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Trends to watch @ CES!


CES 2012 is just around the corner! Let us look at some trends.

First, according to Ovum,  the ultrabook is shaping up to be a CES 2012 show stopper. It is expected that 20-40 devices will be introduced. There will be more of mobile connecrted devices, which are likely to be more app friendly, have brighter screens and offer intuitive user interfaces. TV manufacturers are expected to  demonstrate capabilities of “smart” TVs.

According to Accenture, another big story is likely to be the TV market. The market is challenged by the fact that consumers are planning to buy fewer TVs next year, according to Accenture’s new survey of 10,000 consumers in 10 countries.

Consumers are also watching TV on TV screens less often, and say they are especially disinclined to buy TV sets until prices decline. The battle is on for consumers eyeballs and attention among the multitude of screens such as desktop and laptop PCs, smartphones and tablets. There will be a push to find more innovative ways to make TV content on TV screens more compelling involving cloud and online services.

Accenture also believes ultrabooks will be a big story at CES 2012. This is a promising product category because these are highly powerful yet thin and portable computers. Tablets and smartphone markets are continuing to grow, but the ultrabook market poses a threat to both.

Among the biggies, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd launched the Samsung AdHub advertising platform for Samsung Smart TV platform. Through the newly-announced AdHub service, brands can deliver 3D, video and interactive advertisements into the living room via Samsung’s market-leading Smart TVs. China’s Haier will display connected televisions as well as key new design features and introduce the expanded line of audio solutions.

Elsewhere, dbx-tv announced Total Cal, an audio measurement and calibration tool that custom-optimizes sound quality from TVs, regardless of speaker size or price point.

VoiceBox Technologies Inc. has entered into a strategic agreement with Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) USA, Inc. to develop innovative in-car voice products and capabilities. Quantenna Communications will showcase 802.11n MIMO technology optimized for service providers and 802.11ac chipset for retail applications. Alereon Inc. is demonstrating high-speed wireless connectivity from Android-based smartphones and tablets to integrated wireless monitors/docks as well as HDTVs.

The Mobile500 Alliance has unveiled a breakthrough end-to-end solution that will enable its member broadcasters to build new revenue streams through Mobile DTV (MDTV). The goal is to make the solution available to Alliance member companies after beta launch and evaluation in Seattle, USA.

Two Bosch Group companies, Bosch Sensortec and Akustica, will be jointly showcasing their consumer MEMS products. While, Qualcomm Innovation Center Inc. (QuIC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm, is expected to launch the Snapdragon GameCommand application to the Android market on January 10, 2012, the opening day of the CES.

Texas Instruments Inc. (TI) hosts an OMAP4470 processor-based tablet running on a pre-release version of Windows 8 at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, demonstrating how the latest OMAP 4 platform distinctly supports Microsoft’s new computing experience, Windows 8, that reimagines Windows. And, Sensible Vision, the leading supplier of face authentication software, will demonstrate its face recognition app for iOS and Android mobile devices at the CES 2012 Wall of Apps. FastAccess Anywhere securely replaces passwords with a face to quickly and conveniently log in to apps and web sites on mobile devices.

Toshiba America Electronic Components Inc. (TAEC), will be demonstrating the latest additions to its lineup of flash memory offerings – the TransMemory-EX series of USB flash memory products. The new drives are compliant with the new USB 3.0 standards – known as Super Speed USB. Initial storage capacities include a 32GB model and a 64GB model.

Qualcomm MEMS Technologies Inc. and The Shanghai Nutshell Electronic Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of Shanda Networking Co. Ltd, China’s largest interactive digital content provider, announced the first e-reader featuring mirasol display technology, the Bambook Sunflower, to be commercially available in China in the coming weeks.

The latest figures from GfK Digital World, in partnership with Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), reveal global spending on consumer technology devices will surpass $1 trillion in 2012 for the first time, increasing by 5 percent over 2011’s figure of $993 billion.

These are just a few of the multiple trends one can expect at this year’s CES!

What’s happening with the global semiconductor industry?


This is turning out to be quite a week in the global semiconductor industry! First, Intel reported a record Q1, with first-quarter revenue of $10.3 billion. It reported operating income of $3.4 billion and net income of $2.4 billion. Great stuff!

