August 31, 2021

Not Just Another Automotive Industry Transformation

The U.S. automotive industry is a key economic indicator of health and market sustainability; its conjoined relationship with supplier industries creates a profound economic and political influence. Yet, despite these roots and associative dependency, the instability of the automotive sector is absolute. Margins trend below 5% in the best of times, and profitability by volume is low, despite huge revenues and large employment numbers

As history might suggest, cyclical transformation is imminent. To better understand what is to come, we first need to look back. Once we’ve done that, the insights provided below will be far more successful. 

A Look to the Past

Material shifts in the macro-economic conditions of the automotive industry and the markets by which they’re serviced are nothing new. Take, for example, the 2008 housing crisis. Credit markets froze, forcing a destructive bottleneck in U.S. auto sales. By 2009, the automotive sector was drowning in an $80B crisis—all while continuing to suffer from overcapacity and market saturation. This financial disaster, along with years of poor fiscal discipline, a general lack of innovation, and the worst corporate performance in American history, created risk across the automotive industries. It was only with a 3.5% government contribution to the total U.S. gross domestic production (GDP) that the market could survive.  

The stimulus saved jobs, created new operating standards, encouraged new financial practices, helped to define employment terms, and facilitated energy efficiency standards across the boards. The apparent lasting effect of this exchange for cash was innovation, including electric vehicles (EVs), lower fuel consumption, and smaller vehicles. 

One such company that would benefit from this industry impasse was Tesla, which was close to shuttering the operation amid the 2009 auto crisis. Conveniently enough, the incoming U.S. president was keen on both a green energy economy and executing the auto bailout. These two circumstances collided, and in 2010, Tesla took a $465M federal loan to design and mass-produce electric vehicles (EVs).

Moving Forward

Fast forward a decade, this global proliferation of EVs has transformed the auto sector while creating growth in new supplier subcommunities—such as semiconductors. Conventional vehicles require an average value of $350 of semiconductor materials, whereas hybrid and fully electric vehicles will contain significantly more—between $1000 and $3500. While a modest percentage of total cost, these auto semiconductors come in a wide variety of specialized use cases (e.g., autonomous driver tech, sophisticated entertainment centers, and simple technologies for windows and seat movement).

A New Set of Roadblocks

Demand for chips dramatically increased in the automotive industry between 2010 and 2019. However, when Covid-19 ravaged the globe in 2020, auto manufacturers expected slow sales and scaled back in their demand. As a result, chip manufacturers naturally scaled back production of “mature” chips and pivoted to producing more technologically advanced “emerging” chips to support the rise of 5G and its associated electronic devices. As the automotive sector recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, they saw a returned increase in demand. Unfortunately, manufacturers’ switch to more progressive chips meant that the automotive industry would now face significant shortages when they needed materials most.   

With mobility constraints caused by the pandemic, the global chip shortage persists. This is all in the face of accelerated demand for EVs, conventional auto, and all forms of personal computing and electronic devices. It’s important to emphasize that the impact on auto manufacturers is disproportionately high. Considering that lead times for chips have continuously increased over the last few quarters, producers must prioritize consumption by sector and revenue. Auto is low margin and low volume for semiconductor sales—less than 10% of a $542B market. 

Where We Are We Now

Disruption of the auto industry in 2021 is real and palpable—with no sign of relief or improvement coming anytime soon. While some companies, such as Toyota, appear more resilient to chip shortages and other forms of market volatility, twenty manufacturing plants across North America and Europe have been shuttered and/or sit idle. Overall and globally, four million fewer vehicles will be produced this year than initially projected, and direct manufacturing companies stand to lose $110B in sales.

What to Expect Next

In the months to come, we should expect government bodies to inject stimulus funds, chip production to increase, and new fabrication plants to be constructed. These actions will mitigate the next crisis, but it will not alleviate this one, as it requires up to $20B in capital and five years to construct a new semiconductor foundry. 

