdowns.

The poll of 262 embedded device and connected product developers carried out in March found that 60 percent of industrial machinery and electrical equipment manufacturers are now heavily focused on securing IC supply chains. Meanwhile, 55 percent of server and computer makers said they are struggling to maintain chip supplies.

Semiconductor shortages have forced automakers to shut down production lines in recent weeks. Still, the automative sector ranked in the middle of the Forrester survey with respect to IC supply chain focus.

Overall, the survey found that nearly two-thirds of manufacturers have experienced setbacks in delivering new digital products due to silicon supply disruptions. That has translated into delays in production rollouts of more than seven months, the survey found.

“Organizations are [now] more focused on ensuring adequate supply” of semiconductors,” Forrester reported. “Consequently, half our survey respondents indicate that ensuring an adequate supply of semiconductors and key hardware components has become more important this year.”

Click on image to enlarge. (Source: Forrester Consulting)

Among hard-hit server and computer manufacturers, 71 percent said IC scarcity is slowing product development. That’s occurring as demand for data center services like cloud computing and storage are booming along with streaming video applications for remote workers.

Among the recommendations for weathering the current semiconductor shortage are blunting the impact via what Forrester dubs “cross-platform frameworks.” That refers to stopgap measures like flexible software tools that support a wider variety of silicon, thereby “reducing the impact of critical supply chain shortages,” Forrester concludes.

In response to disruptions in the semiconductor pipeline, the market researcher also found that eight of ten executives surveyed report they are investing in “cross-device tools and frameworks that support multiple classes of hardware.”

Along with getting new products out the door faster, that approach is promoted as increasing supply chain flexibility while reducing the workload for harried software developers often juggling multiple product designs.

Indeed, new product development is also plagued by a shortage of developers with the skills required to leverage multipurpose software tools. Three-quarters of survey respondents said demand for connected devices is outstripping the supply of qualified developers.

Hence, software vendors like Qt promote tools like cross-platform software libraries as a way for product developers to cope with a chip shortage expected to extend through the second half of 2021.

“We’re at a crunch point in global technology manufacture and development,” asserts Marko Kaasila, senior vice president of product management at Qt, which is based in Helsinki, Finland.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

George Leopold has written about science and technology from Washington, D.C., since 1986. Besides EE Times, Leopold’s work has appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, and other publications. He resides in Reston, Va.

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