The coronavirus crisis is exposing the weaknesses of the globalised electronics industry. This is a piercing wake-up call that compels us to reconsider how our industry works. Already at an early stage, it was clear that the supply chain is weak. When the stream of container ships with electronics goods from China started to falter, what we already knew became painfully evident: the strong dependency on Chinese production and products makes European industry vulnerable.
What Can We Learn from the Coronavirus Crisis?
The European electronics industry needs to take a critical look at itself. What lessons can we learn from the coronavirus crisis, in order to make our industry more future-proof? At Elektor we are tackling this challenge. In the coming editions, we will discuss how the industry presently works and what needs to change. We will present stories from the field and alternative ways of working, and we will examine the wealth of reasons why business as usual is no longer viable.
The disruptive effect of the coronavirus reveals the dominant position of China. However, vulnerable supply lines are not the only issue. Europe is increasingly outsourcing the development and production of electronic products to the United States and China. This is not only harmful to European industry, but also harmful to society as a whole. The European Commission also takes this view and is proposing an initiative for technological sovereignty – being able to make and manage your own technology. The commission cites national security and economic growth as reasons for this.
A third reason is the protection of European values. European industry is bound to environmental requirements, employee rights, safety rules, and dozens of other laws and regulations. As Europeans, we have collectively decided that we regard fair pay and combating pollution as important values. These rules also contribute to making European products significantly more costly than things from China. If we embrace these values in law and then divert activities to China to cut costs, we undermine our value system.
Let's Work Together
For these and many other reasons, it is time to take a critical look at our industry. We cannot rely solely on changes realised from the inside. Governments and consumers need to understand that low cost can no longer be the only consideration in purchasing decisions. If we join hands, we can present a convincing story to the world. We are starting this conversation here at Elektor, and you are cordially invited to join in.