Hardware stock shortages plague South Africa

After several complaints were received from various resellers, Computing SA learned late last week that there are a number of current and anticipated stock shortages, which could see longer waiting periods for new orders and warranty swap-outs.

According to resellers and various distributors, there has been a severe shortage of Intel products (processors and motherboards), with waiting periods of up to three weeks for stock in some cases.

Intel SA reseller channel manager, Sven Beckmann, admits that Intel has been seeing a global stock ‘tightness’ for processors and motherboards, but that the problem has been dealt with, and that from Q2 of this year, resellers will not have the supply issues that have been experienced to date.

Mark Lu, CEO of Rectron, agrees that the picture is getting slightly better, but says that shortages have been a problem during the first quarter of this year. The shortages, distributors agree, came partly with the introduction of a number of new technologies from Intel. and the longer transition times in adoption of the newer technologies.

Examples include the migration for Socket 478 (in the 8xx motherboard series) to LGA 775 (in the 9xx series); the shortage has been seen primarily in the older product ranges.

As far as warranty stock is concerned, Beckmann notes that this has been unaffected by the shortage, and resellers should not have a problem with swap-outs.

“It is not that there is a stock drought though, because we have a lot of the newer products in stock,” says Lu.

Resellers will be paying a premium for newer stock items, however, as is the case with most new technologies. “On the up side,” Lu says, “Memory prices have come down dramatically, which should help to balance the price of a PC.”

In other news, Western Digital (WD) last week revealed that there may be an impending hard drive shortage in the not-too-distant future. Lu says that high worldwide demand for large capacity hard drives (upwards of 250GB) in the retail sector is putting pressure on hard drive manufacturers to make more multi-platter hard drives available.

Jenny Rex, sales director at local WD distributor, Drive Control Corporation (DCC), adds that what the problem amounts to is a shortage of platter substrate used in the manufacture of the actual magnetic disc in the hard drives.

“Many manufacturers rely heavily (some more than others) on third party substrate manufacturers,” she says. “Because of the substrate shortage, manufacturing drives with an odd number of heads (i.e. using an odd number of platter sides) is considered to be a waste, which will result in a shortage of certain capacities of hard drive.”

For example, a 40GB hard drive uses a single platter side, while an 80GB hard drive uses two sides and a 120GB drive three sides. It is not unlikely that the other hard drive manufacturers may also feel the pressure.

“There is not going to be a bang shortage of all hard drives, so there is no need for panic,” Rex adds, “but resellers need to be aware that some capacities will be harder to get hold of than others in the future.” She also says that DCC will manage new and warranty swap-out stock to ensure that existing customers are not seriously affected. “To minimize the impact, we may discount the price of 80GB hard drives,” Rex adds. It is not certain how long either of the shortages will continue. Rex says that the hard drive shortage will continue for the next three months at the minimum, while Beckmann is confident that the chipmaker can meet the global demand for its products starting Q2.

In the mean time, distributors are warning resellers that existing customers will come first, and that they are going to limit orders to avoid a crisis. However, if the vendors make good on their promises, there should be light at the end of this tunnel for the channel very soon.