Michael LeGoff, CEO at Plessey Semiconductors has hit out at the idea that chip companies do not need fabs. Writing in Electronics Weekly he quoted former AMD CEO Jerry Sanders as saying “Only real men have fabs”.
LeGoff said that since Sanders said his quote more businesses were emailing their chip designs to a foundry in Asia and get their chips back a couple of months later. The problem is that with everyone using the same process technology it is impossible to make your product appear different.
His outfit is making money by providing market opportunities for being able to provide products that are not standard. LeGoff said that Plessey Semiconductors built its reputation on having cutting edge technology.
To do that you have to be able to walk into your own fab and tweak a process to suit a customer need or develop something special like our radiation hard processes for military and aerospace applications. There is a bonus that you do not have to wait for slots in a foundry halfway round the world but can rush through and have chips exactly when you want them.
LeGoff said it was rubbish that the UK cannot compete in electronics manufacturing with the low labour costs in Asia. He said that labour only accounts for 20 per cent of his total costs of manufacture.
Chipmakers need to dare to be different, keep innovating to stay ahead of the game, and “real men still have fabs."