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Off-line vs In-System Programming

Off-line vs In-System Programming

Off-line vs In-System Programming

BPM Microsystems is exploring different ways to get devices programmed. According to the case study “What is the Best Way to Get Devices Programmed,” there are six main ways to program devices. This case study explores two of those six methods: In-system Programming (ISP) and Off-line programming.

Upfront, it is understood that BPM provides off-line automated and manual programming solutions and accessories. BPM used to provide an ISP solution: the 2800ISP. In many ways, the 2800ISP was a programming marvel that solved many of the problems traditionally associated with ISP because it allowed customers to program large memory devices in high-speed parallel mode, similar to in-socket programming.


Micron Pickit 3 is an example of a chip development kit that can be modified for a production environment

In-system programming (ISP) allows some devices to be programmed after it’s soldered on the PCB board. This allows firmware updates and small data uploads, integrating programming and final test into a single step. There are compelling reasons to program at the final test, such as when x-ray inspection (on certain types of devices) requires programming as the last step. Likewise, because of the attributes of PCM technology, any preprogrammed data to the device would be lost after reflow, therefore requiring in-system programming equipment. Occasionally, multiple devices reference each other and are programmed differently based on feedback between the devices on board; while rare, there isn’t another solution in that particular case.

In-system programming also allows for product “versioning” where the same circuit boards receive different software versions for different products or different functions. This can also be accomplished on off-line programming via API with inventory control. Lastly, there are fewer consumable materials involved with ISP (input such as trays or tapes, sockets, etc.).

How ISP works

FlashRunner 2.0 16-channel ISP programmer

Typically, In-system programming is accomplished by a variety of home-grown solutions, chip development kits adapted for production, and/or ISP-specific universal modules, such as the FlashRunner from SMH. They all share a fixture of some sort that connects the devices on-board to the programming interface. Typically a “bed of nails” fixture is used with pogo pins that come in contact with the board to enable the electro-mechanical interface. Fixtures are designed for long-life cycles, with the pins needing to be replaced periodically.

For specific use cases, ISP is the most effective method: short programming times, requiring flash or firmware updates at the end of the line, with no physical changes to the boards for several years.


In-circuit programming requires a test engineer to design, set up, and qualify the equipment. The initial set-ups can be fairly extensive (and expensive), usually requiring an outside consultant to design the fixture and to configure the controllers. Prior to production, there may be up to a week of in-house configuration to ensure all components are functioning correctly. Due to the complexity of a typical ISP setup, it may take more time to troubleshoot all the potential issues, such as signal integrity caused by longer cable lengths, power issues, and more. If time to market strategy is a potential issue, other options may need to be explored.

If changes to the board are required, a new fixture is required, which is priced according to the complexity and the number of pins required. As a rule of thumb, fixtures such as bed-of-nails start around $2,000 USD and average about $5,000.  This price does not include the engineering expertise to develop and qualify the solution.

Final Test


Programming complexity may cause the ISP beat rate to decrease to a point where it becomes a bottleneck. The trend in programming is more data; if the programming/test takes more than the other processes behind it, your line will outpace the final production rate. Product lifecycles also need to be factored in– ISP works best for standardized boards with years of life expectancy, and not so much for quicker-turn products, such as consumer electronics and automotive components.

Potential Roadblocks

What happens if the ISP programmer stops working? Your line goes down until it can be fixed. The same goes for bent/broken pogo pins, although they can usually be fixed fairly quickly. Development tools may lack log file information that comes with universal systems; log files can help to pinpoint what went wrong and what can be done to fix it. 

What happens if you get a red light at the final test? This indicates that one or more of the devices failed. Your choices are to scrap the board, or send it to manual rework (find the bad device(s), desolder, remove, insert a fresh device, solder, and send back to test for programming). If PCBs are panelized, the manufacturer needs a method to isolate and rework bad boards, including programming (which may require a separate fixture). With off-line, all programmed devices have been pre-tested. The only issue may be a bad solder, which can be fixed fairly easily.

