Long tail supply chain ramifications

supplychainAs the world recovers from the global pandemic and vaccination programmes gain pace, the tone of news is, on the whole, optimistic. As the focus moves to economic recovery and a return to something resembling normality, many sectors are breathing a metaphorical sigh of relief.

Elsewhere are worrying signs that the knock-on effects of the pandemic are only now beginning to surface. Factories that shut down and are now ramping back up to capacity are finding they are coming back online only to face supply chain issues as capacity in component supplier factories has shifted to other priorities.

The automotive sector is one of many affected. Modern cars have an abundance of technology – recent reports suggest 150 million lines of code and up to 100 different processors. As the pandemic hit, automotive manufacturing slowed as demand stalled, and only now that other sectors are opening up are demand forecasts suggesting that the time to ramp up production has arrived. But the supply chains that are relied upon for the sensors, circuits and processors have been diverted to service sectors that didn’t stall, and in fact thrived, through the pandemic.

Sectors including wireless, IoT, personal comms and video streaming have burgeoned through the pandemic. Zoom’s revenues had quadrupled by September 2020, and Microsoft reported a 50% increase in daily active users and neither are expecting this increase in demand to drop off. So when automotive demand dropped, fabs switched their attention – and capacity – to service sectors that were thriving. It’s good business.

But those same fabs aren’t going to switch back at the drop of a hat when the car industry calls – contracts are signed, processes in flow and capacity simply isn’t there. Fabs slowed down the expansion of their wafer capacities as demand was lower. It takes time – from 20 weeks up to a year or two to bring a wafer fab online, so simply increasing capacity isn’t an option either. Instead, the fabs are in a position of strength, with their services in high demand, so the long-term picture, for them at least, is strong, but for sectors that experienced a drop in demand and revenues and were anticipating a resurgence, it seems the true impact of the pandemic is only now starting to take effect.

It’s rumoured that TSMC’s 5nm capacity is all taken up by Apple, and Samsung are in a similar thriving position, with reports that their legal teams are all engaged in managing NDAs and contract negotiations and have no capacity to discuss new engagements with prospects.

So while some win, others lose out. In the long run, things will inevitably find some type of equilibrium, but in the short term is there a learning to be taken? Could IP reuse shortcut at least some of the delay?

Perhaps. But supply chain resilience is a huge and escalating issue. There are other socio-economic issues in the mix too with tensions around political topics in the far east, anxieties are certainly high. There has never been a more important time to ensure your supply chain is robust, resilient and reliable.

This is an issue occupying many in Europe and the US. With the issue now top-of-the pile for leading politicians globally – not least in the White House – one positive outcome is likely to be the development of new manufacturing plants closer to home.

Interesting to note that since I posted this blog the subject has gone mainstream – for example, in a recent news piece from the BBC, the Harvard Business Review and the Guardian.


Thalia successfully completes 20th 22nm analog IP reuse engagement

Successful completion of 20 analog design IP migration into 22nm technology node demonstrates a robust platform for efficient and cost-effective porting

Cwmbran, UK, 4 March 2021. Thalia Design Automation, a leading IP reuse company and experts in targeted automation for analog and mixed signal design and migration, today announced the successful completion of its 20th analog IP portfolio migration into the 22nm technology node.

This milestone demonstrates the potency of Thalia’s AMALIA platform – particularly in migrating analog IP to 22nm.  Using the AMALIA IP reuse platform, Thalia is able to reduce the number of iterations required to reuse an IP in a new technology or node. The data generated by the platform informs how similar or dissimilar the base and target technologies are, allowing Thalia to plan and drive the IP reuse process more efficiently. The result is that the process delivers solutions 30-50% more quickly than conventional approaches.

The 22nm node fits perfectly with analog and mixed-signal applications mainly for audio and power management analog IPs. Migrating to 22nm delivers significantly lower leakage and boosts performance and Thalia enables its clients to benefit from this, swiftly and efficiently migrating analog IP to the 22nm process. In doing so, they help them to leverage the power and performance benefits of the node and expand their IP portfolios cost effectively.

“This milestone is a testament to our unique approach to IP migration,” said Sowmyan Rajagopalan, Thalia Design Automation CTO. “Many companies can offer design expertise in migrating analog IPs, but our unique combination of experienced designers, targeted automation through the AMALIA platform, and advanced methodologies means migrations can be successfully completed in less time, saving our customers time and money. By reducing the cost to reuse IPs, the barrier that impacts the decision to move IPs from one technology / node to another is reduced. With an efficient IP reuse solution, more companies would be able to address the full spectrum of market opportunities; that’s what Thalia delivers.”

Thalia has applied its unique combination of experienced analog design resources and innovative automation methodology to products using a wide range of technologies and process nodes. Thalia has a proven track record of delivering designs in cutting edge applications and in advanced technologies, and in some of the industry’s most demanding application areas. Thalia’s solutions are available as a service.