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For the want of a chip, the truck was lost

Courtesy of General Motors 2021 Silverado 2500 HD Custom pulling a front loader on a trailer
WAITING FOR CHIPS: Truck and car production have been impacted by chip shortages from overseas. The rising use of onboard computers is slowing the availability of your next pickup.
The rising challenge of computer chip scarcity is affecting surprising industries.

Sometimes it’s the little things that get you down. Just ask pickup truck makers.

In the last few months, the rising challenge of computer chip scarcity is putting a crimp in most manufacturers’ schedules. The most visible area, at least to farmers, may be in acquiring that next pickup truck.

I first saw comments pop up on Twitter recently when farmers noted that getting a new heavy-duty pickup was going to mean waiting at least until fall. And while $5 corn might be an opportunity to improve your ride, which you’ve been driving since 2013, you will probably have to wait.

There’s a change in industry these days, with a greater reliance on computers and their electronic brains to run everything from your refrigerator to — you guessed it — your pickup truck.

At one time, the average car had as many as a half-dozen computers at work to maintain momentum, from monitoring fuel use and emissions to providing you entertainment. All those computers need chips.

It does remind you of that old verse, “For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost …” and you know how that goes. This time out for the want of a chip, no pickup.

This issue will be put to rest as chip makers ramp up. The Biden administration is looking at this issue as a way to encourage manufacturers to move production back to the U.S., so we have more chips on hand. That, of course, will take time.

In the meantime, it means waiting, and we all know how good we are about that.

Software and agriculture

In a kind of related matter, the software running your tractor or combine has been getting increasingly sophisticated — as well as the technology you use to manage information. I was talking with someone the other day and noted that in covering agriculture for 40 years, I've written more about software updates of equipment than new equipment.

New operating systems, better field information gathering, enhanced machine control. It’s all software.

That drive-by-wire tractor you run can provide a lot of information to its onboard computer and share it to the cloud. As I think about the software, and all that information — and I’m not getting into the ownership issue — I do wonder how you use it.

It's possible these days to rate the productivity of every machine on your farm. You can note operating time, idle time and transport time. And if you’re running a few machines, analyzing those measurements could be valuable.

Whether you’re comparing how one farmhand works versus another, or you want to explore gaps in your tendering process, looking at that information when times slow down can help you make machines more efficient. That’s something you can do yourself.

As for those pickup chips? I’ve got no answer.

TAGS: Trucks
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