Outsourcing supply chain management for chip manufacture can increase yields and quality
Some companies in the chip industry feel that the best practice is to manage the manufacturing supply chain for their chips themselves, i.e., all the many stages that happen after a design is taped out.
For a big semiconductor company, this makes sense as they can afford to maintain the team of skilled people needed to manage and understand the steps involved. However, this is an expensive overhead for other companies, especially OEMs and system houses. It’s far better to outsource according to Sondrel, who provides such a service.
“Outsourcing is a very common business model in the electronics industry,” explained Ian Walsh, Sondrel’s VP of ASIC Business Development. “For nearly twenty years, Sondrel has been the company that people turn to when a design is too complex for them to manage in house or too expensive to employ experts full time with the necessary skills. The same logic applies for outsourcing chip manufacture, i.e., to have experts in charge but without the headcount.”
Sondrel offers a full turnkey ASIC manufacturing service to complement its design service and is now offering the ASIC manufacturing service to companies for which it has not done the design. “Covid had a huge impact on the chip industry and continues to do so with lead times for all the sub-contractors in the chain changing almost daily,” added Walsh. “For example, the lead times for packaging have more than doubled which introduces a major problem in the supply chain timeline resulting in the booked slots for other subcontractors down the chain being missed. Because we have a finger on the pulse of all the stages in the supply chain, we can identify such issues and take corrective measures to keep the project on the timeline. In this example, by using smaller, nimbler packaging companies that can accommodate orders on a shorter timeframe.”
Another benefit of outsourcing chip manufacturing is the expertise that becomes available to improve quality and yields. This is because the people in charge of procurement are experienced in purchasing components. There are many steps where something could affect the yield or the quality and, by Sondrel having responsibility for the entire supply chain and guaranteeing a certain volume of packaged parts, it can identify precisely where issues are occurring and correct them. For example, one of the parameters in the test regime might need adjusting to improve the yield whilst not compromising the quality. Or it could be something as simple as a bent test pin. Thus, by studying and correctly interpreting all the data from every stage, Sondrel can improve yields and quality for the customers of its ASIC Manufacturing service to potentially increase customer profits.