Today is a day that some said would not come, and others said was inevitable. Pressure from some of the largest consumer electronics companies is now forcing semiconductor suppliers to apply automotive standards, in particular Part Average Testing (in line with AEC-Q001) and Statistical Bin Limits (in line with AEC-Q002), to consumer products.
Evidence from our customers suggests that the day is well and truly here. With a number of the largest consumer electronics companies, our customer’s customers, pushing for a rise in quality through application of these standards.
What does this mean to the end consumer? The target and drive behind this is to increase quality. Quality is becoming a driver in the industry again. After many years of falling prices and $20 DVD players many consumers are saying “No! I am happy to pay more for a quality product.” And this fuels the rise of companies like Apple, a company targeting high quality, high margin business. So the end consumer becomes less wasteful and spends more.
What does this mean to the semiconductor manufacturer? This is in fact a very big demand on the semiconductor industry. Prices have been driven down hard, now quality is being driven up, but prices will not rise. This means that quality must be increased in a very efficient way.
There are two things that semiconductor companies can do to help themselves in this situation:
1. Remember that quality is intrinsically linked to yield. Improving yield will increase quality and will increase profit. Though it is still important to ensure return on investment by using the right systems to enable engineers to apply their know how and ensure that the highest value issues are resolved.
2. Part average testing and statistical bin limits can be applied by carrying out week’s worth of calculations on a spreadsheet. While spreadsheets are very useful this is not an effective use of engineer’s time. Automated systems can carry out the calculations in a fraction of the time with a far higher degree of accuracy while the engineer focuses on other issues.
Overall I see this as a big positive for the industry and part of long term cycles of quality and price. Over the past 10 to 15 years there has been a huge focus on reducing cost and lowering price. Finally quality is starting to become the dominant factor. As long as price can at least level for some time this will be a big plus for the industry. It means that suppliers serious about quality will be more successful, and some low cost only companies may fade from existence. This will mean quality products delivered to us as end consumers for our hard earned money.