ISP fixtures require special storage when not in use. They are delicate instruments that require special handling. Fixtures are not universal– if a tester is replaced, most likely you’ll need a new fixture.

Off-line Programming

A dime and a BGA device compared to a tiny CSP device

Off-line programming is a separate process where blank chips are programmed on high-speed robotic systems and placed into output media, usually tape. Off-line machines are best suited for medium to high volume as well as high mix (many different types of devices); they have more capacity and greater flexibility than ISP. They can change quickly to adapt to new projects and will not become obsolete when a project changes. For instance, BPM Microsystems Automated Programmers have almost no size or type limitation for devices; they can handle CSP devices as small as 0.5 x 1.0 mm, or QFP devices up to 35x35mm.


Socket Card

The flexibility comes from the socket adapters and the universal programming technology. Socket modules and socket cards are the electro-mechanical interfaces between the programmable semiconductor device and the programmer. The robust design is ideal for manufacturing and design environments where high signal integrity and reliable performance are critical. The sophisticated technology of BPM Microsystems’ active circuitry delivers the cleanest waveform signals to the device by eliminating noise, ground bounce, and overshoot, which allows for the most reliable vector testing available to ensure the highest quality and overall yield. 

Depending on the device, up to 4 sockets can be installed on each programming site. Therefore, it’s possible to program millions of devices per year (depending on the complexity of programming specifications and peripheral operations, such as laser marking). The same socket and algorithm used to create the first article are also used for production.


Off-line programming systems are scalable. As needs change, you can add sockets, sites, shifts, or even additional systems. BPM systems make adding additional shifts simple. Set-ups and operations do not require a highly experienced technician. BPM systems are designed to run three shifts with over 85% utilization rate. One off-line APS can support multiple SMT lines.

What makes BPM’s systems better? WhisperTeach™— BPM’s advanced patented Auto-Z teach technology eliminates the need for a highly-skilled operator to set critical Z-height for pick-and-place functions. WhisperTeach™ offers faster setup times and improved yields. WhisperTeach™ eliminates common Z-height errors such as miss picks, miss place, and socket continuity flaws.

BPM’s process software, BPWin, is the best in the industry and provides functionality, quality, and control from design to production. BPM’s engineering teams create new features every week. The user-friendly interface helps you set up, run and save your programming jobs with ease. Factory integration through the BPWin API streamlines production processes. BPWin offers serialization and secure programming for various requirements (and much more). Read more here.

High Mix

In-line programming systems, such as FlashRunner, are not made for high-mix programming. If the number of programmable devices exceeds the number of channels, you will need to upgrade or add additional test machines for the additional devices. BPM Automated systems can switch jobs in three to 10 minutes. That means BPM systems are producing while ISP systems are still being set up, which can take days. Over the course of a year, this can equal hundreds of additional hours of productivity, even in one-shift shops.

ISP solutions are dedicated to one project.  If you run multiple projects on an SMT line you have to have redundant ISP programmers that are on the shelf, at least part-time. Off-line allows you to maximize equipment utilization, supporting multiple SMT lines and multiple products in a single factory.

BPM’s 9th Gen Site technology supports over 40,000 devices, with new development adding to that number every month. BPM’s sites have up to 240 pin drivers with access to all of the pins. Development tools used in ISP are limited to a few devices in a particular semiconductor house’s family of devices. Universal ISP programmers are more “universal” but have much less than BPM’s solution. They do provide new development for unsupported devices but expect several weeks for development and qualification.

Small Footprint

Automated programming systems are surprisingly compact when you consider their capabilities. BPM’s latest system, the 3928, is 162 x 96cm (tape in/out takes up a little more room) and is capable of programming 28 devices simultaneously. It uses standard factory power; the only additional requirement is compressed air. Typically, the system can be installed on the same floor as the SMT line. Machines are installed and operational within five working days.

