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Aftermath of Japanese earthquake: Implications for global electronics industry!

April 4, 2011 Comments off

This is a commentary on industry trends from Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons.

Importance of Japan
Japan is a major producer of semiconductor components accounting for around 22 percent of global semiconductor production. The Flash memory market sector – crucially mobile phones, iPads and their derivatives, digital cameras, and portable storage devices, account for approximately 50 percent of the market, almost all of which are produced by one Japanese firm, Toshiba/Sandisk.

Several of Japan’s major semiconductor companies locate their manufacturing spots in the northeast prefectures, for example Toshiba’s 8-inch wafer fab in lwate, Renesas Electronics’ factories in Aomori, Hoddaido and Yamagata, Elpedia Memory’s backend manufacturing facility in Akita and Fujitsu’s plants in Fukushima.

The effects of the devastating earthquake, which hit Japan on Friday 11th March, are already beginning to take hold on the global electronics industry. Damaged buildings and infrastructure and halts to some semiconductor fabs will without doubt have a knock on affect upon the global semiconductor supply chain, with many of the big names, i.e., Nokia, General Motors and Apple already experiencing supply shortages.

Many manufacturers, not directly hit by the earthquake, have experienced power failures interrupting production; just a microsecond power supply glitch can result in the scrapping of weeks of in-process production, and with manufacturers no longer holding inventory it will impact IC supply availability in Q2. To what extent, still remains to be seen. The impact will be felt both in the long and short term, affecting not only the semiconductor supply chain but nearly every other industry imaginable, as it is very rare these days to find an industry which is not reliant on chips.

Component prices
As in any shortage situation, component price increases are inevitable and this has already happened in memory, although it is not yet clear how much of this is panic profiteering and how much is sustainable. But shortages are inevitable and recovery due to the long production cycle times and already tight capacity – will not happen over night.

Automakers
The automotive semiconductor market grew 37 percent in 2010, clearly leaving the problematic 2009 behind. However the recent earthquake in Japan has once again awoken auto manufacturers concerns about the industry. Even before the earthquake purchasing managers had expressed concern about supply levels; inventories were unusually low, resulting in heightened concern from purchasing executives around the world.

It is difficult to estimate the extent auto manufacturers will be affected, but following an official announcement from Japan that car production will be down 33 percent from its normal monthly production level of 750k cars per month to 500k it looks as though the 2010 market growth may be short lived.

Toyota Motor Co, the worlds largest auto manufacturer, said all 12 Japanese assembly plants would remain closed until at least 26th March and it was not sure when they would re-open. Production lost between 14-26 March would be about 140,000 units. Read more…

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