For those looking to maintain a competitive advantage while they weather the storm, investing in cognitive supply platforms that harmonize your view of enterprise information is key. Having the insights needed to both anticipate and quickly react to market shifts ensures enterprises have the opportunity to gather the right supply and ensure revenue attainment.

The LevaData Platform offers much-needed visibility into potential obstacles and risks by leveraging relevant external insights across multiple tiers of your supply chain. Learn more about LevaData’s revolutionary, AI-driven platform and what it will do to help your organization mitigate supply chain risks like those happening in the auto industry today.

Post by: Scott Morgan

August 3, 2021

Semiconductor Lead Time Updates: What You Need to Know Moving Into Q3

Several weeks ago, we offered some key insights into how the recent semiconductor shortage was impacting lead times for supply chains across the boards. The good news is that we’re now equipped with additional information to provide updated predictions. The bad news, unfortunately, is that the lead times haven’t gotten any better. In fact, they’ve gotten worse. Here’s everything you need to know to try and maintain a competitive advantage.

Semiconductor Lead Time Updates

The Updates

In the last seven months, since the beginning of Q1 and as we enter into Q3, the average lead times for some of the semiconductors we’ve been tracking have roughly doubled.

As a result, some semiconductor suppliers are now asking customers for 18-month non-cancelable / non-returnable purchase orders to assure supply. These requests, while unprecedented, are connected to the race for assuring long-term semiconductor availability. Various news reports confirm this fact, stating that semiconductor companies are locking in foundry capacity with longer term commitments than ever before to ensure they get their "fair share" of future supply. In one example, Digitimes reported, “UMC has plans to invest vast sums to expand a 12-inch fab site in southern Taiwan, and eight of the foundry's major clients have already reserved parts of the additional capacity for a six-year period.

As we already know, the lead-time increases were driven by a number of exogenous factors, exacerbated or even driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. And with further unplanned shutdowns in various regions likely to continue impacting supply, reversals of these lead-time increases are unlikely anytime soon. And with recent news reports stating that Apple is increasing their production of the iPhone by up to 20% from the prior year, we can expect further strain on the current IC supply through the remainder of 2021.

Maintaining a Competitive Advantage

As we’ve previously mentioned, there are two key requirements you need to satisfy to stay ahead of the game and protect your supply chain. The first is accessing and utilizing reliable, up-to-date analytics on lead time averages and insights. The second is investing in a reputable, always-on risk navigation platform. LevaData’s Supply Risk Navigator software does just that, offering companies the visibility and recommendations needed to safeguard their supply chains and maintain agility. Connect with us today to learn more about our revolutionary, AI-driven platform and what we can do to help you manage these risks and more.

June 22, 2021

Dirty Data – A Stop on the Journey, Not the Destination

It’s no secret how important it is for organizations to have access to accurate, up-to-date data. Analytics play a crucial role in all aspects of sourcing and procurement management—especially risk mitigation, new product introduction, and cost optimization. Unfortunately, inconsistent, incomplete, or inaccurate data—otherwise known as dirty data—can mar all these efforts entirely. 

The solution? Data cleansing via artificial intelligence. This tried-and-true practice allows organizations to weed out the vulnerabilities in their data sets to ensure more accurate insights.

It’s fair to say that this process is a must-have component for any supply chain to not just survive, but also thrive. But is data cleansing the destination? Or is it simply one part of a more involved journey all organizations need to take to ensure true success and risk avoidance?

The answer might surprise you.

Why Is Dirty Data Such an Issue?

Simply put, when you rely on data that hasn’t been through a rigorous, competent cleansing process, your organization becomes vulnerable. These data sets are often then laden with inaccuracies and outdated figures. The so-called “dirtiness” of it all may be the result of any number of complications. Sometimes, it’s as simple as human error. Other times, it’s due to contract manufacturers making concerted efforts to disguise their data and muddle the market comparison process. Most of the time, though, data is “dirty” simply because it originates from various back-end systems that, by default, don’t allow for cross-platform comparisons. 

