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Programmable Device Shortage causes Auto Makers to Cut Output, Idle Plants

Programmable Device Shortage causes Auto Makers to Cut Output, Idle Plants

Part I

Programmable Device Shortage causes Auto Makers to Cut Output, Idle Plants

Canceled orders and lack of a backup plan leads to $61 Billion in losses so far in global programmable device shortage



  • Affecting Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Volkswagen AG, Toyota, Nissan
  • Supply chain disruptions started with canceled orders for chips when automakers closed plants due to Covid
  • Over 100 different chips used in an average car, helping to control everything from infotainment systems to anti-lock brakes
  • Semiconductor manufacturers shifted inventories to consumer products in high demand during the automotive lull, such as gaming systems and laptop computers
  • 280,000 fewer vehicles produced than forecast and may balloon to over 500K (AutoForecast)
  • Other verticals are beginning to be affected: Smart Phones, Laptops

It’s being called “Chipageddon” as Automotive Plants around the world deal with programmable device shortages due to Covid-related shutdowns in the spring of 2020. Now automakers around the world are idling lines as they scramble for critical components to meet the market demand.

  • San Antonio, Texas Toyota plant is only able to produce 60% of demand for the full-sized Tundra Pickup
  • Louisville, Kentucky Ford plant is idle for a week and has laid off almost 4,000 workers
  • Volkswagen AG is cutting production in the first quarter of 2021 in China, Europe, and North America
  • Fiat Chrysler is idling its Jeep plant in Toluca, Mexico, and its sedan plant in Brampton, Ontario (Canada) in an effort to shift production to higher selling models
  • It takes 6 to 9 months of lead time for the industry to get devices because of complex logistics and just-in-time inventory management

Pent-up demand for automobiles ramped up in the late 3rd Quarter of 2020, and automakers and OEMs were caught off-guard when they were told: “wait.” For instance, when they canceled their chip orders, Semi-houses shifted their production to consumer chips in the covid-driven stay-home new reality: new gaming systems from Microsoft and Sony and a huge uptick in laptop orders from stay-at-home employees and students.

Growth of Programmable Devices in Automobiles

On average, a modern car has over 100 chips on-board, and a programmable device shortage of any of the components will cause the production line to grind to a halt. In addition, most manufacturers utilize “just-in-time” inventory to save cost and space, but saving pennies has cost billions: $61 Billion so far.

However, for devices that require programming, this can result in an even greater bottleneck. Infotainment systems, with massive data demands, require up to 20 minutes to program a single device. Electric vehicles (EV) are the fastest-growing segment; while only constituting 3% of global sales, the onboard chips are about three times more valuable than gasoline cars.

Add to the complexity the fact that most of those chips require additional programming for their specific applications. Some lower density devices can be programmed in-circuit; high-density memory devices are usually programmed (either at a programming house or in-house) on an off-line Automated Programming System.  (See “What is the Best Way to Get Devices Programmed” Article)

Logistical Nightmare

With the complexity of the supply chain and the additional demand for consumer chips, automakers may face up to nine months lead time. Above all, in many cases, slower-selling vehicles can’t get parts, as pickups and SUVs take priority.

The global semiconductor market is paced to be valued at over $129 Billion in just 4 years, nearly triple 2019 (read more). Driving growth are infotainment systems, smart dashboards, self-driving technology, and green vehicles (many battery efficiencies have been led by programmable devices). See Automotive Programming

Automotive programmable device makers include STMicroelectronics, Nvidia, TSMC, Infineon Technologies, NXP Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba

China Hard-Hit

China has been especially hard hit by the chip shortage; it has the largest automotive market in the world but imports the vast majority of chips used to manufacture automobiles.

The components in a car require a more robust architecture than your smartphone: high temperatures, g-forces, etc. Therefore, autos have much longer lifespans than consumer-grade electronics, so the devices need to be durable and reliable and may take up to five years to design and develop.

As of publication, the worldwide shortage has not yet affected non-automotive chip inventories; while semiconductor manufacturers shift production to automotive customers, this may cause other inventories to shrink while they make up for demand.

