President and CEO of Dove Electronic Components, Matt Waite, explains how the evolution of the fabless manufacturing model has affected quality in frequency control products.
When there is a component failure it creates havoc for the end user and the supplier. Product cannot ship, a revenue opportunity is lost and the logistics of rectifying the situation must get underway. Failure cannot be taken lightly, particularly in aerospace, automotive and medical applications where lives are on the line. The burden is on both the supplier and customer to make sure the component and the application are well suited for one another.
The electronics industry should take solace in the fact that the level of component failure versus the billions of electronic components shipped each year is extremely small. In my experience, this holds true for frequency control products (FCP). Dove Electronic Components is now in its 34th year and has experienced relatively few component failures in this time. This is testament to its longstanding, reliable supplier base, including some authorized distributor agreements over 30 years old.
In the unlikely event of a product failure, the supplier and distributor must process the failure and recovery plan with the same urgency as quoting new business. If handled properly it can be a positive experience, demonstrating a proactive approach to rectifying a situation.
In the FCP business, some of the few failures encountered can be traced back to the customer’s design, or a change in design by the manufacturer. It may seem that the change is benign, but a complex electronic system is susceptible to minute alterations. When failure analysis comes back, often times a customer has overpowered the crystal, causing it to fracture. When an oscillator is returned, sometimes we find that a different supplier from the approved vendor list was used. The basic specifications match up, but subtle changes in overall tolerances and jitter affect system performance.
The fabless production model is used across nearly all electronic components and frequency control is no different. Dove’s FCP supplier roster, from Abracon to Vectron, includes suppliers that have embraced the fabless model.
Interestingly, this was once frowned upon in the electronics industry, with those that used the model being called private labelers and brokers. This perception has changed, however, largely due to top tier semiconductor companies adopting fabless production. Wall Street loves that a semiconductor company doesn’t have to spend a billion dollars plus on a fab that has to be maintained and constantly updated to keep up with competitors.
Built in quality
Over the years, Dove has seen alliances evolve. Where a FCP supplier used 10 plus manufacturers for its production, it now has strong alliances with a handful at most. FCP suppliers also work closely with the contracted factory, sharing design and production methods to ensure that quality is built in.
Some FCP suppliers control nearly all of the production process and many top tier one customers require this. Longstanding Dove supplier, Epson, controls every aspect of its production process including manufacturing its own integrated circuits. Quality has been outstanding over Dove’s three-decade relationship with Epson and Dove has even had its in-house oscillator programming center audited so it meets Epson’s requirements.
Many of the top Japanese suppliers such as KDS, Kyocera and Murata and NDK also control a great deal of their manufacturing. Reassuringly, the quality of these suppliers is excellent, as are the top Taiwanese global players, Hosonic, Taitien and TXC, which are growing, reliable and quality conscious suppliers.