A hot potato: As much of the world emerges from the pandemic and the ensuing tech supply chain effects, recent events in China suggest that we’re not out of the woods yet. Problems at manufacturing plants have affected products globally all year, but recent shifts could expand the effects into 2023.
DigiTimes reports that possible fresh Covid outbreaks in China could impact PC and laptop launches early next year due to labor supply disruptions. China’s government started relaxing strict Covid lockdowns after fierce protests occurred across the country. Because China has yet to achieve herd immunity, some fear new outbreaks could be severe enough to affect manufacturing and by extension global supply chains.
Some Chinese notebook supply chain plants reported infections impacting up to half of their workers, sources tell DigiTimes. The actual overall worker infection rate might only be 10 to 15 percent, but fear of infection might prevent other employees from showing up. Things might worsen after Lunar New Year on January 22 when many workers go on holiday, which could cause a spike in infections.
Factory shutdowns are likely to cause delays to flow down the production line, affecting upcoming PCs that use the latest processors. The biggest PC vendors might face component shortages, forcing them to either downscale or delay launches for new products.
It’s unclear how this could affect the worldwide PC market in the coming months. So far the shortages haven’t impacted Taiwan notebook companies like Compal, Inventec, Quanta, or Winstron.
Previous Chinese manufacturing disturbances impacted Apple throughout 2022. A March Covid surge in Shenzhen temporarily shut down manufacturing. In May, lockdowns and riots at factories forced Apple to delay its new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros. Protests against lockdowns at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant last month led to an estimated deficit of 6 million iPhone 14 Pros, which the Cupertino company hopes to make up for next year.
The volatile production situation, along with rising geopolitical tensions, has started a push in some countries to decrease their manufacturing dependence on China. Following the US, multiple countries are readying export bans to restrict China’s ability to manufacture advanced chips. Analysis suggests uncoupling manufacturing from China is possible but difficult.