Hidden inside the newest smartphones are more than a thousand tiny bits of ceramic to control the flow of electricity. Inside an electric vehicle, there are more than 10,000.
They are called MLCCs, for multilayer ceramic capacitors, and the surge of Covid-19 infections across East Asia is raising the risk that factories won’t be able to make enough of them.
Murata Manufacturing Co. of Kyoto, Japan, the biggest MLCC maker, closed a major factory for the final week of August because of a virus outbreak. Japan’s Taiyo Yuden Co. , another major maker, said in August that it suspended some operations at its factory in Malaysia because of employee infections.
“MLCC supply will remain very tight,” said Forrest Chen, an analyst at Taiwan-based research firm TrendForce.
The world has seen this year how a shortage of normally little-noticed components can hit the global supply chain. Global makers of cars and electronics have shut down factory lines and missed potential sales because they don’t have enough semiconductors.