Beginning with the onset of the global pandemic in March 2020, massive disruptions to global supply chains of all kinds began making headlines. Focused at first on medical equipment and so-called PPE, the disruptions quickly spread to global manufacturing, particularly those products requiring silicon chips, semiconductors and other digital and electronic components. These problems have multiple causes, including the shutdowns early in 2020 of factories producing key components in China’s Wuhan province, the source of the pandemic. But other things exacerbated the shortages, including:

  • fires at key manufacturing plants in Taiwan and Japan;
  • the COVID-related explosion of demand for work-related technology caused by lockdowns
  • enormous backlogs and cost increases in air freight as fewer commercial air flights led to capacity problems;
  • a shortage globally of shipping containers;
  • a deteriorating trade relationship between the US and China;
  • complex tariff and licensing troubles caused by the UK’s split from the European Union (BREXIT);
  • and even a short but dramatic blockage of the Suez Canal after the accidental grounding of the world’s largest cargo ships.

To put the global picture in perspective, the shortage of silicon chips forced Apple to delay the launch of its iPhone 12; it caused Nissan and General Motors to shut down production at two auto plants in northern Mexico; Huawei, embroiled in a dispute over the security of its 5G network with the United States, has added to the crunch by stockpiling massive quantities of chips in case US pressure cut the company off from global chip market. Bottom line, this means deliveries of many key components of the digital world are delayed…