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    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    The ASIC Factory (Part 6) : The Toyota Way For Fabless ASICs

    This post is part 6 of the application of the 14 principles of the Toyota Way to the ASIC design process. To catch up, you can either read Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 , Part 4 and Part 5 or click on principles #1 through #11 below.

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

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

    Use "pull" systems to avoid overproduction.

    #4. Level out the workload (heijunka). (Work like the tortoise, not the hare).

    #5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.

    #6. Standardized tasks and processes are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.

    #7. Use visual control so no problems are hidden.

    #8. Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.

    #9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others.

    #10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.

    #11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.

    #12. Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation (Genchi Genbutsu).

    The prerequisite for any successful process improvement initiative is a good problem statement.
    This principle mandates that, in order to frame a good problem statement, you have to experience the pain firsthand. This way, your work is not directed by assumptions and guesses. You think and design from personal experience and have a solution that addresses the real problem. For example, what are the pain points in your ASIC flow? Too many ECOs? Is timing closure where your people burn most of their cycles? Or, perhaps, the last few DRCs? You'll never know until you experience it firsthand. Once you know what the problem is, the solution cannot be far behind.

    #13. Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly (nemawashi).

    This principle is a masterful piece of social engineering. It's relatively simple to put a product project on the fast track. You create a skunkworks team and let them drive the project to completion. The problem with such an approach is that you will crash and burn when you apply it to processes. When it comes to processes affecting people, you first need to ensure that you're solving their most pressing problems. Second, you need buy-in from everyone to ensure successful adoption. That's why this principle works for processes. Counter to a skunkworks method, process design (or re-design) should be something every concerned stakeholder should have a hand in deciding. This approach provides superior solutions that also stand a better chance of large-scale adoption.

    • Since the decisions involve the key stakeholders, the outcome is probably a superior solution that addresses the real issues.
    • By having a larger number of people exploring the solution space, the quality of the solution is improved.
    • Since all stakeholders feel like they had a hand in the design, the not-invented-here issue does not arise.
    At the end of the decision-making process, there is support for the solution across the rank and file of the organization. Further, the solution will not undergo further changes. These two factors make possible the rapid implementation of the solution.

    #14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen).

    Think of the previous principles as directions. This 14th principle is the motive force that propels the organization. The 14th principle turns an organization into a living being constantly evolving to meet the challenges within and without. The principle is simple. First, everything and anything can be improved if you apply your intellect to its design. Second, incremental and continuous change at every level of the organization directed by the previous thirteen principles has the highest chance of success.

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