Earthquake still rattles electronics supply chain

The electronics industry is going to feel the impact of the Japanese earthquake for a fair while, if recent conversations at an automotive conference are any indication. Asking about supply chain issues always got a lengthy reaction from managers of the Tier 1 suppliers who make many of the electronic modules.

One told of taking a long-planned week off to stay with family, only to set up an office at his sister’s so he could stay in touch and search for alternative parts. Another said his company had all its parts, but slowed their shipments because related elements from other suppliers were in short supply.

The continuing aftershocks are hitting chipmakers. It takes a while to get semi equipment running smoothly. Every time one chipmaker gets equipment rolling, an aftershock causes a shutdown, and the process has to begin afresh. There’s a lot of waste in most shutdowns.

One upbeat note is that most suppliers said the auto industry is responding with unusual patience and understanding. This is an industry known for a demanding attitude on pricing and delivery. But most of the people I spoke with said that customers are unusually accommodating, understanding that this is a rare event that really doesn’t have a simple solution.

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