Semiconductor Supply Issue Update

One of the first new ZD10LCDs of late 2022 - two and half years after making the previous one.

As you have no doubt been aware, the semiconductor market has been beset with a number of problems in the last two to three years. These issues stemmed from the huge market volatility which occurred around the first and second waves of Covid and the resultant lockdowns. 

We have written previously on the specific causal and contributory factors which led to this major supply disruption. Suffice to say that lead times of two years and more have had a devastating impact on the industry for many companies.

Moving forward, our experience is that these issues are now starting to subside with chips and mosfets becoming more readily available. 

In addition to this, there has been a major effort from manufacturers and suppliers in the industry to improve the accuracy of lead times. One of the worst aspects of this was not so much the long lead times but the unreliability of many of the stated lead times. Parts which had been on order for over a year and were due to be shipped, were suddenly pushed back a year at a weeks notice. 

Talking with a number of suppliers recently and from monitoring supplier performance there has been a significant effort to improve the accuracy of lead times to enable more certainty for production planning. This is a major and important step, enabling us to bring back several popular legacy products which we had thought may have to be discontinued.

We would still advise all customers to try and provide as much notice as possible, especially for larger orders. Many parts are still on 12 month + lead times. 

The design team, led by Graham Fick, have worked hard to de-risk our stock products as much possible, ensuring that we have flexibility on parts wherever possible (microcontrollers for example). On top of this, we have identified the worst performing manufacturers and suppliers and eliminated these from all new designs in order to reduce the possibility of further upheaval.

In general terms then, our advice would be to continue to provide as much notice as possible if you are looking at a new product or larger orders of a stock product. We will be open and honest about the lead times and the options available for modifications or alternative parts to be used.

Let’s hope this is now the end to this disruption and that we can all return to spending time developing new controllers instead of redesigning old ones!