Tablet, chip and car component shortages continue post-quake

Shortages of components in a range of markets are continuing to hit production levels following the after effects of the tragic Japanese crisis.

The tablet market is just one area which is seeing no let up in shortages of components that are vital for tablets, with memory chips, gyroscopes, capacitors, chip-resistors, cover glass and the bismaleimide-triazine resin vital for production in scant supply.

According to Digitimes sources the easing of supply constriction which was expected to occur in May will contrarily see an “acute shortage” that is likely to cause interruption to the supply chain in the second half of May.

It is expected that supplies of gyroscopes from STMicroelectronics and AKM, as well as high-end capacitors and resistors from Japan-based manufacturers will fall short of predicted demand.

This has led to a number of firms reducing this tablet shipments with overall first tier vendors reaching less than five million units throughout 2011, with sales volumes for Galaxy Tab, EeePad Transformer and Xoom potentially lower than targeted.

USB 3.0 chips are another source of concern with short supply at Renesas likely to be offset by production moving to Taiwanese suppliers.

The firm’s USB 3.0 chip factory has still not returned to pre-quake levels which means that firms in Taiwan are expected to see rush orders with Intel’s Sandy Bridge, which supports the USB chip, driving demand according to Cens.

According to Future Horizons’ CEO Malcolm Penn there are hopes that the situation will resolve in the not too distant future, with the end of 2011 likely to see a return to relative normality as far as semiconductor production “if you’re lucky”.

Penn believes that a precarious pre-quake position in the country was actually set to improve with new wafer fab capacity about to come online towards the end of the year, however the situation is such that now “30 percent of the wafer blanks supply being taken out” due to either being directly affected by the quake or from the resultant lack of electricity.

It is expected that production will begin to reach pre-quake level in mid July, however it is expected that suppliers inventories will be deplete by the end of May.

In China the overall chip market is expected to see a continued downturn due to reliance on part from Japan to support its high tech industries with sales down 3 percent month on month in March, which Carnegie believes is due to depleted inventories.

Furthermore Carnegie analyst Bruce Diesen believes that production cutbacks will be seen in April due to the earthquake.

Car production has also been badly hit with Japanese firms currently operating at around 50 percent of usual production, with Toyota and Honda’s supply chain taking a sufficient battering that they are cutting production in the large market of India.

Conversely Suzuki, which does not rely on Japanese parts has reported that they are able to meet the increasing demand as their cars are almost all locally built.

All of which is bad news for Toyota, and of course the car industry which is one of Japan’s main exports, with the firm likely to concede its crown of world’s biggest automobile manufacturer to America’s General Motors.

According to official Japanese figures overall  production levels have seen a record fallen of 15.3 percent in March due to the quake and subsequent tsunami, a steeper decline than the 11 percent put for by experts.

 But despite the massive effect on the many markets as a result of the quake, in terms of the semiconductor market at least a lesson should be learnt in that this is potentially just a fraction of the upheaval that would be caused by a similar situation in Taiwan.

“If you think Japan’s influence was strong, think again,” Penn said.   “It’s small beer.” 

“If that earthquake had hit Taiwan instead, 80 percent of the world’s logic/SoC ICs (100 percent of the leading-edge stuff) and all of the world’s mobile, i-anything, consumer etc products would have stopped dead. Apple would have gone from number one to also-ran in three months.”