Guarding against supply chain shortages - Chris Waller, ISS Technical Director

2022-02-02 00:00:00

As a safety technology company and software developer for UK fleet operators we manufacture and assemble a large proportion of our product portfolio in-house,  notably the Cyclear, IDClear and Reaclear systems. Here Chris Waller, our Technical Director explains some of the challenges ISS has faced during the past two years and the steps that have been taken to secure production schedules and keep up with customer demand.....

Global component shortages are creating challenges for many businesses and particularly so in the automotive sector where it is essential to maintain the correct safety and compliance standards.  Certifications such as ‘E-marking’ ensures the equipment we install is safe and consistent, and that the correct checks, compliance, and documentation is in place.

Maintaining the correct processes can be very costly and some suppliers circumvent  supply issues, by using ‘grey market’ components, i.e. those without a record of provenance. However, this is risky and can result in counterfeit or faulty components being used in the manufacturing of critical safety equipment.

We experienced supply issues last year when several components from our IDClear anti-roll away and driver identification system became obsolete overnight due to a rapid surge in demand.

In response, we invested over 30 days of re-engineering to accommodate suitable replacements and at the same time took the opportunity to add in some great new features to the device. It will be ready to install later in the year, once all the necessary assurance and testing certification is in place, and well in advance of customer demand.

Whilst there is some indication that the electronic component market is slowly recovering, there is no certainty, and ensuring continuity of supply remains a top priority.

The market remains volatile. We see thousands of electronic components shifting in and out of stock daily as companies scramble to seize the parts they need to manufacture their products. There is simply no guarantee that components will be available when you need them. Even franchised distributors are falling short of scheduled delivery commitments, and we’ve seen other tech companies suffer with continual delays and failing to keep up with customer commitments.

Fortunately, and partly due to major investment from YFM Equity Partners in 2021, ISS is in the enviable position of being able to secure stock and components in advance to meet demand.  We took the decision early on to protect our supply chain and significantly increase our stock levels to avoid delays to our production and order commitments.

It could be deemed a high-risk strategy as we can’t predict the future. However, we are confident in our products and our market knowledge.  We have close relationships with our customers and our products evolve from an in-depth understanding of the challenges they face.  In our view this is the best option until the situation settles and supply chain consistency and reliability return to pre-pandemic levels.