Today, semiconductor companies are gaining a competitive advantage through their product development, rather than manufacturing, capabilities. Many chip makers that were once vertically integrated are now getting rid of their fabs and outsourcing fabrication. As fab costs soar, fewer companies can afford the investment, resulting in fabless organizations. Consequently, product-development productivity has become the primary aspect of development time. However, as we’ve discussed, productivity is hard-pressed to keep pace with the ever-growing circuit complexity. Successful semiconductor companies must develop capabilities to narrow the gap between complexity and productivity without increasing team size.
Semiconductor companies often suffer from imbalances between R&D capacity and product development requirements. In utilizing predictive analytics for resource planning and schedule estimation, companies can more reliably match team size to complexity to ensure good utilization of resources and faster development time. Advanced analytics and processes can help teams identify product-development bottlenecks and increase efficiency.
Another method companies use to improve R&D initiatives is by shifting from hardware to embedded software for functionality implementations. Only the most high-performance demanding functions utilize custom hardware. For all other functions, embedded software offers significant cost savings. Furthermore, enhancements and upgrades can be implemented more frequently and less expensively than in hardware. Software developers are also more readily available and cost-effective than IC engineers. Additionally, products utilizing software interfaces are more easily integrated into customer environments, increasing their appeal.
The most time-consuming phases of chip design involve designing, verifying, and validating designs, especially with the increase in SOC devices. For this reason, more and more companies turn to IP cores in the chip design process. By using third-party logic, circuit blocks, and processor cores, companies can speed up development. In cases where a complex circuit block must be implemented, the team can use IP cores to save time and reduce development costs.