In Conclusion

In-system programming is a solution to consider for low to medium mix programming with very short programming times. If x-ray scanning of boards is used, depending on the device, ISP may be the only option. ISP lacks the flexibility available from off-line programming systems. With advances in complex programming, especially for automotive applications, ISP may be a good fit now, but will that still be true a year from now? For a growing number of companies and applications, off-line programming may be a future-proof investment that generates positive ROI in weeks, not years (see ROI article).

For more information about BPM’s Automated Programming Systems or to speak to one of our experts about your particular requirements, please call +1 (713) 263-3776 or toll-free in the US or Canada (855) SELL BPM.

BPM Revenue and Profitability Increase in 2020, Positions for Continued Growth

BPM Revenue and Profitability Increase in 2020, Positions for Continued Growth

In the year that will be forever remembered for a global pandemic and world-wide business shut-downs, BPM enjoyed a 300% year-over-year installation growth for automated programming systems.  “2020 was an exceptional year in many respects”, says William White, Founder, and CEO at BPM Microsystems. “I am really proud of the way our team delivers the solutions our customers need while operating under the constraints of the pandemic. Uncertainty in the first half of the year was followed by strength from multiple sectors. Ending the year with increasing revenue and profitability is a testament to the resilience of our customers and our team. Business cycles come and go, but we remain positive about the future, and are positioned to have a strong 2021.” BPM ended 2020 with an overall sales growth of 23% compared to 2019.

Automated Programmers Driving Installation Growth

BPM attributes much of the growth to two major product launches in late 2019. The 3901 Automated Programmer is touted as a low-cost, full-featured small footprint APS; it comes standard with 2-sites/8 sockets for under $90K in most markets. The 3928 Automated Programming System is rated at 1,432 Devices per hour with up to 28 sockets– 75% more capacity than the 3901. It is the only mid-sized automated programmer in the world that is fully-configurable with all peripherals, including automotive-level 3D Inspection


Both the 3901 and 3928 feature WhisperTeach, the patented, award-winning automated Z-Teach process that delivers faster set-ups, better accuracy, and repeatable high-quality programming, critical for modern devices. BPM’s nearest competitor does not offer auto Z-Teach in their comparable platform.

Manual Programmer Revenue Growth

BPM also experienced 269% year-over-year sales growth in Manual Programmer revenue. Penny Santhanam, Director of Customer Care, says, “It’s exciting to see the growth in our Manual Programmers. Our team built great relationships with several Defense suppliers and OEMs and won a majority of deals we quoted.” A major contributor to almost tripling manual programmer sales was the launch of the Silicon Sculptor 4, sold exclusively by Microsemi. The SS4 is based on BPM’s 9th Gen site technology, providing a boost in programming speeds while maintaining the critical quality of some of the world’s most valuable (and challenging) mission-critical programmable devices. BPM is Microsemi’s exclusive designer and manufacturer for the Silicon Sculptor series and has been for more than 20 years.

BPM’s proven 9th Generation Programming Technology delivers the fastest and most universal programming solution on the market. BPM’s global service and support network serve the demanding requirements of mission-critical installations across six continents.

The Software and Device Support teams are growing to meet increasing demands, with the Device Support team doubling in size from this time last year. Jon Bondurant, Chief Operations Officer, says, “We were cautiously optimistic in early 2020, but things really picked up when COVID-related projects started coming in– digital thermometers and other medical devices. By year-end, pent-up global demand is keeping us pretty busy.”

Read US Tech Article

BPM Microsystems started in 1985 out of a dorm room at Rice University. 36 years later, they have installed more fine-pitch programmers than all other companies worldwide combined. They design and manufacture all of their products in their ISO 9001 manufacturing facility in Houston, Texas. To find out how bringing device programming in-house improves quality, reduces time to market, and cuts cost, call +1 713.263.3776 or Toll-Free in the US or Canada at (855) SELL BPM.

