Karlsruhe, 26/05/2021 – While initially it was car manufacturers that sounded the alarm as they were faced with production stoppages, more and more companies are now also feeling the effects of their dependency on a tiny component: microchips. These essential small parts are built into almost every electronic device – it was therefore foreseeable that chip bottlenecks would also affect the IT channel in some form.
Since the beginning of the year, a new set of problems emerged in the automotive industry, whose supply chains, battered by the coronavirus crisis, had only just begun to recover. The reason this time: bottlenecks in the supply of semiconductors, which are at the heart of all electronic systems. Semiconductor production is very inflexible due to long lead times, and changes in demand cannot be easily absorbed by manufacturers. The coronavirus crisis first caused a production slump in early 2020, then an upswing in the spring – thanks to home office and schooling, with particularly high demand for tablets and laptops as well as consumer electronics for leisure in the lockdown. Added to this recently was the growing interest of crypto miners, who are additionally fuelling the demand for chips by mining Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
However, the crisis is now spreading beyond the automotive industry to other sectors, and is not leaving the ICT industry unscathed. A recent survey by Welt am Sonntag shows: consumers in Germany may face rising prices and longer delivery times for electronic devices in the future, even in sectors such as telecommunications or consumer electronics. With IT giant Apple, even one of the chip industry’s biggest customers can currently not be resupplied sufficiently – the manufacturer therefore lacks semiconductors to build tablets and notebooks.
Examples from the B2B trading platform ITscope also show that the semiconductor crisis is already leaving its mark on the ICT industry. For example, stock levels of the popular Elements Desktop WDBWLG0100HBK from WD, a manufacturer specialising in hard drives and storage products, have been falling significantly since the beginning of May. However, the hard drive is still in demand, as can be seen from the increasing number of clicks on the product page, and the price is also rising: the Elements Desktop has repeatedly touched the €300 level, which is double the previous Wholesale Selling Price (WSP) in just a few weeks.
Price/stock level/status history and product click history for the WD Elements Desktop WDBWLG0100HBK (item no. WDBWLG0100HBK-EESN), January to May 2021
The availability of the Backup Plus Hub STEL8000200 from Seagate looks even more critical. Almost at the same time as the Elements Desktop, the stock level of this hard disk also fell significantly at the beginning of May. This also has a corresponding effect on the WSP, which rose from €120 to over €250.
Price/stock level/status history and product click history for the Seagate Backup Plus Hub STEL8000200 (item no. STEL8000200), January to May 2021
As an additional factor, the chip shortage seems to also be affecting the graphics card segment. The pandemic-related high interest in gaming, and the boom around cryptocurrencies, already caused a tense supply situation, and now the shortage of chips – which are of course also needed for graphics cards – is added to the mix. The GeForce GTX 1050 Ti D5 4G from Gigabyte, which has been listed since 2017, has had practically no price outliers for several years – until now. Back in January, the price already started rising slowly in combination with shrinking stock levels and is currently settling at around €300, which is more than twice as much as the average WSP in 2020 (approx. €120).
Price/stock level/status history and product click history for the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti D5 4G (item no. GV-N105TD5-4GD), June 2020 to May 2021
As digitalisation enters more and more areas of everyday life, a further increase in demand for chips is inevitable. According to the world’s largest manufacturer of microchips, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), the shortage of semiconductors, at least for the automotive industry, could ease somewhat in the coming quarter. However, more critical voices, for example from Intel, fear that the shortage will continue to affect many sectors for the next few years.