The serious disruptions in the global semiconductor manufacturing and supply chain following the tragic events in Japan triggered painful but productive discussions. Some of the discussions focused on the weaknesses in today's supply chain.
An example is found in Peter Clarke's EE Times article, "Supply chain: Too lean, too mean, too late."
Instead of discouraging us, the natural disasters should prompt us to raise questions such as: Is today's supply chain flexible, thick and adaptive enough to handle future disruptions should they come?
The answer to that is clearly no—and time-to-market, costs, second tape-outs, short lead-times and long qualification times are clearly the main issues.
My humble opinion is that today's supply chain is not only too lean, but should reconsider its basic concepts in regard to flexibility, migration options and most notably second source solutions. Building backup and alternative manufacturing solutions can begin in parallel, in overlap or following the main tapeout with some affordable tradeoffs. Whenever high quantities are involved, these additional NRE costs should be economically justified.
It is almost needless to say that this type of backup tapeout is rarely available.
Therefore, how can a semiconductor company overcome future disruptions? Two guidelines can help:
Fast migration to a second source solution
Moving production to another vendor in another country relies on a series of prerequisites. For a fast migration, predominantly, the design team should have the entire set of required multiple libraries and databases pre-installed and ready for migration. In addition, the design team should be experienced with the additional vendor’s libraries in order to shorten lead times.
In other words, the ability to quickly provide second source chips is now more important than ever.
Conversion to functionally identical components
The required second source chip should be pin-to-pin compatible and functionally identical with the component whose manufacturing has been disrupted. This chip might be critical to your project.
Fast and seamless conversion of chips into functionally identical components, based on an infrastructure of various fab vendors over the globe is an elegant way to provide second source chips.
Yehuda Ben-Yaish is VP of engineering at KaiSemi Ltd., a fabless Israeli vendor that partnered with several tier-one fabs to offer automated FPGA to ASIC and ASIC to ASIC conversions and productization, with guaranteed functionality and pin to pin replacement. Yehuda Ben-Yaish can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.