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Component shortages - Have you heard?

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Someone posted this message from a US lighting distributor on an electrical forum I take part in:

--- Quote ---Northeast Electrical Distributors Reports
a National Ballast Component Shortage

June 23, 2010

Please be advised that there is a nation-wide shortage of Electronic Ballasts due to a world-wide electronic component shortage including capacitors and integrated circuits. Up until now this shortage has affected mostly standard T5 output ballasts. However it has quickly spread to High Output T5 and T8 ballasts as well. Regardless of ballast factor or starting features (programmed rapid start, instant start, etc) these ballasts are now all experiencing the same shortage. We have been told that it will spread further into HID and compact fluorescent ballasts as well as LED drivers and lighting control products.

Be advised that this shortage is not limited to smaller vendors. All major vendors such as Acuity Brands, Sylvania, Cooper, Daybrite, and Lightolier are experiencing the same shortages. We have been warned that the ballast shortage is going to intensify over the next two months which is often times the busiest months of the year for our lighting fixture sales. This will cause significant delays in fixture delivery dates and will surely disrupt project scheduling and deadlines. We have already seen delays in some delivery dates as much as four weeks. As a result, we must anticipate continued delays and plan accordingly and we recommend that you pass this information on to your general contractors and clients.
It is critical that projects be released as early as possible. Fixtures can always be released with a "do not ship before" date so that orders can still be sent to the factories ahead of time for proper planning. Jobs that have quick occupancy and fast turn over deadlines will be the most difficult to complete. Using alternate packages or taking fixtures from your distributors inventory of stocked fixtures can help combat some of those quick deadlines. Still, there may be times when your distributor will not be able to provide specific fixtures on time and delays will be inevitable.

Thank you to Northeast Electrical Distributors for reporting this problem to the MECA Office so we can keep our members up-to-date with the most current information. If you have any questions or concerns about this issue please contact Northeast Electrical Distributors or your local distributor directly. Thank you.
--- End quote ---

Another user found this article:

Are any of you feeling the crunch yet? I know that it will get ugly if we can't replace things like electronic ballasts here in the US.

There are major leadtime issues on a lot of components at the moment - my subcontractor was just quoted 52 week leadtime on an Omron relay, luckily this was for another customer!
I very nearly got caught on a part for a product I  just built, which went from plenty of stock at 2 distis to nothing over a weekend. Fortunately I had an alternative, but I know many people are having problems. This is exacerbated by people over-ordering & panic buying.
This is caused by manufacturers cutting back on production capacity and stock during the recession years and then getting caught out when things pick up. 
Another factor is manufacturers concentrating produciton capacity to parts for large customers - If Apple ask you for a gazillion capacitors, the smaller customers aren't going to get a look-in.
Even a few PICs are getting hard to find, and that pretty much never happens!

Ouch, this will drive up prices on everything electronic.  So buy the overstock gear now folks.

The delay in shipping from China could also be an issue. I think people haven't been keeping a large enough stock of electronic items during the recession. Anyway this is good news as it's sign of the recovery. I hope our government haven't messed it up by cutting spending too soon.

I'm definitely feeling the crunch, both at work and for hobby projects. Some parts for my project went from good stock (thousands) to nothing on digikey in the week between selecting parts and placing the order. If anything good comes out of this, it's that the shortage does point out any single source or rare parts you're using, if you can't find an alternative it may be worth considering using a more common part. In particular there was a SOT-23 adjustable regulator that can go down to 0.7V which is unavailable anywhere else, or from anyone other than TI.

Counterfeit components are also becoming a big problem, companies are resorting to buying from less reputable brokers because they're the only ones who claim to have any stock. Some will remark parts to whatever the customer orders. Some counterfeit parts look genuine, some are done carelessly, like a STP12NM50 MOSFET I found at work, bearing the part number "P12NM50&". Obviously someone was careless while typing the the part number into the marking machine! Most, however, require electrical tests to determine that they're counterfeit.



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