In any case, when you base your sourcing, procurement, and spend strategies on dirty data, you’re far more likely to make improperly informed, ineffective decisions. And while it’s difficult to know just how severe the results of these decisions may be, one thing is certain: they’re almost always costly. According to a 2018 study from Gartner, organizations, on average, lose $15 million each year due to dirty data. A separate study conducted by IBM also discovered that in the United States alone, businesses spent $3.1 trillion each year rectifying issues caused by poor-quality data. And with the market as competitive as it is, more organizations simply don’t have that kind of money to lose; especially on problems that could otherwise be avoided. 

Where Does AI Come In?

As previously mentioned, data cleansing is an effective solution to this issue. The problem with utilizing this method, though, has been that although the idea is simple, the execution is often far from it.

Manually cleaning data is a complex and time-consuming process; it’s also incredibly expensive. And, unfortunately, traditional means of data cleansing have proven to be ineffective, with the accuracy of the results difficult to gauge. While the resulting insights are typically far less egregious than those provided by data that hasn’t been cleaned at all, it begs the question: if the process doesn’t guarantee reliable results, what is the point of all that time, effort, and money being spent? 

AI technology sidesteps all of these problems. Once the system is introduced to your organization’s existing data sets, it uses a combination of supervised and unsupervised learning models, fuzzy search, web-crawlers, and robotic processes. It also conducts daily ingestions of millions of entities across several data dimensions.

The AI approach frees data from its silo, allowing organizations to move toward a comprehensive perspective of the entire supply chain network. This doesn’t just ensure more accurate results—it also shortens the insights-to-action process, cutting the time spent working toward reliable data sets from months to weeks or even days.

Why Stop There?

It’s easy to see the value in accessing clean, accurate data, as well as the value of an AI-driven solution. However, it’s important to note that these artifacts won’t make any difference if they don’t provide a more holistic view of the competitive market—and if you don’t know what to do with them.

For this reason, LevaData encourages organizations to view data cleansing as one stop on a more involved journey toward true supply chain management success, rather than the destination. 

Once a third-party solution has cleaned your data and turned over the improved sets, the rest is on you. At this point, your organization will be responsible for harmonizing and cross-referencing this information against the market to (hopefully) garner a more accurate representation of where your opportunities, risks, successes, and failures lie.

Then there’s the matter of knowing what to do with this data. Interpreting this information and turning it into an actionable plan is a complex task, and there’s no way of knowing that your organization’s conclusions will render the best results.

Unfortunately, third-party solutions that focus solely on cleaning dirty data tend to render a disjointed path. To mitigate the complexities of this siloed approach, it’s ideal to invest in a solution that carries you through all the way to the end.

Rely on LevaData to Get You There

With the LevaData platform, you can rest assured you’ll not only receive clean, harmonized data; you’ll also be given prescriptive, predictive insights and a clear call to action. Our technology handles the entire journey to streamline the spend analysis process for supply chain managers and ensure complete oversight and management of the data handling process. As a result, your organization will mitigate the risks otherwise brought on by misinterpreting data or missing out on opportunities provided through a holistic market comparison.

To discover what LevaData’s platform can do to strengthen and streamline your journey toward complete supply management, contact us today

June 17, 2021

Actionize Your Insights With Supply Risk Navigator™

It’s no secret that today’s climate is unpredictable, ever-changing, and, at times, volatile. With so much upheaval and uncertainty, it’s crucial to know the supply chain risks you’re up against. The problem is, too many organizations stop there. To truly ensure both short- and long-term success, you need to go a step further. Or rather, three steps further: 

  1. Analyze and understand how these risks impact your portfolio.
  2. Transform these insights into a plan of attack.
  3. Act on your findings with confidence.

Unfortunately, most organizations get stuck on step one. Accessing data is one thing; knowing how to analyze and transform that information into a step-by-step, prescriptive process is another. 

What’s the Best Way to Navigate Supply Chain Risks?