Integrate your ERP to BPM Programmers with API

Integrate your ERP to BPM Programmers with API

Integrate your ERP to BPM Programmers with API

“If you can imagine it, we can make it happen”

James Cawkell, Director, The Adaptsys Group

ERP API Abstract

BPM Microsystems process software, BPWin, is arguably the best in the industry. But even relatively easy-to-use software has a learning curve. As a standalone unit, an automated programming system (APS) is disconnected from the manufacturer’s process workflow software. Most manufacturers have a Material Requirement Planning system (MRP), Manufacturing Execution System (MES) such as Intellect eQMS, or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) such as Oracle and SAP. Would you like to have your ERP “talking” with your APS? This whitepaper explores some real-world solutions implemented to give you an idea of what is possible when connecting your APS to your manufacturing system through an API (Application Programming Interface).

API Defined

An application programming interface, or API, according to Wikipedia, is a computing interface that defines interactions between multiple software or mixed hardware-software intermediaries. It defines the kinds of calls or requests that can be made, how to make them, the data formats that should be used, the conventions to follow, etc. It can also provide extension mechanisms so that users can extend existing functionality in various ways and to varying degrees. (See Wikipedia article here)

Production Programming Advantages

BPM programming equipment, with the activation of BPWin API, has the capability to interface with your enterprise software in a maintainable and standard interface. BPWin API allows users to solve simple to complex process problems during the programming cycle. Designed specifically for BPM Automated Programmers, the API automation object model gives you the ability to utilize any programming language for interface to BPWin software. BPWin API is a breakthrough in programming equipment connectivity, that digitizes the information being generated throughout your device programming operations, and makes it available where, when, and how you need it.

Control and Monitoring API

The BPM API includes two major modules: Control and Monitoring. Control API (CJobControl Object) allows the external programs to control JobMaster related functions in BPWin software

Configure the programming cycle with commands such as select the device, load the data pattern file, set device options, Start or stop the programming cycle, and more. Monitoring API (CJobMonitor Object) allows for programmer system status to be exported in real-time for monitoring through verification, auditing, and logging of data from within BPWin software.

Language-Independent API

BPM’s API works with any language that supports Component Object Model (COM): Labview, C++, C#, Java, JavaScript, VB6, VB.net, etc. COM is flexible with your developer’s skill sets, and shouldn’t require additional resources. Component Object Model interface technology is the basis for several other Microsoft frameworks, including OLE, ActiveX, COM+, DCOM, etc.

With a basic understanding of the BPM API, it’s possible for your internal development team to write the API; it’s also possible to outsource the project. BPM and their European partner, The Adaptsys Group, have extensive experience writing custom APIs. Competent third-party developers have also been successful in building APIs (this usually requires at least some interaction with BPM’s technical team and a thorough project specification).

Simple Monitoring Applications

It’s fairly straightforward to hook in real-time monitoring into your MES or ERP, to inform the job is completed, or that there is an issue that the technician needs to address. Moving raw goods inventory (blank programmable devices) into finished goods (programmed/tested devices) is also fairly easy. The API can also be set up to alert the supervisor or technician (via text message or email) upon completion of jobs, or to notify them when it’s time to switch out trays or reels.

Case Study: Automated Work Order

A large automotive contract manufacturer in Europe tasked the Adaptsys Group. (BPM’s Partner for Germany, France, Switzerland, UK, etc) with developing an API that functions as an automated work order to integrate their BPM Automated Programming Systems with their MRP system. It creates an electronic work order, operator checklist, and does finished goods allocation

The automated work order is written in OPC UA, a machine-to-machine communication protocol for industrial automation developed by the OPC Foundation. OPC UA is an open-source, java-based programming language that is focused on communicating with industrial equipment and systems for data collection and control (See Wikipedia article here). BPM’s API is agnostic when it comes to programming– as long as it interfaces with COM.

The interface is a simple web-based form. The data entry process is used to set up the initial data for a given programming job. The first field in the form called “Programmed Device Name” is entered and later cross-referenced in a second form as a unique name for the parts to be programmed. This programming name can then be used multiple times to program the same device type with the same program code yet still made unique by the use of the Job ID from BPWin. The remaining fields are used to set specific information related to the job, which is later called upon to create the Job Sheet. The job sheet would be used by a production operator, to scan barcodes to automate the setup of the BPM Microsystems device handler.

