The US Department of Commerce released the results from the Risks in the Semiconductor Supply Chain Request for Information (RFI) issued in Sept. 2021. Key findings from the report provided data-driven information about the depths of the semiconductor shortage.
The RFI showed that median inventory held by chips consumers (including automakers or medical device manufacturers, as examples) has fallen from 40 days in 2019 to less than 5 days in 2021. If a COVID outbreak, a natural disaster, or political instability disrupts a foreign semiconductor facility for even just a few weeks, it has the potential to shut down a manufacturing facility in the US.
Key findings from the Semiconductor RFI:
Demand for semiconductors is as much as 17% higher in 2021 than it was in 2019, and consumers aren’t seeing commensurate increases in the available supply.
The majority of semiconductor manufacturing facilities are operating at or above 90% utilization, meaning there is limited additional supply to bring online without building new facilities.
Semiconductor production utilization has been well above typical levels since the beginning of the semiconductor shortage. Source: Semiconductor Industry Association’s 2021 State of the US Semiconductor Industry Report, Dept. of Commerce.
Bottlenecks are most concentrated in specific semiconductor inputs and applications, including legacy logic chips (used in automobiles, medical devices, and other products), analog chips (used in power management, image sensors, and radio frequency), and optoelectronics chips (including for sensors and switches).
The main bottleneck that respondents identified is the need for additional fab capacity. Additional bottlenecks that respondents identified include a lack of raw material inputs for both semiconductors and the other components paired with semiconductors to assemble sub-parts for electric devices.
The RFI asked all parts of the semiconductor supply chain—producers, consumers, and intermediaries—to share information voluntarily about inventories, demand, and delivery dynamics. More than 150 responses from the world responded to the RFI.
The semiconductor supply chain remains fragile, and it is essential that Congress pass chips funding as soon as possible. With sky-rocketing demand and full utilization of existing manufacturing facilities, it’s clear the only solution to solve this crisis in the long-term is to rebuild our domestic manufacturing capabilities. President Biden has proposed $52 billion to revitalize our domestic semiconductor industry, and every day we wait on this funding is a day we fall further behind.—Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo