Creativity in the electronics industry will counter chip shortages


Thanks to Brexit, the pandemic, and now the Russian-Ukrainian war, the risks and gaps in our global supply chains have become front and center for most businesses over the past couple of years, especially for l electronics industry.

Supply chains are increasingly recognized as a key component of business survival, success and growth, as ByteSnap found in its survey, Thriving in the Face of Change, which found that the he electronics industry was one of the hardest hit by supply chain disruptions. 82% of companies surveyed were negatively affected by supply chain challenges.

Engineer showing computer chip on motherboard background. Electronic board with processor. Source: Adobe

To mark World Supply Chain Day on April 21, ByteSnap’s team of embedded electronics engineers have put together some tips to help keep design projects on track and minimize the effects of disruptions to the supply chain :

1) Order quantities as soon as the project drawing is completed – despite the pandemic, 60% of ByteSnap’s survey respondents saw an increase in demand for their products or services, 9% saw no change, and 31% saw a decrease.

To meet the growing demand for products and services, smart designers and manufacturers need to stay ahead of the curve with supply already in stock or on the way, to meet demand.

Materials Requirements Planning (MRP) is a system for calculating the materials and components needed to manufacture a product. It is composed of three stages:

  • take inventory of available materials and components
  • identify additional elements needed
  • then schedule their production or purchase

This is important, especially with specialist software, to ensure you have exactly what you need, when you need it, and at the lowest possible cost. MRP is essential for improving the efficiency, flexibility and profitability of manufacturing operations.

2) Minimize risk exposure – sustainable supply chains are important. Therefore, reducing the number of different components and reusing parts where possible can make your manufacturing process more efficient if certain parts become unavailable for some reason.

During the first lockdown, 18% of the electronics industry worried about supply chain disruption, according to ByteSnap’s survey. This has resulted in 45% of companies holding more inventory in-house rather than just-in-time (JIT) and 26% now auditing their supply chains more closely. While 10% of respondents in 2020 were considering using more domestic suppliers, the survey found that less than 11% had actually moved part of their supply chain to the UK.

3) Improve scalability and defend against obsolescence – consider system design techniques such as microservices or distributed computing across the product ecosystem to improve scalability and protect against obsolescence.

Microservices are a way to divide large software projects into loosely coupled modules, which communicate with each other. This allows for changes and redeployment of technology and gives you a more innovative and agile approach to designing, building and managing the project; which, in turn, offers the possibility of accelerating development cycles.

4) Replace single chips with discrete components – Before integrated circuits, all capacitors, inductors, diodes, and other input systems were individual, discrete circuits. So if you can’t use a chip, consider using a few off-the-shelf discrete components instead, which can be integrated into the same chip to reduce power consumption.

2021 Electronics Industry Survey: Thrive in the Face of Change. Source: ByteSnap

5) Choose devices that have fingerprint compatible alternatives – Footprint or pin compatible devices allow the same PCB to be used without any problems or electrical hazards. You can reduce risk during the early design phase by considering dual-footprint devices and pin-to-pin alternatives that meet your system requirements. Manufacturers often have handy cross-reference tools that make it easy to find pin-compatible alternatives, for components like ADCs and DACs.

6) Design the firmware to be as abstract as possible – hardware abstractions are sets of routines in software that provide programs with access to hardware resources through programming interfaces. By designing firmware with a hardware abstraction layer, you can improve portability and adaptability to different chips because your design allows a computer operating system to interact with the device at a general, abstract level rather than at a specific and detailed material level, if necessary. .

7) Reserve data in communication protocols and storage space in firmware upgrade processes – this will allow you to account for larger support changes in the future and reduce the risk of needing a complete redesign of the update system for newer generations of your products.

8) Wear the application as soon as possible – To make your design as simple as possible, port the application using reference hardware with the same chips you intend to use in production. By porting early, issues may appear before the target design is finalized and can be easily fixed.

9) Connect early with your contract manufacturers – they can access the global semiconductor supply chain and assess parts availability or potential shortages before designing key components.

10) Engage hardware and software expertise under one roof – It may seem obvious, but having everything you need in one place is much easier than going to separate vendors. Having to manage different businesses can cause delays in determining who is responsible for resolution and implementation. Delays affect business downtime and/or time to market.

By hiring a company that has both hardware and software design experience, such as ByteSnap, you can ensure the best possible result, in the shortest possible time.

More and more people are now realizing the consequences of supply chain disruptions and how imperative it is that they become more sustainable and have a process in place to avoid downtime.

On this year’s Global Supply Chain Day, reflect on the importance of supply chains in our lives. Consider how the supply chain industry has evolved and what it now means for businesses globally. Ask yourself the question: “Is my supply chain able to withstand another pandemic, or not…?


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