The next step is to create the Job Sheet for production use. Upon submit, the data is saved to the SQL database and pulls in the linked data to populate a PDF document, which is automatically downloaded. This PDF contains the required job data in the form of barcodes, which are used by the production operator to set up the system.

Setting up and running the automated programmers

This is an example of a manufacturing process flow to handle devices to be programmed, from the time they enter the production environment, until the time they are programmed and tested, finally to move to finished stock.

  1. Receive Job Sheet. The sheet contains required fields in a barcode format. 
  2. Barcode Job. This contains a link to the .abp file (BPM’s proprietary job file format which also contains the APS workflow instructions) stored on the customer’s server, to load the .bp file (specific to the job) and program file, set the device type, and device configuration stored within. 
  3. Barcode Pressure Plate. Scan the barcode for the correct Pressure Plate for the sockets. 
  4. Barcode Parts. Scan the received parts to ensure they match the job. 
  5. Barcode Quantity. Scan the correct batch quantity that is to be programmed. 
  6. Verify Setup. The final screen before programming, the Verify Screen ensures everything is set up correctly: Verify the socket modules, check devices, and pressure plates match those specified; check the quantity is correct. On-screen field highlighting of failed fields is used to assist. 
  7. Start Programming. When the verification passes, the job can start.

This electronic “checklist” virtually eliminates mistakes. If an incorrect barcode is received, the system returns an error message that allows the error to be quickly corrected. 

Post programming data and product handling

Upon completion of the job, the job summary log is saved to the electronic work order for review. It then automatically prints a sheet of labels with barcodes with the following information: Custom device reference, Device quantity on the reel or tray,  Label number, job completed date, Input media ID, and Output reel ID. A specific barcode is generated so that the socket modules and pressure plates are moved from a production status to hold. Finally, the customer’s database is updated to indicate the correct quantity of finished devices are verified or scrapped and allocated to appropriate stock locations.

Inventory Management

Inventory ManagementBPWin API can also be used to create custom inventory management. Whether for IoT (internet of things), Industry 4.0, or advanced traceability standards, each device can carry a unique serial number, which can contain more information than is possible with laser or inkjet marking. In addition, advanced security protocols for data encryption can be used as well.

In Conclusion

This paper is not intended to explain how to set up your API; the goal is to give you a taste of what is possible. If you are new to device programming, you may be interested in a work order set-up, or at the very least, notifications and feedback. If you’ve been utilizing device programming, you may have identified some functionality that you wish existed, or perhaps a process that is overly repetitive or requires employee interaction. Once you’ve identified the process, BPM can assist you in developing an API, or provide your developers with the framework to write it yourself.


Learn How BPM Microsystem Delivers You Maximum ROI

Why There is a Global Programmable Device Shortage

Why There is a Global Programmable Device Shortage

Part III

Why There is a Global Programmable Device Shortage

Top Reasons for Global Chip Shortages– Whose Fault is it Really?



Causes for the Programmable Device Shortage

  • There’s never been a greater disruption for Automotive Manufacturers, except for the two World Wars
  • Covid-19 restrictions are the major cause of global supply chain shortages, especially for programmable chips
  • Other factors include:

• Just in time inventory management
• Redundancy gap for critical parts
• Increased demand from consumer electronics verticles, such as laptops and gaming systems
• Because programmable devices require value-added services, which include programming, it can take longer for finished components

There’s never been anything close to the disruption to the Automotive industry (World Wars excluded), but there have been regional shortages in the recent past. A tsunami off the coast of Japan flooded Renesas Electronics in March of 2011– the same tsunami that caused the nuclear power plant in Fukushima to fail. While the world was focused on Fukushima, the auto industry in Japan was focused on Renesas, a major programmable device supplier of everything from transmissions to touchscreen information systems. The big three Japanese automakers, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda, were forced to slow or stop output for several weeks.

