History of supply chain issues

As most who work in the current Professional and Commercial AV industry know, maintaining an inventory of audio products has become a daily exercise. The supply chain and chip issues continue to shape what products we have access to and how audio systems are implemented in many cases. Most manufacturers of products, such as wireless microphones, digital signal processors (DSP), and amplifiers are still experiencing lengthy product delays.

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To understand more, we must look back to some of the factors which led to this shortage. Covid-19 severely slowed production of either components or finished goods from Asia, and especially China, starting in 2019. This was exacerbated by a devastating fire at the AKM chip factory in Japan in 2020. This plant produced a large amount of the computer chips and DACs (digital audio converters) used in professional audio equipment. This slowed the production of audio components to a crawl. Another aspect was the “just in time” strategy that was employed over several years to provide products as they were needed, but no large inventory was stockpiled. This worked well if there were no delays in the supply chain, but when all these issues were coupled with shipping delays due to Covid throughout the world, the perfect storm was created in the global supply chain.

Demand has outpaced supply, and at this point, we will continue to see constraints of these products through 2023, according to the AV market watchers. Asia Pacific and the United States are the largest regions of growth, and the demand for wireless audio devices has continued to advance. With a large majority of the work force now working from home, either fully or partially, we are all using mobile devices, laptops, and other technology more than ever.

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Many audio systems also use Dante network technology, developed by Audinate, to provide network interfaces that allow remote control and programming, as well as the transfer of audio signals. Most professional audio manufacturers have Dante capability embedded in their products for audio network compatibility. When you think of the growth of conference products, video bars, wireless microphone technology, and mobile devices, all of these use computer chips and require this technology to operate.

Understanding the importance of supply chain diversity

Today, one of the most critical aspects of commercial and professional audio equipment distribution is diversification. As a distributor, Exertis Almo is on the front lines of this ongoing battle to provide our customers with these products while the industry rebounds from the storm. Our team of Product Managers, Buyers, and Business Development Managers constantly monitor the supply chain of our vendors to assure we can supply the products that are needed for business today.

This is where product diversity plays a major role in the value-added proposition that we, as a distributor, provide to the integrator or dealer. As we close out 2022 and move into 2023, distributors work closely with audio manufacturers so we can provide products for all the applications our sales team’s customers engage in. Some manufacturers have avoided this by changing their technology and delivering products as soon as they become available. In many cases, project completion schedules dictate alternative products being procured to meet a deadline.

This is very evident with products such as wireless microphones, amplifiers, signal processing, and control systems. Exertis Almo continuously monitors our vendors supply chain, inventory, and delivery schedules to assure we have solutions for those instances when the specific audio product may not be available for a significant time. By working hand-in-hand with our customers, manufacturers, and our product management team, we can pivot quickly to find a solution for most applications.
This approach is proving invaluable to our customers. The diversity of audio products runs throughout our organization, from simple product orders to our services division. When an integrator calls on us to provide design and installation for a given project, we take the same approach of finding the best available solutions while understanding the time sensitivity involved.

What can Integrators do to help offset this problem?

Order equipment as early as possible for a given project

Be flexible in your design as you may have to pivot should a particular component have extended delays beyond the completion date of the project

Work hand-in-hand with your supplier or distributor to assure products are allocated and available in your completion time-frame

Remember that product diversity is critical when completing projects

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As the AV industry continues to navigate through this “storm,” all aspects of supply chain, manufacturing, and product diversity are being analyzed. From the diversity of chip manufacturers building new factories to launching new technologies, the future of the industry looks bright. The distribution of Commercial and Professional audio products will continue to be based on our relationships with manufacturers, our customers, and maintaining diversity both in our practices, as well as the products we provide, to assure the best results for every application.

So, when we say, “that product is constrained, but we will see what is available,” know that our team is making every effort to fulfill the customer’s needs and see that projects are completed and function with the highest degree of integrity. Product diversity is driving the AV market and will continue to be a common concern as we move through the medium to long-term future. While there are no silver bullets, the issues detailed here are front-of-mind and being addressed seriously, country by country. This is not a sprint, but a marathon that will make us stronger in the end. Let Exertis Almo be the resource you can depend on for your AV product needs!

John Fuqua

About the Author

John Fuqua | CTS, Dante

Business Development Manager

Supported Manufacturers: Audio Applications, Amplivox, Audix, Bose, Denon, Marantz, Rane, Shure, Sennheiser, Yamaha UC

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