With a second spike of coronavirus unfolding within Europe, Asia and the US, it’s worth asking yourself whether you’ve done everything you can to covid-proof your supply chain. Experts from the Golledge team explain some of the steps you can take to help minimize the risks of a further covid outbreak interrupting your supply chain.
Be aware of component lead times
One of the key trends that emerged from the first COVID-19 lock down beginning in March 2020 was increasing lead times as production facilities fought to maintain their manufacturing whilst putting in place measures to combat the virus with varying degrees of success. This has lead to an intermittent availability of the piece parts required to put together complex electronic components, including frequency components where ceramic packages in particular have proven unpredictable in availability.
Tactics to combat increasing component lead times
Remaining as flexible as possible during uncertain times can be an excellent way of COVID-proofing your supply chain. Ways of incorporating flexibility into your supply strategy include:
- Build in room for manoeuvre by considering the ability to push out or pull in orders and agreeing this flexibility with your supplier ahead of time.
- Speak to the product designers to determine whether another form factor component can be substituted onto the board. Lead times vary greatly over product form factors and it may be possible to significantly reduce lead times by substituting in another component. For instance 2016 form factor (2.0 x 1.6mm) or 2012 form factor (2.0 x 1.2mm) components are likely to be more quickly available than 3225 or 3215 form factor components. It’s worth checking with your supplier about the trends they’re seeing and tailoring your requests to match ongoing availability as closely as possible.
- Be prepared to shop around. Now might be a good time to considered adding a second, third or even fourth approved supplier to your operations in a bid to find quality stocks of components in high demand.
Whilst remaining flexible is generally recommended during uncertain times there can be instances where the best thing to do is to double down on your requirements by upping your order. If you’re positive about the continued demand for your product this can help to ensure you have the parts needed to maintain production if demand for your product spikes during a time of component shortage.
Having an EAU and keeping your supply partners up to date with this value and your demand expectations can help your suppliers to ensure they are taking the most pertinent steps to help keep your production running. If your supplier is aware of your EAU, and any changes to it, then they will be able to tailor their component supply to your projected needs. Some better quality suppliers will even hold buffer stock against this value which you can choose to call off throughout the year.
We certainly found throughout the first COVID spike that those customers who knew their EAU and were able to place buffer orders against this value were in a better position to rapidly restart their manufacturing when lock down ended as they avoided longer lead times which had built up during lock down, with parts shipped to them the same day they required them, instead of waiting up to 22 weeks for components!