To rectify this issue, LevaData built Supply Risk Navigator, a revolutionary solution found within the LevaData platform that transforms the way enterprises identify, assess, and act on risks and obstacles. This AI-powered technology goes above and beyond to generate clear, predictive insights with prescriptive engagements designed to help foster speedy, determined, misstep-free plans. 

LevaData’s tailored analyses comprise facts and figures from numerous data sources, many of which are collected from our one-of-a-kind community of buyers and sellers. The system utilizes AI-driven algorithms to dissect marketplace activity and identify changes in demand, lead time, and other parameters. 

From building scenarios with contract manufacturers to acting with existing supply chain partners based on contextual data, LevaData’s Supply Risk Navigator solution provides the support and confidence needed to ax analysis paralysis and handle today’s challenges – and tomorrow’s, too. 

How Supply Risk Navigator Differs From Other Risk Systems

The prime differentiator in LevaData’s Supply Risk Navigator solution is the multivariable risk view. This approach allows organizations to see projections for future risks and take the necessary steps to mitigate these obstacles. Beyond that, the insights teach users how to turn risks into advantages with lowered costs, minimized impacts to lead time, and being the “customer of choice” to suppliers by being the first to act with them on a strategy.

LevaData’s Integrated Cost Risk solution also ensures complete efficiency and data accuracy. This powerful solution interprets potential risk and event impacts on business’ parts, portfolios, and sales while consolidating multiple sources of non-harmonized data to provide a complete, holistic overview of all pertinent information.

How LevaData Ensures Top-Quality Data

Supply Risk Navigator accelerates the data ingestion process by allowing organizations to leverage numerous interfaces, including flat files, SFTPs, and APIs. Throughout that ingestion process, LevaData works with organizations and platform users to determine set business rules and data profiles that match your operation. From there, LevaData uses a series of AI and ML algorithms to normalize, harmonize, and anonymize your data, so it’s clean and ready to be actionized. 

Demystify Your Data With Supply Risk Navigator

No organization is immune to risks or obstacles. But with the right solutions, you can maintain a competitive advantage when problems do arise; with predictive insights and reliable recommendations, your organization can remain agile and ahead of the curve. With Supply Risk Navigator, you’ll have everything needed to review, analyze, and act on the most comprehensive data and maintain complete supply chain resilience. 

Discover what LevaData’s revolutionary solutions can do to help you mitigate risks by scheduling a demo today

June 10, 2021

Unpacking Wafer Price Increases From Leading Foundries

Recently, the industry’s largest pure-play foundries have been announcing wafer price increases for all their major production nodes. This represents a shift from previous pricing practices, and the resulting impact on fabless semi companies is in turn, driving them to pass those increases on to their customers. Organizations ought to heed these current and future changes to identify the results on their supply chains.

The Plays From the Leaders

TSMC announced several months ago a record $100B investment over the next three years to expand wafer capacity. UMC, Samsung, and Global are making the same play, albeit less extensively. Further digging suggests that much of that TSMC capacity expansion will be geared toward their advanced nodes (7,5,4,3nm); this is also where most of the other foundries are investing. A number of the foundries are also asking key customers to help fund the expansion in return for commitments on future capacity.

Roughly $24 billion from TSMC's 2021 capital budget is set to be spent on expanding capacities for advanced technologies, including 3nm, 4nm/5nm, and 6nm/7nm. Analysts from China Renaissance Securities have predicted that the majority of these funds will be used to expand TSMC's N5 capacity; they estimate anywhere from 110,000 to 120,000 wafer starts per month (WSPM) by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, TSMC has announced that 10% of its CapEx will go to advanced packaging and masking; an additional 10% will be allocated toward specialty technologies.

All of this additional investment, as well as the simple supply/demand imbalance currently in the market, is leading Foundries across the board to raise their prices across almost all of the nodes. Digitimes recently reported another round of increases from UMC, Vanguard, etc. for Q3, with TSMC canceling any discounts.

