Looking back on 2021, there is little doubt that the global semiconductor chip shortage has been the headline story dominating the electronics industry. From the front pages of national newspapers, the challenge of chip supply has received intense media coverage, thrusting the importance of electronics components firmly into the spotlight.
Realistically, the chip shortage is likely to endure for some time yet. New capacity is being added around the world and governments are passing legislation to subsidize and boost the fabrication industry, but it will take time for these positive factors to feed through to the market and increase supply.
For Mouser, dealing with this global issue has required a fast and flexible response throughout 2021. Our strategy has always been to invest in inventory regardless of business conditions, and that approach has certainly paid off. Our teams do a great job of staying ahead of product availability issues, predicting where future shortages might emerge. We have worked hard to get more products on our shelves to counter long lead times wherever possible, and as a result, we still have excellent availability in many categories. We also continued to add new semiconductor and electronic component manufacturers. In 2020 and 2021, we’ve added over 160 new manufacturer partners to our line-up — presenting the design engineer with the broadest product selection in the industry.
Of course, Mouser is not immune to global factors and, as expected, there have been extended lead times and restricted allocation on some product lines, even with our incredibly strong inventory position. But our teams are closely watching part numbers that are stocked out and are working hard with manufacturers to replenish them as quickly as possible.
Over the past year, one consequence of chip shortages has been the temptation to source products from unauthorised distributors. This is an understandable temptation under such circumstances, especially when specific components are unavailable elsewhere. But design engineers should be careful when buying from an unauthorised source. The risk of being supplied with counterfeit or grey market products is high — and it is impossible to know where that product has come from, how it is has been handled, and how it will perform. Counterfeit products can lead to unexpected failures, quality and warranty issues.
Now more than ever, it is crucial to obtain genuine parts from authorised sources, safe in the knowledge that they are 100 per cent certified and fully traceable from each manufacturer. This will remain an important consideration as we head into 2022, with shortages ongoing.
An optimistic new year
On reflection, 2021 can still be considered a highly successful year, with demand increasing in all major electronics markets. But what now? How is the electronics sector positioned for 2022? And what are going to be the primary technologies driving growth as we head into the new year?
If recent events have shown us anything, it is that making predictions is a tricky game; but I think some certainties can be called. So, here are my top three trends for the 12 months ahead.
There will be no stopping the fourth industrial revolution
Industry 4.0 is here to stay. Government-led initiatives to help transform sectors such as manufacturing through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have helped deliver real innovation on the shop floor. Across the industry, whether in process-oriented sectors such as beverages and pharmaceuticals, or traditional product manufacturing operations, the automation, monitoring, and analysis of production assets is now routine.
Data acquisition in real-time using various sensing technologies provides the electronic eyes and ears watching over each stage of the production process. These techniques have driven some hugely innovative advantages in areas such as predictive maintenance, where real-time information around parameters such as vibration, temperatures, and operating currents mean problems can be spotted and rectified before unexpected downtime occurs. Industry 4.0 remains a tremendously exciting area. With technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence coming to the fore, I expect it to deliver significant new use cases and business opportunities over the long term.
Business relationships will matter more than ever
We live in uncertain times. Global factors such as the pandemic have caused immense disruption in our sector. As a result, companies and individuals are instinctively seeking out business relationships that are reliable, trustworthy, and enduring. Mouser has always sought to establish deep, productive, and engaging relationships with our manufacturers based on mutual respect. We work in close partnership with the highest-calibre companies to ensure access to the newest products.
But business relationships are critical to our customers too. Design engineers want to work with electronics distributors who listen to their needs and are well resourced. This requires a commitment to ongoing investment. For example, we continually add new features and resources on our website, mouser.com. We’ve also just opened a new building devoted entirely to our customer service operations at our headquarters in Texas. Business relationships in the electronics sector are more important than ever, and that is something that Mouser as a company will keep front of mind.
Content will remain king
The multi-media world we live in means design engineers will make new demands around accessible and meaningful content, and technical content creation will therefore remain a priority for Mouser. In our Technical Resources hub on our website, there are in-depth, engineer-written technical articles covering a broad range of topics, including rapidly evolving concepts such as IIoT design, from the sensor to the cloud. Product information starts with supplier datasheets, application notes and goes even deeper with technical articles, how-to guides, and open-source projects. There are videos, supplier e-books, and trends-based white papers too. For example, Mouser's Empowering Innovation Together program keeps engineers up to date with what is happening across the electronics industry.
In the digital era, content is invaluable, and engineers in 2022 will continue to demand access to thoughtful, well-researched and accessible technical material that can support them in their everyday roles.
Author details: MARK BURR-LONNON, Senior Vice President of Global Service & Sales EMEA and APAC