Fast forward to March of 2020– just nine years later, the entire planet was shutting down over the coronavirus pandemic (see article) which disrupted the delicate global supply chain, causing a programmable device shortage. Semiconductor manufacturers were caught in the crosshairs of canceled orders and business restrictions. Automakers closed factories as demand plummeted. Consumers were on lock-down for weeks, and in some cases, months.

By late summer, demand for trucks and SUVs surged, in large part due to pent-up demand, but also as people shifted away from mass transit for health reasons. However, demand was even higher for laptops and advanced gaming systems for the newly work-from-home employees and others cooped up looking for something fun (and safe) to do.

Who’s to Blame

If you want to pick the number one cause, COVID-19 wins in a landslide. When the new coronavirus started to spread, there was no way to know how bad it was going to be, so governments and businesses took a very conservative approach; many areas experimented with lockdowns and social distancing in an attempt to stop the spread. As scientists and doctors began to understand the disease better, we began to develop ways to deal with this “new reality.” But the disruption was devastating in every way imaginable: many people lost their jobs, many businesses closed, and those that didn’t have to figure out how to keep going under serious constraints.

COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Because it is a new virus, scientists are learning more each day. Although most people who have COVID-19 have mild symptoms, COVID-19 can also cause severe illness and even death. Some groups, including older adults and people who have certain underlying medical conditions, are at increased risk of severe illness. On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, “CO” stands for corona, “VI” for virus, and ”D” for disease. (from CDC.gov)

When everything “closed” in March/April 2020, many automakers canceled orders for parts and components that automotive OEMs provide; this caused a cascade of cancellations that eventually made it back to the semiconductor manufacturers. While orders for automotive chips were cool, the demand for laptops, game consoles, and other consumer electronics became white-hot. Semiconductor manufacturers shifted production to high-demand inventory, and in many cases were at capacity.


Just-in-time inventory management is also a major cause of the worldwide dilemma. Automobiles are a low-margin business, so shaving costs with lean manufacturing makes sense. However, when demand rebounded and inventory of programmed devices fell behind, they were quick to point fingers at their vendors who supply finished components for their lines. The chipmakers and vendors blame the automotive industry for canceling orders, keeping their inventory low, and not preparing in advance for when things rebound, contributing to the programmable chip shortage.

Redundancy Gap

Lack of redundancy is another culprit. For instance, 56% of global chip manufacturing revenue originate from one company: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). TSMC supplies the suppliers. Similarly, new and intricate microcontrollers often have their own issues– complex chip designs are often from a sole source, and it takes years to qualify a second supplier. (Source: Bloomberg)

Squeaky Wheel

As large as the global automotive industry is, they are relatively small in comparison to consumer electronics megacorporations, such as Apple, Sony, and Samsung. Consumer electronics typically are a higher margin than automotive devices, and the electronics giants are willing to pay a little more to ensure on-time delivery.

Cost of Capacity

Semiconductor manufacturers are running at capacity to try to meet demand. Similarly, many have plans to expand fabrication capacity in 2021, but won’t impact supply for years, at a cost of billions. (See Semiconductor Factory list)

Value-add Adds Time

Finished components, such as transmissions, engines, entertainment systems, etc. are usually built by contract manufacturers, such as Continental and Bosch. A shortage of chips causes a cascade of issues. Unlike a simple transistor, before many microprocessors can be soldered to the board, they go through programming and testing. Depending on the complexity of the data and/or the volume, programming times can be quite long.

Automated programming systems use advanced robotics to pick, place, program, test, and finally load to trays or tape. If additional processes are needed, such as laser marking for lot and piece numbers, or 3D inspection for bent pins, this can add to the time required. Once programming is completed, the chip can be soldered to the board (which usually will undergo further testing). In conclusion, finished boards can be added to the final assembly, tested, packaged, and shipped to the end-customer. (Read more on offline in-house programming)

Who’s to blame?

