Ensuring Uninterrupted Parts Supply

The key stages of Semiconductor Lifecycle Management (SLiM) were presented in my first blogs, and now we are starting to look at the key aspects of a successful SLiM program. In a preceding blog we discussed the key elements of wafer storage and management, and this article will take a look at how to ensure the uninterrupted supply of key components by managing the fabrication and testing conversion process. (See: Wafer Storage & Management for Extending Product Lifecycle.)

Many semiconductor manufacturers, even those with an appreciation for the needs of the military contractor, make end-of-life (EOL) and last-time-buy (LTB) announcements well before the end of the life of a program. This forces the aerospace or defense contractor into a tough situation with two unattractive choices: 1) try to predict how many devices it will need for the life of the program and then figure out how to come up with the funding to purchase these devices; or 2) initiate a redesign to replace the soon-to-be obsolete devices.

A strategic SLiM supplier will work with the military contractor to prepare in advance for the pending EOL/LTB events and put a plan in place to continue to supply these devices over the length of the program.

The ideal scenario for the military contractor is to work with a SLiM supplier that has a direct business relationship with the original semiconductor manufacturer. In this model, the SLiM supplier will have access to the original fabrication facility and will also have a direct link to test programs and information that will enable it to easily move directly into volume production. A successful SLiM supplier will anticipate widely used semiconductor devices and negotiate with OEM suppliers to work out a plan for obsolescence, thereby ensuring a continuous supply of devices to the military market.

This ideal scenario is not always viable between the OEM semiconductor suppliers and the SLiM supplier. In this case, the SLiM supplier must be able to obtain a significant quantity of wafers to supply the aerospace and defense contractors with enough products to satisfy the market demand. The SLiM supplier must also possess the expertise to independently develop and verify test programs with adequate test coverage to ensure all required specifications are met in all applications.

Additionally, the SLiM supplier must have the capability to assemble with packages that meet the MIL-STD-1835 and/or JEDEC package specifications. Finally, the SLiM supplier must have the necessary quality controls and certifications in place to be able to provide anything from COTS to fully DSCC certified and QML Class B, Q, and V level products as needed by the market.

Even with all of the best planning and preparation for the aerospace and defense market demand, there may still come a time when the wafer bank runs out. The most valuable SLiM provider will have the capability to extend the life of products by completing product redesign, including determination and management of a suitable replacement wafer fab facility, complete product and test program redevelopment, and full quality programs to meet the stringent requirements of key military and aerospace programs.

4 comments on “Ensuring Uninterrupted Parts Supply

  1. SP
    May 6, 2011

    Obsolescence management should be the part of product life cycle mangement in any product design comapny becuase when a critical part gets obsolte, it really hurts the design very badly. Obsolescence management becomes a priority in aerospace and militray design.

  2. prabhakar_deosthali
    May 8, 2011

    With the fast changing semiconductor technology,  ensuring uninterrupted supply of semiconductor parts for long life products has become really a tough challenge. You may have the wafer banks, you may have the necessary equipment to get those wafers put into Ics when needed; but the big question that remains is the availability of manpower down the time-line to understand, repair the tools during the lifecycle. Parts may be fabricated but if some small software bug is to be corrected , who is going to handle it? The engineers generations are also fast adapting to the new technologies and on the way forgetting the old ones.  A couple of years down the line, for example, nobody will remember that there was something called RS-232-c for all kind of serial communications or the Centronics parallel interface for the printers How are we going to handle this situation?

  3. Nemos
    May 8, 2011

    “A strategic SLiM supplier will work with the military contractor” The SLiM supplier is a freelance company or an employee who works for the military?

    And if it is freelance why the military doesn't have a SLiM sector under his guidance and supervision.

  4. tioluwa
    May 9, 2011

    I don't know how this works now but i concure with Nemo's question: doesn't the military and aerospace industries have an internal SLiM department.


    for the military i think it may be risky outsourcing such a task to a third party.

    Like you said, parts will tend to go obsolate and SLiM programs may not always work out fine.

    Is the approach presented by this post a futuristic approach? how exactly is the issue of SLiM tackled in the industry now?

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