What is with the long lead times? 2018 Edition

Suntsu has seen a 3-year growth in forward thinking products and new designs from our customers. We are not alone. Statista reports that the Americas electronics industry has seen steady growth at 1% in 2016; 3% in 2017; and 5% in 2018. Asia has seen a glowing hot 5% growth for the same period.  A lot of this is driven by trends we talked about in our article “From self-driving cars to 5G: making sense of tech 2018” – trends that will continue beyond 2020.

This growth and success has its downside.  The industry is seeing shortages in electronic component supply.  This has in turn translated into long lead times and (depending on the type) increased prices. Here are the most common issues:

MLCCs (multi-layer ceramic capacitors) are by far the most popular capacitors since the inception of surface mount printed circuit boards.  They offered great performance for standard applications at low cost.  It is not uncommon to see 50 to 100 MLCCs in a typical design. The growth in electronics has a multiplicative effect in the demand for general purpose MLCCs.  For the high performance and high capacitance MLCCs using X5R and X7R dielectric; a new shortage is appearing due to the boom in the electric vehicle market and their high usage in consumer smart phones.  Unfortunately, MLCCs are seeing average lead times of 20 to 24 week; and are on allocation with some suppliers.

Low ESR (equivalent series resistance) tantalum capacitors have the right ESR profile, electrical stability and the self-healing durability needed in power systems and power supplies.  With the broad market growth of the electronics industry and the addition of electric vehicles – low ESR tantalums have seen a two-year impact of 16 to 30 week lead times.

Discrete semiconductors cover a wide range of parts and logic; including MOSFETs, transistors, and diodes.  Discrete semiconductors are used for power and are essentially made from the silicon wafers which are also used by IC (integrated circuits), NAND flash memory and SSD (solid state disk drives).   All of this means more products needing a source of power.   Power MOSFET, diodes and ESDs use some of the same silicon wafers used by ICs; and in these areas, lead times are upwards of 18 to 25 weeks.

Here are some mitigation strategies:

  • MLCCs:  Consider using polymer tantalum capacitors as a replacement for decoupling and anti-resonance circuits using multiple MLCCs in parallel.  Multi-anode polymer tantalums offer the extremely low ESR and electrical stability across wide temperature ranges.  Polymer tantalums have a single unit foot print size similar in size to a full two to four MLCC parallel network. PCB designs can and should be altered to accommodate both.
  • Low ESR tantalum:  Consider polymer tantalum capacitors where ESR and ripple current are a match to the application.  As a cousin to low ESR tantalums in terms of package size and footprints, the polymer tantalum may even be a great drop-in replacement.
  • Inventory Program:   Consider getting out of search and find mode by entering an inventory program.  A component partner like Suntsu can broaden relationships with qualified vendors that can greatly alleviate lead times.


Suntsu tailors its inventory depending on customers unique needs.  This includes but is not limited to consignment, bonding, and (where it makes sense) kitting.   Suntsu carries the following lines:

  • MLCCs: Cal-Chip, RCD, Kamaya/Walsin
  • Tantalum:  Nemco, RCD
  • Polymer Tantalum:  Nemco
  • Discrete Semiconductors:  Comchip, Unisonic, ICC Intersemi, Surge

Contact us for more information.


Inventory Management
Inventory Management

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Engineering Services

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We help our customers build better products, save time, save money, and improve cash-flow/lead-times through inventory management programs.

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