What These Increases Mean for Your Supply Chain

Anecdotally, we’re seeing many semiconductor-design companies pass 15+% price increases to most organizations. Some of those increases are being added to MPN pricing; others are coming as "expedite" fees. A few customers have been able to leverage business awards with their EMS/ODM partners in order to mitigate the majority of those increases in Q2; however, almost all have very real, substantiated concerns about the impact of these increases on their Q3 costs. 

The most disconcerting factor, by far, is that some semiconductor suppliers seem to be coming back to their customers multiple times for wafer price increases; these actions seem to reflect a certain lack of control on their supply chain pricing/costs.

One way to protect any long-term damage to your organization’s cost optimization efforts is to establish an agreement with suppliers that outlines parameters around limiting any additional increases for the remainder of 2021. While it’s entirely possible the market could turn again and soften, most projections are that this will not occur until mid-2022 at the earliest. Being aware of this is crucial to enable price renegotiation when possible.

LevaData’s Integrated Supply Management Platform can provide even more insight into what your organization can do to stay ahead of competitive, unforeseen pricing changes.

May 14, 2021

Utilizing eBenchmark™ to Drive Supply Chain Cost Optimization

Recognizing and capitalizing on cost optimization opportunities is always important for organizations looking to safeguard their supply chains. But in today’s climate, with instability and market competitiveness at an all-time high, uncovering and locking in discounts from your sourcing spend is more than a nice-to-have – it’s crucial for long-term survival.

More often than not, the potential for overspending on investments is primarily due to a lack of insight, evidence, and, most importantly, actionable advice. LevaData understands that although cost optimization is a top priority for organizations, actualizing that goal isn’t always easy. That’s where eBenchmark comes in.

What Is eBenchmark™?

eBenchmark is a one-of-a-kind, transformative capability available through LevaData’s AI-driven Cost Optimizer platform. It uses “common sense calculation” to anonymize, identify, and present the lowest distributor prices available compared to the MPN prices set by suppliers. The result is a seamless model for comparison to see how competitive (if at all) your current pricing is.

eBenchmark also helps foster normalized percentage discounts, so you can easily compare all available price points to inform spending decisions. This, in turn, creates a contextual market attainability cost perspective upon which you can base your organization’s sourcing strategy. Furthermore, eBenchmark™ provides users with direct links to distributors with the best price and can inform customers of any available stock for parts that are becoming difficult to source.

How Does eBenchmark™ Benefit Your Business?

Negotiating with suppliers can be an arduous task. Researching market trends, validating the competitiveness of prices, negotiating discounts, and locking in rates takes time, energy, and manpower – all of which can stall the forward-moving momentum and scalability of your supply chain. Beyond that, there’s always the risk that the market data you use to inform your decisions isn’t providing an accurate, holistic scope of pricing trends and savings opportunities.

eBenchmark streamlines this process by providing the analytics and recommendations needed to inform spending decisions. By quickly informing customers when and where better pricing or more competitive discounts are available, organizations can fast-track cost optimization efforts.

Armed with accurate, relevant information, you can decide between renegotiating pricing with your suppliers or taking your business elsewhere. Regardless of which course is best for your organization, you’ll have peace of mind and confidence knowing you’re capitalizing on the best prices possible.

Streamline Your Path to Optimal Cost Optimization

With market conditions and trends constantly changing, understanding where your current rates stand compared to your peers can seem overwhelming. LevaData’s eBenchmark™ and Cost Optimizer platform take the complexity and stress out of discount discovery, so you can capitalize on savings opportunities and securely increase your profit margins.

Reach out today to discover how LevaData’s revolutionary, AI-powered solutions will help your organization achieve optimal cost optimization today.

April 30, 2021

Harnessing the Power of WillCost™ to Accelerate NPI

Traditionally, new product introduction teams have relied on a detailed, bottom-up “should-cost” analysis to generate an estimate for the specification, construction, composition, and manufacturing requirements for a new product design. These teams would then use this estimate as a target for negotiations with potential suppliers and contract manufacturers. While this is a valuable strategy, the savviest negotiators augment such estimates with a top-down, outside-in analysis and fresh insights about the market factors. This allows them to change the game altogether. 

