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Opening up – implications for the electronics industry

29th July 2021
Joe Bush

After over a year of lockdown restrictions, the UK recently took another huge step forward in the journey out of the pandemic. Phil Simmonds, CEO at EC Electronics explains the likely impact on the electronics industry.

As the country adapts to a new way of life once more, we are likely to witness a significant shift in people and businesses’ behaviours. And with increased digitisation and demand for electronics across almost all sectors, the electronics industry stands to continue its upward trajectory after the past year’s events.

So, what does this return to a semblance of normality mean for electronics suppliers, manufacturers and their customers?

Back to (a new way of doing) business

Several factors have contributed to the growth in the electronics industry in recent years. Still, the pandemic has also highlighted challenges the sector will need to overcome to keep up with rising demand.

Like many others industries, electronics has seen significant disruptions to the global supply chain throughout the pandemic, with essential products like semiconductors in short supply. This has caused delays for some electronics suppliers, with reduced availability of anything from copper for cable assemblies to chips for printed circuit boards (PCBs). As a result, many OEM customers have experienced extended lead times and hiked up prices.

However, all being well, manufacturers will be better equipped to keep up with the heightened demand for sub-assemblies and components for electrical devices as transport routes continue to reopen and labour shortages subside. Many companies are also starting to diversify their supplier networks and digitise the process - making use of advances in technology to secure a more sustainable future supply chain and move away from the ‘just-in-time’ model that has proved so vulnerable over the past year.

How will electronics aid market recovery?

The transition into a post-lockdown world, and the changing habits and attitudes that come with it, will directly impact many markets, and the electronics industry will feel the knock-on effects of this.

In the transport sector, demand for electronics is likely to grow as we are allowed (and encouraged) to travel more freely. There are many different applications for electronics in the transport sector - from ‘smart’ motorway signs and electronics for metro and mainline trains. Reliability and safety are critical in this field, and these electronics help to display vital information, monitor transport routes and optimise performance. As demand picks up again, electronics will be essential for services in the transport industry to function efficiently, safely and reliably.

Equally, companies are adapting offices and co-working spaces to reflect their changing use, as more people opt to work from home at least some of the time. Going forward, automated building control systems will be essential for building and office managers as they spend less time on-site - allowing them to manage anything from utilities to security systems through the touch of a button (or even by voice).

And whilst many of us attempt to make the most of our reclaimed freedoms, the healthcare industry continues to bear the weight of a backlog of patient appointments (wait times are predicted to more than double over the coming months).

Fortunately, the healthcare sector is gradually integrating digital technology into various applications - from treatment delivery to digitising patient records - to streamline processes and alleviate some of the burdens on healthcare professionals. Automation and connected IoT devices, including sensors and wearable technology, will be particularly crucial as we head out of the pandemic, improving remote communication between doctors and patients as the industry works through the backlog.

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