The ongoing component shortage is continuing to cause problems across the industry with the crisis unlikely to improve anytime soon. Having caused widespread disruption to manufacturing globally across multiple industries, at BitBox we have had to adapt our way of working to manage the challenges caused by the shortages.
The problems were caused by various factors, creating a ‘perfect storm’, according to BitBox’s Sales Manager Chris Chaney.
Lockdown last year resulted in an increase in demand for devices such as PCs and new games consoles putting pressure on manufacturers as industries competed for their time.
This was exacerbated by a shortage of electronic components prior to the pandemic in some sectors.
Add to this Brexit along with the giant cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal for a week in March, and the so-called ‘perfect storm’ hit.
Chris explains how BitBox has been coping with the crisis to lessen the impact on our clients as much as possible.
“Covid contributed to the problems but there were other factors as well including the boat and Brexit,” he explained, adding: “What we are seeing is it has become progressively worse in the last six to nine months. We aren’t seeing any improvement, which is worrying. We would expect the manufacturers to try and pick up the market, however, we are yet to see the benefits of this as it takes time.”
Now, there is often a wait time of 26 to 52 weeks (and occasionally as extreme as two to three years) for components to be delivered, which has a knock-on effect for clients waiting for their products.
Prior to the crisis, BitBox would order components much later on in the process.
Chris said: “The ‘just in time’ model doesn’t work in the current market because there’s no guarantee that the component will come. We have had to change our model and order all the components early on because of the delays. We have had to change the way we work.”
BitBox has brought on board a dedicated resource to chase up components and feedback on progress to the design and manufacturing teams.
“If we are going to be let down, we know before we are due to build a product,” explained Chris, adding that the new way of working is designed to limit the impact on clients.
“We have been dealing with this for the entire year and my time has become exclusively dedicated to making sure our existing customers are well looked after. This year we have been focusing on our existing customers,” he explained, adding: “Loyal customers are the most important. Of course, we are interested in growing but we want to keep people with us, so that’s our focus now.”
He hopes the situation will improve by 2023, although admits this could be optimistic.
He advises customers that “time is key” when it comes to ordering, explaining: “The more time we have to deal with orders the better. We create a buffer so as soon as we have an order, we join the queue.”
Chris said customers had been understanding of the situation, and he thanked them for their patience, adding: “It is frustrating for us and them, but we are powerless to change the situation. We would encourage our customers to speak to us because we are always here to have a conversation and answer questions. We are knowledgeable about the situation because we have many customers dealing with supply issues so we have a good insight into what to do and how to minimise the risks.”
He also anticipates the problem becoming worse for consumer electronics availability, explaining: “The big brands for games consoles, TVs, microwaves, fridges etc created huge stock of their required components to see them through but the unfortunate reality is they couldn’t order enough to satisfy the demand.”
Chris believes there is a “vicious circle” with the mainstream media reporting on the lack of availability of certain products, which then increases panic buying – something which was seen with the PlayStation 5.
He added: “I fully expect the pains anyone involved in the electronics industry has felt for the last two years is about to be shared with the wider population.”
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