In Conclusion

  • Just-in-time inventories need to be balanced against the prospect of line-down due to a lack of components. Manufacturers should inventory a minimum of six months of back-up devices to mitigate shutdowns
  • Canceled orders for chips have caused semiconductor manufacturers to shift to more profitable and/or more stable inventories
  • Chip shortages are causing strains on OEMs and programming houses to keep up with the demand for programmable devices
  • Manufacturers of other products should take heed now, or they may get caught in a logistical nightmare too
  • To ensure the most bullet-proof inventories for manufacturing lines, contact BPM about in-house solutions for programmable devices 
    • Output can pace with the production line by adding shifts and/or adding machines in combination with strategic outsourcing
    • In-house off-line programming provides unmatched efficiencies, producing a lower cost per device, and drastically lowering lead-times
    • Source Code can be updated daily, allowing the line to have the latest revision
    • Keeping your source code in-house makes your intellectual investment more secure from theft


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


NBC News

Automakers idle more plants as chip shortage worsens; Samsung warns of spread to cellphone Production

Automakers idle more plants as chip shortage worsens; Samsung warns of spread to cellphone production.  See More


Chicago Tribune/Associated Press

Global semiconductor shortage forcing automakers to cut production

A widening global shortage of semiconductors for auto parts is forcing major auto companies to halt or slow vehicle production just as they were recovering from pandemic-related factory shutdowns. See More


Fitch Ratings

Semiconductor Shortage Delays Global Automotive Sector Recovery

The situation is particularly acute for automotive companies, which are experiencing a strong increase in electric vehicle demand, while chip-makers …   See More


Times of India

Carmakers face $61 billion sales hit from pandemic chip shortage

Production at the swamped facilities ground to a halt—a major hit for Renesas, of course, but also a devastating blow to the Japanese car industry, which … See More



Ford trims Explorer, Lincoln Aviator output due to ongoing chip shortage

Poor chip availability has plagued automakers since late fall due to increased demand and reduced supply of silicon across multiple industries… See More

Legacy Automated Programmers from BPM Microsystems

Legacy Automated Programmers from BPM Microsystems

Legacy Automated Programmers from BPM Microsystems

Hundreds Still Running

Several hundred of our legacy Automated Programming Systems (defined as machines we no longer offer for sale) are still in operation; many 15 years and older. There may be some compelling reasons to upgrade (such as capacity issues, or slower programming times for newer devices), but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Many of these older machines have been paid off for years (other than spare parts and consumables), so as long as they are still productive, an older system is a pure profit center.

BPM still supports many systems (there are some exceptions, so please check the End of Life page). You can continue to get parts and support with a current hardware and/or software contract.



To find out more about upgrading your existing 3800MK2 or 3900 to make it faster and have greater, more accurate throughput, let us know!

Available Upgrades

APS legacy models 3800MK2 and 3900 use upward vision camera technology for component alignment. These APS can be upgraded to get new hardware and software for on-the-fly vision alignment and higher performance with a CyberOptics on-the-fly alignment camera and other improvements with the Z and Theta Axis.

Compelling Reasons to Upgrade

Performance: The 3800MK2 to 3810 upgrade combined with other hardware improvements will allow 800 DPH (3800MK2) to an impressive 1200 DPH. This is accomplished because of the sophisticated CyberOptic LNC-120 for on-the-fly vision alignment and improved pick and place movement using hardware/software advancements.

The 3900 to 3910 upgrade improves Devices Per Hour from 1100 DPH (3900) to an impressive 1432 DPH for the 3910.

Component Automeasure, supported with the CyberOptics alignment camera allows customers to set up jobs more quickly. WhisperTeach allows for faster job setups and changeovers.

CSP devices are supported. The LNC-120 is a sophisticated alignment camera capable of accurately and repeatedly aligning the smallest programmable devices presently on the market as of September 2019.

This is not simply a “camera change.” Upgrade include a new e-chain, improved hardware and performance improvements for the Z-Axis, plus faster, more accurate, and faster Theta performance (rotation alignment).

Legacy Machines Still In Operation

  APS Model Operating Machines by Generation
3610 6th Gen

6th Gen launched in 2000 (20 years)

7th Gen

7th Gen launched in 2007 (13 years)

3800 8th Gen

8th Gen launched in 2011 (8+ years)


Windows 10

We’re pleased to announce that BPWin Windows 10 Compatible version went live with the launch of version 7.0.0. BPWin is currently compatible with Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 10, 64-Bit operating system; users can now take advantage of the newest Windows operating system with greater speed, security, and access to the latest OS updates (Microsoft announced it will cease support for legacy OS– see full info from Microsoft here).

