How the Helium Shortage Impacts Manufacturing
You may have already heard about the pending helium shortage. If your manufacturing business is directly involved with the use of helium, you are certainly aware of it. It is one of the more concerning manufacturing trends for companies that rely on this remarkable gas. How can we expect the helium shortage to affect manufacturing in 2019 and beyond?
What Are the Effects of the Helium Shortage?
Until this shortage, many manufacturers did not realize how many companies rely on helium for their operations. The most obvious victims are party stores that take advantage of helium’s lighter-than-air properties to fill balloons. In fact, the famous discount party store franchise Party City has announced they are closing 45 stores in the wake of the shortage.
The helium shortage offers an important lesson about renewable resources and environmentally-conscious manufacturing. The global helium shortage is occurring for the simple reason that helium reserves the earth are being depleted. Three-quarters of the world’s helium is derived from either ExxonMobil in Wyoming, Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar or the National Helium Reserve in Texas, and the helium in Texas is running out.
We can certainly all live without party balloons, and party stores have other inventory to sell, but helium is a crucial gas that appears across many industries. MRI machines rely on helium, as do fiber optic systems, semiconductors, rocket ships, deep sea divers, cryogenic systems and of course, the Goodyear Blimp.
The Future of Helium
If you are a manufacturer of electronic devices, medical supplies, automotive or aeronautics equipment, telecommunications or one of the other industries that utilize helium, you can certainly expect the shortage to affect your bottom line. There are other sources of helium and scientists suggest that we have enough to last us another 200 years, although recycling or finding alternative gasses is certainly indicated.
While it is possible that a rich new vein of helium may be uncovered, it seems unlikely, and many manufacturers are already trying to reduce their use of helium. For example, some airbag companies are using a combination of different gasses instead of helium for their inflation products. Some manufacturers, such as semiconductor producers, may be forced to raise their prices in order to cover the rising costs of helium.
What Do We Do Now?
If you are a manufacturer, it’s important to realize as we move through 2019 and beyond that this helium shortage is not going to go away. Many manufacturers are taking greener approaches to manufacturing, realizing it’s important to move away from dependence on finite resources and helium needs to be part of those approaches. If you rely on helium in your manufacturing or you require products from vendors that rely on helium, you will need to be prepared for higher prices in the immediate future while you consider alternatives to helium in your products.
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