LevaData’s New Product Accelerator (NPA) platform was designed with a simple goal in mind: help organizations identify and act on sourcing savings opportunities and risks to streamline and accelerate new product introduction. One effective way to do that is through LevaData’s WillCost™.

What is LevaData’s WillCost™?

WillCost™ is a powerful capability found within the New Product Accelerator platform. It collects and analyzes real-time data to determine what the market is actually paying for the same investments as your organization. The AI platform utilizes community-based analytics and third-party data to provide an in-depth evaluation into which opportunities are available–and worth pursuing. It also unveils what kinds of prices the community has managed to lock in for the future.

The Value of WillCost™

With the current market as volatile and competitive as it is, it’s getting more difficult for organizations to identify and act on savings opportunities from their direct material spend. New Product Accelerator alleviates this pain point by constantly searching for savings and risk mitigation opportunities through AI and predictive tools. 

This machine-learning technology provides organizations with two key value points. First, it mitigates countless workforce hours lost searching for valuable data to inform spending decisions by providing all the crucial insights in one cohesive, easy-to-navigate platform. Second, by leveraging actual market data to garner accurate cost indications, your organization will have the confidence–and evidence–to renegotiate your spending with suppliers and unlock better prices successfully.

Capitalize on Accelerated NPI Now

For far too long, organizations have struggled to optimize the balance between cost savings and risk mitigation. In reality, though, achieving this balance is far less complex than you might have believed. With LevaData’s New Product Accelerator platform and WillCost™ capability, you’ll quickly and efficiently move toward complete spend transformations with the confidence you’ll achieve accurate, honest, and fair results.

Find out more about how LevaData’s AI-powered, community-driven technology can help you uncover and act on saving opportunities to accelerate your NPI processes by scheduling a demo now

April 21, 2021

How the Semiconductor Shortage Increases Lead Time & Generates Supply Chain Risks

Since the beginning of 2021, the discrepancy between the increasing demand for semiconductors and the lack of available supply has become a worldwide news event. In fact, semiconductor shortages have been reported across almost all major IC groups. While the most obvious impact has been within the automotive industry (the lack of critical semiconductors led to shutdowns of auto factories for all the major manufacturers), the shortage has undoubtedly generated supply chain risks across the board.

The Cause Behind the Shortage

Numerous factors played a role in straining the semiconductor ecosystem, all the way from foundry to backend OSAT capacity. Some of the most notable include:

  • Increase in consumer purchases of digital devices during the COVID shutdown to enhance connection and productivity
  • Accelerated build-outs of data centers
  • 5G handset and infrastructure investments
  • Exponential demand for cyber currency mining hardware

These factors all drove increased overall demand for a wide range of semiconductors, from microprocessors and power management ICs to memory controllers and various logic ICs. In addition, factory disruptions and US-China trade tensions exacerbated an already tight supply situation.

What This Means for Your Organization

With this backdrop in mind, LevaData analyzed the changes in lead times for the main semiconductor groupings. From January to April of 2021, semiconductor IC lead times increased 75% on average. For some of the more in-demand components, those increases have been even more dramatic:

  • Programmable logic: 12 to 33 weeks (175% increase)
  • Microcontrollers: 16 to 44 weeks (175% increase)
  • Network interface ICs: 12 to 40 weeks (233% increase)
  • Serial IO controllers: 9.5 to 39 weeks (311% increase)
Semiconductor lead times

In some instances, customers saw their lead times increase to 52+ weeks. In such cases, any new order for components will take a year or more to deliver. Given that most companies struggle to forecast more than six months out, this creates significant supply chain risks, putting a massive strain on revenue visibility and attainment.

Although LevaData believes such actions on behalf of semiconductor companies are a slight overreaction to the current supply/demand frenzy, all indications point toward a tight supply over the next nine to 12 months – at least until Q2’22 – while the industry works to expand capacity [ Update: What You Need to Know Moving Into Q3 ].

