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Virtual Operations

Why Virtual Operations is Important

In Early Stage companies the focus is on Time To Market, Engineering, Marketing, Funding.

  • Manufacturing and Operations are generally Not a priority
  • Some of the early engineering decisions have long term impact as one tries to ramp up production
  • Many Operational considerations that impact Time-To-Volume and Time-To-Revenue (REAL investor 'care-abouts') are not considered early

Some Industry Facts/Problems

Over 80% of design schedules are missed!
Over 30% of time-to-market for Prototypes is in post-GDS activities
Over 50% of time-to-market for Production is in post-GDS activities
Over 50% of designs need at least one SPIN

Cost of mask sets is escalating very rapidly [over $800K for 90nm CMOS, $1M for 65nm and over $1.5M for 45nm]….hence implementing “first time right” designs is crucial!

The dis-aggregated COT(customer owned tooling) supply chain has many GAPS since there are

  • many alternatives - Fabless ASIC, Do-it-yourself COT, Outsourced COT,...
  • many suppliers - IP, Libraries, Memory, Fab, Packaging, Test,...
  • many negotiations, selection, relationships

The Operations Dilemma

Hiring a full time Operations team

  • too early can be expensive!
  • too late can be catastrophic for meeting customer expectations for delivering unit volumes, and making revenue targets

The TCX Approach

We have developed a systematic methodology to account for some of these operations issues.  This is based on a concurrent engineering approach which is one important aspect of - "glue-ware" in the IC development and implementation process.  Operations tasks are organized into four phases of the IC life cycle - Global Planning, Design Support and Operations Planning, Prototyping and Production Execution as shown in the figure.  This approach offers an opportunity to cost effectively manage the operations dilemma by selectively leveraging experienced industry resources.

Details of the TCX approach are discussed in a book and in various white papers.

TCX offers services in all four phase of the IC Development Cycle

Operations Resource Requirements

An experienced team provides an operations focus and solutions in support of the client’s management team.  As we discussed in the book, we use concurrent engineering principles to partition the IC Development Life Cycle into the four areas.  TCX provides services in any and all of these areas depending on the client’s needs.

Global Planning Services

"As-Is" Analysis Assessment

Customized presentation and/or report of recommendations

  • Implementation method selection - ASIC, COT, .....
  • Trade-offs of partition parameters - gate count, IP, memory, pins, package, chip size,...
  • Trade-offs in technology selection - 0.18um, 0.13um, 90nm, 65nm, 45/40nm, 32/28nm CMOS, SiGe BiCMOS, ...
  • Supply chain partner identification/early commits - ASIC, Foundry, Library, IP, Memory, Package, Test,...
  • Cost estimates and sensitivities, especially for chip size growth
  • Overall program plan development

This is usually a brief (4-6 week) engagement

Design Support and Ops Planning Services

This is usually a 6-12 month engagement

TCX becomes a virtual part of the management team in an "Acting VP Operations" role

Activities include the following:

  • Supplier relations/contract development and negotiation for:
    • IP, Libraries, Memories, Foundry, Design Services, Package,...
  • Technology feature selection and cost trade-offs - MiM Caps, Vt, ESD, DNW, Power, Performance,..
  • Prototyping shuttle arrangements
  • Characterization plan
  • Qualification planning
  • Package design and trade-offs
  • Test/Failure Analysis/Debug planning
  • Operations planning including manpower plan
  • Quality planning, Document Control plan and procedures
  • Cost estimates
  • Manufacturing infrastructure "Make vs. Buy" decisions
  • Program Management/tracking of progress on key benchmarks

Prototyping and Debug Services

Activities include the following:

  • Shuttle prototyping coordination
    • - with Foundry, Assembly, Test Service Providers
    • - Logistics and hand-offs, wire bond diagrams, marking,...
  • Characterization in process corners
  • Qualification coordination including burn-in boards, logistics,...
  • Oversee Test/Failure Analysis/Debug
  • Validate Yield/Cost estimates
  • Forecasting and capacity planning

This is usually a 3-6 month engagement.

The schedule is dependant on supplier cycle times, design complexity, test issues,...

Production Support Services

Activities include the following:

  • Qualification coordination
  • Yield characterization
  • Yield improvement program
  • Oversee Test/Failure Analysis/Debug
  • Validate Yield/Cost estimates
  • Forecasting and capacity planning
  • Oversee Document Release process
  • Manufacturing logistics - manage or transfer to internal team
  • Customer QA Audit interface


Fabless Book

“Fabless Semiconductor Implementation”, authored by Dr. Rakesh Kumar was published in March 2008 by McGraw Hill Publications.

Click here to purchase the book at a special discounted price.

Click here to purchase from

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