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    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    The ASIC Factory (Part 1) : The Toyota Way For Fabless ASICs

    Reading The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker got me to thinking about the benefits of bringing manufacturing into the realm of ASIC design (low cost, high quality, predictability, etc). For those who don't know, The Toyota Way is Toyota's management philosophy. The production system reflecting that philosophy allows Toyota to consistently figure as one of the best companies in the world. It's hard to comprehensively describe a philosophy in words but it is generally accepted that there are 14 principles that capture the essence of the Toyota Way. How can these 14 be applied to ASIC design? My thoughts:

    #1. Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.

    Focus on core competencies and don't waste too much energy pursuing multiple courses of action. This would apply to designs too. Trying to be good at everything from low-power wireless designs to high-performance multi-core processors is a recipe for disaster. You could extend this to methodologies or even EDA tools. Streamline. Focus. On the flip side, don't let the lack of a large current market prevent you from pursuing technologies or products that would have a great future market. Lastly, distinguish between the two (easier said than done but someone has got to say it ;) ).

    #2. Create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.

    Have a methodology and design process that is transparent and efficient. It will allow you to easily spot problems in the flow. Minimize idle time and non-value added work. In the course of work, a design engineer:

    • writes a script
    • checks the syntax
    • executes the script
    • waits for the results
    • opens some reports
    • checks specific parameters (slack, perhaps)
    Writing the script and checking the slack are pretty much the only steps that really adds value. Everything else is a waste of the engineer's time. What are you doing about it?

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