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Hopefully, lessons can be learned, and adjustments can be made. Eventually, automakers may be faced with the dilemma of whether to continue playing “chicken” with vendors as their finished product inventories dwindle. One thing for sure: the complexity and reliance on programmed devices will only keep growing, especially as Electric Vehicles (EV) and Autonomous Driving Systems become more prevalent.


Learn more about BPM Microsystem’s Automated Programming Systems Deliver ROI


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Programmable Device Shortage Spreads to Consumer Electronics

Programmable Device Shortage Spreads to Consumer Electronics

Part II

Programmable Device Shortage Spreads to Consumer Electronics

No shutdowns reported in consumer electronics plants; Chip Shortage Demand driving up prices and lead-times



  • Shortages are causing ripple effects in other electronics products, such as NextGen Gaming Systems, Laptop Computers, Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence systems, and Smart Phones.
  • There have been no reports of plants or lines shutting down because of the chip shortage.
  • Many Semi houses are investing in capital equipment in an attempt to meet the demand
  • Complicating the supply chain issue, programmable devices can’t be used without value-added services: programming, inspection, soldering, and test
  • In a break from “just-in-time” inventory, executives are contemplating higher-than-normal stock, as chips don’t take up much space compared to other components
  • Chinese New Year celebrations could cause some short-term logistical headaches starting this week

Programmable device shortages are causing many automakers to reduce forecasts, or in some cases, to close plants. For instance, shortages are causing ripple effects in other electronics industries, such as NextGen Gaming Systems, Laptop Computers, Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence systems, and Smart Phones. The good news is that, as of now, there have been no reports of plants or lines shutting down because of the chip shortage.

Circuit boards traveling down the SMT line at BPM Microsystems manufacturing facility in Houston Texas.

Semiconductor shortages are expected to last for the foreseeable future; many Semi houses are investing in capital equipment in an attempt to meet the demand. TSMC in Taiwan plans to increase CapX by 54% in 2021, with additional plans for new factories in the US (source). 

Supply Chain Issues

Rising demand is causing price pressure on raw materials used in semiconductor manufacturing. In addition, there are only a handful of advanced foundries capable of producing advanced chips required for video processing, advanced gaming systems, computing, and 5G phones.

For instance, programmable devices can’t be used without value-added services: programming, inspection, soldering, and test. Therefore, without uploading the code to the device for a specific application, a chip is just a small, fairly expensive, and not very useful paperweight.

See “Six Ways to Program Devices” article here 

Auto Production Update

Automotive and industrial equipment manufacturers will continue to experience programmable device shortages at least through mid-2021. Microchip, NXP Semiconductors, and Silicon Labs are among suppliers that have raised prices, in addition to warning of shortages throughout this year.

As of the first week in February, General Motors is the latest automaker to report they’re “trimming output” in four factories (source). Thus far, Volkswagen has been among the hardest hit; VW is considering purchasing critical chips directly from manufacturers for the first time (source). In a break from “just-in-time” inventory, executives are contemplating higher-than-normal stock, as chips don’t take up much space compared to other components.

See article “Programmable Device Shortage causes Auto Makers to Cut Output, Idle Plants”

Other Headaches

Chinese New Year celebrations could cause some short-term logistical headaches starting this week. All offices and factories close for about 3 weeks, allowing workers time to travel home and back. Therefore, if you were counting on ordering/receiving inventory from warehouses in China next week, you’ll have to wait.

For more information on Chinese New Year and some tips on planning ahead, please visit https://www.ewmfg.com/chinese-new-year/

Jon Bondurant is the Chief Operating Officer of BPM Microsystems. He says, “We keep a minimum of six months inventory of critical  electronic components of our programmers and accessories.” In addition, when quantities fall below thresholds, they show up on weekly reports. In conclusion, this helps to ensure that BPM won’t get caught up in supply chain issues, or has some time to find an alternative source.


Learn more about BPM Microsystem’s Automated Programming Systems Deliver ROI


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