A six-decade-old invention, the lowly chip, has gone from little-understood workhorse in powerful computers to the most crucial and expensive component under the hood of modern-day gadgets.
That explosion in demand—unexpectedly goosed during the Covid-19 pandemic for certain industries like smartphones and PCs—has caused a near-term supply shock triggering an unprecedented global shortage.
In February, lead times—the duration between when an order for a chip is placed and when it actually gets filled—stretched to 15 weeks on average for the first time since data collection started in 2017, according to industry distributor data from Susquehanna Financial Group. Lead times for Broadcom Inc.—a barometer for the industry because of its involvement across the supply chain—extended to 22.2 weeks, up from 12.2 weeks in February 2020.
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