Important: you’ll need a current Software Support Contract for all APS and 2XXX Manual Programmers. Contact Inside Sales for contract support.

If you’re interested in Windows 10 support on your current system, contact Technical Support for more information. You may need additional hardware to support Windows 10.


To find out more about upgrading your existing 3800MK2 or 3900 to make it faster and have greater, more accurate throughput, let us know!

Programming Devices— where no repairman has gone before

Programming Devices— where no repairman has gone before

How BPM’s device programmers master $100K antifuse FPGAs

The first few seconds are critical. There are a million things that have to go just right. If the rocket makes it to the second-stage burn, the engineers in mission control can begin to breathe again. For the payload specialists, the hard part is still hours, days, or even years to come. Where their satellite, probe, or manned mission is going, there are no service calls. Under the harshest conditions that are known to exist (extremes of heat/cold, g-forces, radiation, etc.) their payloads are expected to perform flawlessly well beyond what’s even realistic back on earth.

Whether it’s a sensor on an anti-lock brake assembly or a telemetry chip on a satellite, there are increasing numbers of programmed devices where failure isn’t an option; either it’s difficult or impossible to replace in the field, or failure means the potential loss of irreplaceable life and equipment (or both). When it comes to programming a mission-critical antifuse device, who is the only authorized vendor on which Microsemi relies? BPM Microsystems.

According to a Microsemi white paper, an antifuse-based FPGA is, “the most secure programmable device available.” Antifuse FPGAs are a one-time programmable non-volatile device that never uses a bitstream. Once programmed, it can’t be intercepted, copied, modified, or corrupted. They are also highly impervious to radiation (“Rad-Hard”). On the other hand, you’ve only got one shot to program the device, so it’s vital that it be programmed correctly.

Read More Here

Antifuse FPGAs have been around since the ‘90s, yet are still the most secure silicon devices available. From a practical perspective, antifuse devices are virtually impossible to reverse engineer. For instance, to determine the difference between programmed and unprogrammed fuses requires a scanning electron microscope, which when used, physically destroys the device in the process.

A single blank antifuse device can range in cost from a few thousand dollars to as much as $100,000! When a single device can cost as much as 50 times as much as the system that programs it, Microsemi has only licensed BPM to build their family of Silicon Sculptor programmers, now entering the 4th generation. The latest, the Silicon Sculptor 4 is built on the BPM 9th Generation site technology; 9th Gen programming sites are the most universal, most widely developed (35K+ devices and growing), fastest programming technology in the industry, and has been vetted by the most rigorous and demanding requirements in the business of programming. The underlying architecture was developed from the testing industry and is capable of generating the cleanest waveforms for the highest signal integrity, ensuring maximum trouble-free life in the field (even if that field is deep space).

When one chip costs more than some automated systems (such as BPM’s 3901 Automated Programming System) and there is no “second chance,” it has to be perfect the first time. The Silicon Sculptor 4 continues the tradition of delivering consistent quality devices to places where repair trucks can’t go.

Hardly anyone has the same quality requirements as antifuse devices. It is comforting to know the same attention to clean waveforms that Microsemi relies on is available to everyone. Anyone can benefit from the design criteria that are built into BPM’s 9th Gen family of programmers.  Signal quality, power supply design, and system self-check ensure the highest level of quality for you.

3901 Virtual Demo

3901 Virtual Demo

3901 Virtual Demo

Live Webinar July 7, 2020

  • The 3901 APS – the affordable full-featured APS with Universal Programming Technology and On the fly vision alignment
  • Take a test drive with WhisperTeach which automates the Z-axis teach
  • We’ll talk about Scalability: Field Upgrade to 3928 (up to 7 sites, 1432 DPH)
  • Live 3901 Demo
    • Job changeover from TSOPs to BGA devices
    • Run a job
    • WhisperTeach Demo
  • Q&A

Your Hosts

Colin Harper

Colin Harper

Director of Sales and Product Management

BPM Microsystems
15000 Northwest Fwy,
Houston, TX 77040-3220
Phone:  +1 713 351-5521
Cell: 1+ 832 358-1002

Colin has been at BPM for over 17 years. He’s been head of Engineering, Product Development, Sales and Marketing. Colin was instrumental in launching the 3901 and 3928 in 2019.