However, there are also indications that many customers are building larger component inventories than they have previously maintained. This could lead to some semiconductor supply corrections due to double-ordering and overbooking. In the meantime, robust planning, supply risk assessments, proactive order management, and real-time insights regarding supply trends are essential for any procurement team to stay ahead of a very competitive game.

What Your Organization Can Do to Stay Ahead

Companies that invest in supply chain analytics and visibility platforms are better positioned to react to market shifts and predict future market movements. This enables them to gather the right supply at the right time to ensure revenue attainment.

LevaData’s Supply Risk Navigator platform provides visibility into potential risks and obstacles by using community-based analytics and real-time market data. By offering clear, prescriptive, and predictive insights, your organization will remain nimble, adaptable, and, most importantly, successful. Find out more about how LevaData’s revolutionary, AI-driven platform will help you mitigate supply chain risks and keep your operations moving forward today.

December 22, 2020

4 Steps to Assure Supply & Maintain Competitiveness in a Tightening Semiconductor Market

Based on our client insights as well as LevaData community trends, it is clear that the semiconductor market supply outlook has begun to reflect tightening inventories, with spot supply shortages and extended lead times impacting across industries.  Unplanned upsides and targeted price reductions are getting harder to obtain in this environment, as manufacturers are experiencing robust demand due to economic recovery from the initial dramatic COVID-19 slow down.

Reasons for the increased tightening in supply include the continued strong IT demand for work-from-home purchasing, 5G device and infrastructure expansion (including the latest news that Apple is driving for 30% production increases on iPhones in 2021 due to 5G demand), as well as demand shocks from Huawei advance buys due to US semiconductor purchase restrictions.  In addition, supply impacts from backend material shortages and reduced capacity investments, are contributing to an overall tight semiconductor market. 

It is difficult to predict how long this situation will last, especially given the renewed economic slowdowns that may come with additional COVID-19 outbreaks worldwide, but many industry observers are estimating the situation of tight supply lasting into Q3’21.

Given this situation, LevaData recommends the following actions for customers to assure supply as well as maintain price competitiveness:

  1. Ensure all EMS/ODM partners are driving full demand plus appropriate buffers to suppliers.  In certain cases, buy-aheads of key components to ensure inventory may be warranted.
  2. Price declines in Q4 were as expected, but Q1 is showing flat or even somewhat higher pricing. Lock pricing soon and consider pricing agreements for the first half of 2021.  
  3. Push back on manufacturer attempts to raise prices, using LevaData Target pricing insights.  Wherever pricing is not "best-in-class" there is no real justification for higher prices.  We continue to see some targeted reductions being given in this environment, given the right leverage.  
  4. As always, stay in close contact with key suppliers, advising them of demand outlook and pressing them for priority in supply.  Don't forget the smaller suppliers as well, which may have less influence in the fab or backend supply chain - consider sending out an updated RFx to gather updated lead times to ensure purchasing is aligned to the longer cycles.  

Interestingly, the semiconductor industry has fared rather well during 2020 while many other industries have struggled, reflecting the importance of electronic content in distance communications, digital sales and online engagement, and even COVID-19 related mitigation systems, among other things.  Maintaining a vigilant approach for supply, while utilizing LevaData insights to guide negotiations and targets, will enable those companies that are investing in digital transformation to stay ahead of the curve in managing supply and price risks.


November 3, 2020

From Triage to Transformation… Building Resiliency with Agile Supply Chains

The bitter China–United States trade war might actually have helped organizations prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the world’s two largest economies decided to impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of one another's goods, corporations were pressed to consider alternative supply chain management constructs.

LevaData recently sat down (in a virtual, COVID-19-friendly manner) with a group of Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) from some of the worlds most renowned high-tech electronics and manufacturing companies. We wanted to understand how their respective organizations had managed to move from triage to transformation during the first phase of the pandemic, while building resiliency and agility for the future.

