A Challenging Time

Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD



I am writing this column in my hotel in Nuremberg just before I leave to visit the Embedded World Exhibition, which opens its doors to the public today. Usually my diary would be packed with appointments to meet a variety of companies, but mainly the largest players who save their biggest announcements of the year for the event. This year is different. A decent amount of the big players have pulled out because of the coronavirus scare. On the one hand I’m sad that I won’t have the chance to see old acquaintances and catch up with their news, but on the other it gives me a chance to see some of the smaller businesses in the industry that have their own stories to tell and to make new contacts.

I’m not sure what affect the coronavirus scare will have on the attendance of the event, but from what I’ve heard from contacts, people are still determined to attend. Embedded World is the only exhibition of its sort in Europe, and perhaps globally, that offers enough scale to bring exhibitors and attendees from around the world. As I said in my ViewPoint column last month, although the event is focussed on embedded systems that mainly include processors, boards and software, the event has grown to include a lot of exhibitors from other areas of the industry, including power. Unfortunately quite a few of the power companies have also withdrawn from the event. With the big power events of APEC and PCIM coming soon, I’m sure everyone hopes that coronavirus can be controlled and we can all get back to normality. After all, the tech industry has already seen a drop in demand recently and a further fall could be very costly.

China is at the centre of the tech industry with unparalleled manufacturing facilities, both for the production of chips and for finished products. So far the industry has escaped the worst of the disruption, as the downturn has left a lot of suppliers with excess inventory, and the two regions hardest hit by the virus are not where the majority of manufacturing takes place. But if the disease spreads further, then other areas could be quarantined, including Zhengzhou with its huge Foxconn facilities. Many of China’s production companies are already struggling with workforce issues since the travel ban was implemented, and if demand does start to rise, will find it hard to ramp up production. It’s not a good place to be when overall economic situation globally is so uncertain. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to have such a large part of the global supply chain in a single country.

2020 is shaping up the be a very interesting year, with a US presidential election in November and the Brexit trade negotiations between the EU and UK looking to be finalised before the end of the year, let’s hope for the best.