DigiKey technical content developer, Nick Westra, takes a look at the automotive electronics component supply chain, past, present and future
As the broad electronic market recovers after years of supply chain disruptions, some segments remain under stress, including automotive. Growth of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure is only increasing demand for components and strict requirements will further restrict supply. Fortunately, there are signs of improvement with changes to component supply.
The largest roadblocks to automotive IC availability are the numerous standards and requirements each component and manufacturer must meet to ensure quality. Consumer grade components don’t suit harsh driving conditions. Even for charging station infrastructure, safety factors and power handling requirements make these a rare class of component.
Also impacting component availability are standards like AEC-Q100 for specifying component level testing and requirements, ISO 26262 for vehicle electrical systems functional safety ratings and process management standards like IATF 16949 for setting quality control management for manufacturing processes.
Multiple challenges facing automotive component buyers include stock shortages, part obsolescence and decreased manufacturing priorities—difficulties rarely faced before. Buyers can improve their supply chain resilience and avoid common pitfalls sourcing components. The first step is simply ensuring required components are available by keeping stock, whether holding excess inventory or contracting directly with manufacturers. Another step is ensuring there is a second source for critical components to allow for disruptions with one supplier.
Although this paints a somewhat bleak picture of increasing demand and shrinking supply there are signs of hope. Lead times for automotive grade electronics are generally improving as the demand for devices lessen and pandemic restrictions roll back. The passage of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 also encourages and helps promote semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. Most semiconductor manufacturing executives are optimistic component shortages will improve by the end of 2023 and normal supply of ICs will be available.
While there are still strong headwinds there are also signs of a bright future. Rising demand for electric powertrains and charging infrastructure promises increasing component demand. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) recently announced that global sales of semiconductor products in 2022 had increased by 3.3 per cent compared to 2021, with the automotive IC segment growing by 29.1 per cent in 2022 to a record total of $34.1 billion in sales. While none of these measures promise immediate relief to part shortages and delays, they do indicate the market will be more vibrant in coming days.