The global component shortage is not only extending order fulfillment and lead times, but also changing the way engineers design, according to the inaugural Avnet Insights survey on industry and market trends. A key finding indicates that design engineers are looking at new ways to get their products to market in the midst of chip shortages, resulting in new approaches to design.
According to a survey of 530 engineers in the Americas, EMEA, Asia, and Japan, 64% of respondents said their companies are designing more based on the availability of components rather than preference. The biggest impact has been on microprocessors as well as logic and programmable devices.
“When a needed part can’t be found, the first and best course of action is to find a drop-in replacement with the same functionality and better availability,” said Avnet.
But with constrained supply, engineers face challenges finding direct replacements. When design-in components are not available the survey finds that engineers use several strategies including redesigned boards (55%), pin-to-pin replacements with better specs (53%), and parts with less functionality and lower specs (35%), in addition to the drop-in replacements (49%). They also make firmware (35%) and software (25%) changes.
Avnet said these preferences vary regionally. For example, 73% of designers in the Americas are most likely to use drop-in replacements.
As the component shortage drags on, engineers were looking for redesign opportunities –‘is there a drop-in replacement’ or ‘do I have multiple suppliers on my approved vendor list,’” said Peggy Carrieres, Avnet’s vice president of sales enablement and supplier development.
There are some technologies that have a high capability of being able to drop-in and replace but other components like a microcontroller it’s very difficult to go from one supplier to another, she added. “That’s some heavy tweaking of the board.”
In some cases, switching to a different part is having an impact on design cycles, which can delay time to market and it also can add more work for engineers. For critical or strategic components these may require additional resources and time to conduct testing, approvals, and certifications, said Avnet. Not surprisingly, 40% of respondents report a major impact on design cycles, with 91% reporting at least a slight impact.
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