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Monday, July 12, 2010

Capacity limits?!

If you thought you'd heard it all, well ... is this a harbinger of more widespread problems? The Yomiuri Shimbun today (July 12) notes that Nissan is halting 4 assembly lines because it can't get shipments of its ECU (engine control unit) from Hitachi, whose Hitachi Automotive Systems subsidiary can't get shipments from the "fab" that actually makes the chip "because they are too busy." Automotive News adds that Hitachi ships the same ECU to two other unnamed makers, who will also face shortages and perforce must stop their assembly lines.
Now this may be a short-term, random incident. But the context (viz. the Yomiuri story) is booming demand for semiconductors in many sectors. At the moment the US auto market is anything but booming. However, suppliers face tremendous pressure to control costs and that means they will be very cautious about building up inventory and rehiring workers.
So maybe it's just as well that demand hasn't surged.
Mike Smitka