Surprise

Big Automotive Chip Shortage Is No Surprise

“Car Makers Collide With Global Chip Shortage” (Page One, Feb. 13) correctly identifies the auto industry’s current supply-chain woes as a self-inflicted wound. From the electronics-manufacturing industry’s point of view, automotive is mostly a low-volume, high-mix customer segment, and it requires buffering through component distributors. Instead, the auto makers’ extreme focus on cost optimization and lean manufacturing meant eliminating these valuable supply-chain partners. The focus on lean should have been balanced with a pragmatic view on the extreme cost of idled automotive production lines. To shut down production lines for $80,000 vehicles because of a missing $2 microcontroller is catastrophic.

Products like semiconductors that have longer lead times and large production lot sizes need distribution for efficient buffering between the manufacturers and end customers. Semiconductors have extremely long and complex production cycles that can range from 10 to 26 weeks. Once a production cycle

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