Scott Bronstad

Scott Bronstad

Marketing Guy

We want to help you be successful! Let us know how we can help
Office: +1 713-263-3776 x5464
Cell: +1 832-816-6579

Scott just celebrated (in May) 2 years at BPM. He has over 25 years of marketing experience, and has recently launched BPM’s Ecommerce store.

Video: Bring your mission-critical programming in-house

Video: Bring your mission-critical programming in-house

Video: Bring your mission-critical programming in-house

Since about 2010, the strongest market segment for Automated Programmers has been Automotive suppliers. Automotive suppliers have an ever-increasing need for programming as cars become more complex and technology-driven. They also often require 3D inspection and laser marking to ensure consistent quality and to track inventory. Big projects, with millions of programmed devices, make device programming in-house a no-brainer.

Smaller OEMs, while perhaps having many of the same needs as the Automotive guys, were constrained by limited resources. As their programming needs outgrew their ability to produce on manual systems, the only option was to outsource to the programming houses or ship their component manufacturing off-shore.

Then came the perfect storm of 2019: a crippling trade war, followed by a growing pandemic.

Read more  Here

Hot buttons for OEMs and Contract Manufacturers

  • Faster time to market– go from prototype to production in weeks, not months
  • Expand vertical manufacturing capability
  • React to design changes quickly– tweaks in code can be updated to the workflow in just a few minutes
  • Intellectual Property physically protected from theft
  • Don’t have to shut down the line due to supply chain issues with programmed devices
  • Device programming is easier than ever before; Installed and operational in less than one week
  • Manual programmers can provide 10s of thousands of devices per year; when demand exceeds manual capacity, it’s easy to migrate to an automated system (same sockets, software, no need to redo first article, etc.)
  • One high-speed universal platform can support millions of devices per year, at an incredibly low cost per device
  • As demand increases, it’s easy to add additional sites for more capacity. If additional capacity is needed, add additional shifts without needing highly skilled technicians
  • Lower cost solutions (3901, 3928) provide the greatest value in the industry. ROI in months, not years.

See White Paper

Doing our Part to Defeat Our Common Enemy

Doing our Part to Defeat Our Common Enemy

BPM has instituted enhanced antiseptic cleaning

Our mission today is more important than ever. We are serving the global fight against our common enemy– SARS-Cov-2 – the virus that is causing COVID-19. This week, we’ve shipped a 3910 Automated Programming System to produce digital thermometers. And, we are doing a rush Device Support Request that is required to program MCUs that will control hospital beds. These beds are being produced immediately to set up new overflow hospitals. These two projects will save many thousands of lives. How often do you get to go to work and save thousands of lives? Pretty cool.

To help address the new leadership challenges we are facing, I am promoting Jon Bondurant to Chief Operating Officer. Jon’s mission in the COO role is to keep the trains running on time, so to speak. The entire leadership team, and thus all employees, are now reporting to Jon. This will allow me to work on strategy and technology development. Jon has demonstrated great skill as a manager, leader and solution innovator. He’s already stepping up his responsibilities in integrating and coordinating Device Support, IT, Manufacturing and Inside Sales to increase our output as a whole company. We are starting to see results already. Please congratulate Jon and give him an air handshake (from a safe distance).

COVID-19 Impacts BPM

All BPM Microsystems employees have been instructed to comply with the social distancing requirements, in addition to wearing N95 masks, in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19

We took the precaution of buying enough N95 masks (Filters out 95 percent of particles that are at least 0.3 microns in diameters.) for all employees when they were still available. To protect all of us, we are wearing these masks at work. The masks work not only because they filter the air you breathe, but they also keep you from touching your lips and nose, plus they diminish aerosols produced by coughing, sneezing, clearing your throat and speech. Do not lose your mask. They are exceptionally hard to get right now.

We are busy saving thousands of lives. And, we will get through this.

Kindest regards,

William White
Founder and CEO,
BPM Microsystems