Will There be a Shortage of Radios in 2021?

In the latest episode, we tell you about the coming shortages of components affecting consumer tech products, including two way radios. We reveal the causes of these shortages, discuss the products affected, and speculate how long it could last. Listen now!

TWRS-156 - Will There be a Shortage of Radios in 2021?

Show Notes:

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.

I was talking with the owner of a radio shop the other day and one of the things they had mentioned was they are having a hard time getting product from Kenwood and Icom. They haven’t yet had issues getting product from Motorola Solutions or any of their subsidiaries (such as Avigilon, Avtec, Pelco, Zebra, etc).

If that trend continues…it could be very damaging for Icom (since they don’t have a DMR solution) and could even end up hurting Kenwood in the long run.

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As we mentioned in the podcast, the really large companies with deep pockets (like Motorola) will not be as affected in the short term, because they can weather it somewhat. They will begin to feel it too if the shortages drag out long enough.

It’ will be interesting to see how things play out over the next 18 months. In the past, Motorola has sourced a lot of silicon from Texas Instruments (perhaps for TAA purposes). I know we will likely see some uptick in US silicon production from all of this though.

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It may be an issue of a “state run” manufacturing process. Without multiple owners in a competitive environment, the “state” would be tempted to lump their manufacturing processes efficiently under “one roof”, as it were (i.e., one huge plant). From what I have read, this is the modus operandi in the cellular manufacturing in China. One may presume, that the same paradigm applies to other manufacturing processes, as well. Having “all your eggs in one basket” is not ideal if the basket burns down.
That being said, it is also not ideal, as a manufacturer, to single source your components manufacturing to an “all the eggs in one basket” components manufacturer. It is better to have the capability to adapt, improvise, and overcome when something like this happens.
Unfortunately, “lean sigma six” management principles driven by a stock market with bottom line maximization goals that call for an “all your eggs in a single basket” operation. At this point it boils down to a risk management scenario, one in which the finance department can occasionally be found with their pants down.

It’s possible this could generate more production in the US, however, due to the stringent manufacturing processes and equipment needed, it can take years to do that.

This may certainly be true of China, but the factory in question is located in Japan, which is an open market system like the US.

One of the limitations with all this technology is that it involves manufacturing processes that require very expensive and specialized equipment, clean room environments and other quality controls that make such factories very expensive to build, maintain and operate. It also takes a long time for these factories to come online. For these reasons there are not that many of them around, and collectively they shoulder the burden of supplying the entire world with the components they produce.

All it takes is one to go offline to throw off the entire world supply of those components. The real takeaway here is that as abundant as all this technology is in the marketplace, what most consumers don’t realize is just how fragile the infrastructure is to produce it.

The old line about “bombing a country back to the stone age” has more serious implications than one would think, because in a global market, it wouldn’t just affect one country, but the entire world.


Agreed. All good points, Rick.

I was shocked when I was looking at buying a Kenwood mobile and Kenwood HT, but everywhere I looked the retailers were indicating 0 balance in stock, but as “Manufacturer discontinued” and ARRL still running ads for the radios in their current edition of QST.

The ads still appear because they are usually purchased in advance and for a specific period of time.

I see HRO and other companies are listing Kenwood lower end products again, as in stock. I guess they used the wrong terminology, “Manufacturer discontinued” rather than, “Out of stock” in their websites.
Guess I’d better pull the trigger.

In truth my suppliers often use words we misunderstand. I got ‘no longer available’, and assumed this meant discontinued but it just meant temporarily unavailable. I suspect they get regular stock lists from the manufacturers and if they’re not on it, the intermediaries smaller businesses like me use, can’t supply. You often suddenly get a back in stock message. I never deal direct with the manufacturers my orders of thirty or so for one model are far too small. It’s quite interesting to look at serial numbers. Sometimes you can begin to see how stock is moving. A month apart, you might see the gap is only a few hundred numbers different. After stock unavailable, the next batch will be thousands different.

Today’s industrial manufacturing is more collaborative. If there is a problem in one link, it will affect the work of all links
Due to the impact of the epidemic, industrial manufacturing in many countries has been shut down or closed down.This affects the entire industrial system,So a complete industrial chain is very important for a country.

I’m starting to see minimum orders going up from China. One supplier I’ve been buying in tens, now wants orders of twenty, which impacts on my cash flow quite a bit. Ten every couple of weeks as a regular order is now twenty every month, but is difficult. The less popular radios might be maybe a couple a week and I certainly don’t want huge quantities on the shelf. Do I increase the price to offset the bank costs? Hmmmmm it’s certainly impacting all my suppliers.

I entirely agree with you.

I design electronics. We’re seeing a shortage of many critical parts - in particular clock oscillators (TCXOs and the like) that was the result of the AKM factory fire last year.