One fact is beyond doubt: COVID-19 disrupted supply chains like few crises have before. It exposed supply chain vulnerabilities of many organizations, especially those that operate or have business relationships in China and other impacted geographies.

Wuhan, the Chinese province where the COVID-19 outbreak is reported to have originated, is highly industrialized and plays an important role as a manufacturing hub for numerous Fortune 500 firms. Many of the organizations we spoke with were however already actively rethinking their supply chains long before the pandemic, especially those with a high dependence on China to fulfil their need for raw materials or finished products. While tariffs are often quoted as one of the main factors for such exit strategies, there are several other concerns as well, related to intellectual property and security, prompting organizations to reconsider China.

Keeping the lights on

A decades-long lean manufacturing effort focused on minimizing costs, reducing inventories, and driving up asset utilization had removed buffers and flexibility to absorb disruptions. When the pandemic hit, much of this needed to be unraveled, and quickly. The lack of visibility beyond the first tiers made their efforts unmistakably challenging as supply chain management teams started reacting to the disruptions caused by COVID-19. One of the first challenges was to gauge supply chain impacts and to find leverage without reliable forecasts, while everyone else was trying to lock in inventory. Beyond securing their own supply and business continuity, teams even found themselves helping to facilitate their suppliers’ transition to a work-from-home environment in order to maintain production. For those organizations who had already reduced their dependency on China, many had moved production to Malaysia. While the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan served as a precursor, the shutdown of Malaysia followed shortly. The counter measure became moving inventory out of these regions but also leveraged local manufacturing capacity to dual source.

As teams witnessed forecasted demand from traditional brick and mortar plummet, demand started to surge via on-line channels and agility became the sustenance to offset the lack of predictability. Initially the cost of airfreight could be passed on to the customer because of scarcity, but once the airlines started to close down, airfreight was no longer an option. The trade war had only caused financial implications affecting cost of goods, the main question for supply chain teams during the pandemic became what do you do when you can’t get it at all?

Never let a good crisis go to waste

In many ways, the pandemic exposed patterns and flaws in our supply chains which historically could be circumvented by securing alternative sources or expediting freight already in motion. For most organizations, the pandemic highlighted the importance of efficient supply chain management and it earned the supply chain function a seat at the leadership table. Attention was brought to cost of distance and the importance to compress time instead of just squeezing out inefficiencies. Leadership teams are consequently not just reconsidering their reliance on China or monolithic reliance on any geographical regions. It also accelerated inchoate transformation decisions to shorten supply chains and move some production closer to consumers in EU and US. Those with their own manufacturing capacity are moreover looking at increasing production redundancy between production locations to secure core products.

How to play the new game

Supply chains are in dire need of de-risking and will need to take a cluster-based transformation approach per key region focusing on network optimization. Most organizations are already busy reexamining their supply chain constructs, and many have created risk and resiliency think tanks identifying, and eradicating, points of failures. Without the ability to travel, people have generally become more productive and are subsequently coming up with more improvement initiatives. Some of the companies we spoke with, even pledged to leverage AR/VR technology moving forward to reduce time-consuming physical factory visits. Compared to most historic supply chain disruptions, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the manufacturing infrastructure remained intact while workers were being sent home. This highlighted the reliance on, and cost of, labor inside the supply chain and new strides will be taken towards optimization and automation.


About the Cognitive Supply Chain Management Executive Roundtable

Each quarter, LevaData hosts intimate roundtable discussions featuring a mix of thought leaders and Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) from global manufacturing organizations. Each roundtable is focused on a pressing issue that impacts the ability of these CSCOs to push their businesses forward and include discussions on where emerging technologies may be helpful in overcoming these challenges. To ensure these events generate candid discussions and opportunities to share experiences, they are not recorded, and the participants are largely anonymous. To continue this important conversation beyond this event however, we have captured highlights and key insights from our discussions above.

If you’re a CSCO that would like to join this community to share your experience and learn from your peers, we’d love to have you, reach out today.

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