Can industry escape the damages of the chip shortage, and benefit the planet at the same time?
It is common knowledge in the electronics and manufacturing industries that the ongoing covid pandemic has caused an acute shortage of electronic component chips on an unprecedented global scale. The demand for semiconductor chips has been increasing year by year as the world has rapidly embraced the digitalised future. Processing chips are required for every aspect of this new world: they are used in all digital products, from smartphones to automobiles to washing machines – products which have become essentials for thriving, and even surviving, in the 21st century. But the shortages don’t just affect how many mobile phones are being produced – the shortages are now affecting the electronic manufacturing equipment required to make the phones, a problem which may be felt until 2024.
The global chip crunch, which began in the summer of 2020, has its roots in the automobile industry and spread rapidly to other industries. Modern cars are increasingly technical and employ masses of technology, requiring hundreds of smart chips for just one vehicle. However, statistics show that automotive chips only account for a relatively low proportion of global chip production capacity. Ultimately the pandemic prevention measures levied by governments worldwide disrupted the chip production line, meaning that the number of chips being produced, packed, tested, and shipped was profoundly lower than pre-pandemic levels. Coupled with the booming demand for consumer electronics during the pandemic, the shortage has led to significant economic consequences and has contributed to the hottest inflation in 40 years being felt in several countries, such as the U.S. Now more than ever, replacement PCBs with these invaluable chips cannot be taken for granted.
The problems in the chip industry are a perfect example as to why industries should be repairing their faulty PCBs in house and investing in fully trained and certified technicians and the right equipment to diagnose PCB faults. By developing their own capabilities, companies are creating job opportunities, enabling the growth of their business, and become independent from suppliers and OEMs. This development also helps to mitigate environmental damaged caused by heavy industry; repairing boards means they are saved from landfill and lessens emissions due to a new replacement board not being needed. “Repair, Don’t Waste” amplifies this message and shows how blue-chip companies worldwide are making the change – not only for their own benefit in face of the chip crisis, but for a less environmentally damaging and financially secure future.
Companies working with specialist test and measurement equipment, provided by ABI Electronics, to diagnose their faulty PCBs have found that they haven’t been as directly affected by the chip shortage as other companies. These companies include Samsung, NXP, Lockheed Martin, On Semiconductor, Intel, ALSTOM, and GE Renewables across multiple sites around the world, all of which have dedicated repair labs furnished with the right equipment and technicians with the right training.
In a recent interview Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger told CNBC that since taking over as CEO in February 2021, Intel has announced a substantial number of investments to geographically diversify chip manufacturing. There are plans in place for building semiconductor factories, also known as fabrication plants, in the U.S. and Europe. He also said that their first quarter earnings and revenue topped analysts’ expectations, however Intel shares were down more than 6%. This diversification investment is due to most of the worlds chip capacity being concentrated in Asia; the pandemic has shown that having a central hub for chip production is not viable and can lead to shortages on a global scale.
Industries must begin to seriously think about sustainability, efficiency, and development to weather such catastrophes such as the chip shortage. If companies embraced the Repair, Don’t Waste mindset, would a global chip shortage really be so disastrous? If the “Make-Break-Waste” mentality was consigned to the past and people educated about the possibilities of repair, industries would be much better prepared for shortages and would continue to be successful in their operations. The positive impact of the Repair, Don’t Waste mindset does not only impact organizations – it actively contributes to a more circular economy and saves precious natural resources from landfills which devastate our planet. Over 50 million tonnes of E Waste is created every single year – why not look to reducing this staggering figure by repairing PCBs, eliminating the need for environmentally and financially costly replacements? The “Repair don’t Waste” movement is vital for bringing industry into the future and ensuring a more economical, environmental, and socially sustainable development.