Next, at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, China, it outlined plans for a new Atom processor-based SoC. It is codenamed as the Tunnel Creek SoC for IP phones, printers and in-vehicle-infotainment systems for cars. Excellent!

Then, at its 2010 Technology Symposium, TSMC announced that it will skip the 22nm manufacturing process node and move directly to a 20nm technology. In fact, it proposes to enter 20nm risk production in the second half of 2012. Brilliant!

Now, I have a release from Future Horizons that outlines the state of the global semiconductor industry. On the one hand, Future Horizons indicates that semiconductor sales have continued to be very strong. This looks set to continue for the rest of the year, resulting in a 2010 that is massively improved on 2009.

On the other hand, several companies still remain unjustifiably pessimistic and confused about the state of the market. Companies now have an opportunity to dominate the market. Instead they continue to be cautious, undermining their own prospects of making some serious money. Isn’t that confusing for the industry? Or, is it confusing itself?

I also have a report from Accenture titled ‘Flying blind in the semiconductor industry’, which you can read on the PC Semicon Blog.

According to Scott Grant, managing director with Accenture’s Semiconductor Business, the fallout from the global recession, massive fragmenting of the value chain, the rise of a more diverse world economy, and new sales and distribution models have created tough challenges for semiconductor companies when it comes to understanding and predicting demand for their chips and managing their supply chains. This lack of understanding is a dangerous liability in a world characterized by unprecedented volatility and competition.

Oh my, these are clearly mixed signals all over again! Or, is the global semiconductor industry having problems with its ‘place-and-route’ strategies? Just a fiigure of speech!

For one, is the global semicon industry truly flying blind? Scott Grant has given suggestions as to how the challenges can be tackled. He advises semiconductor companies to focus on three priorities: sales force effectiveness, supply chain integration and optimizing their collaborative planning and fulfillment capabilities.

Look, I’m not an expert! There are several questions that need to be asked, and I hope some knowledgeable folks can answer those.

For one, should the global semicon industry continue to revel in ‘inappropriate pessimism’,’ how will it affect its fortunes in the short and long terms? Or, are those strategies, as advised by Accenture, enough to help the industry? Next, why this need to skip process nodes? What happens to those betting on 22nm? Okay, will all of that have some impact on the semiconductor equipment industry in the long term? What’s really happening with the global semiconductor industry?

There is a need to swing back to optimism, folks, as Malcolm Penn of Future Horizons says in his monthly update.

As I’m about to call it a day (or evening or night), comes the news that EDA industry organizations, Accellera and The SPIRIT Consortium, have completed their merger!

Didn’t I tell you at the very beginning that this is turning out to be quite a week in the global semiconductor industry?

The next week promises to be fun, especially in the Indian semiconductor/VLSI/electronics industry! Well, it has to do with microelectronics! You’ll find out soon. 🙂 Keep reading this blog, friends.

Round-up 2009: Best of semiconductors

December 31, 2009 3 comments

Right folks! We’ve now come down to the last day of what has been one of the worst years, or the worst year ever, in the history of the global semiconductor industry!

After a very tough first half of 2009, things did start looking up in the second half, and that trend has continued right up to the end of the year. It is a sincere wish that this trend continues well into 2010 and 2011, thereby allowing the industry to scale great heights again.

Presenting a list of leading semiconductor industry related posts that mattered in 2009. Here you go!

SEMICONDUCTORS

Reviewing global/Indian semicon industry in 2008 — top posts

Consumer MEMS shine amid gloom: iSuppli

Global semi to dip by 28pc in 2009; Indian semi to grow at 13.4pc by 2010! Don’t get carried away!!

What the semiconductor industry should do in 2009!

Indian semiconductor market to reach $7.59bn by 2010!

Global semiconductor industry could well see revival in 2010?

Can the Indian semicon industry dream big? (And even buy Qimonda?)

Indian silicon wafer fab story seems dead and buried! Should we revive it? — A topic everyone loves to talk about, but do very little!

ISA Vision Summit 2009 lacks the punch!

What India now offers to global semicon industry! — Need to look beyond embedded and design services! Top read!!

ISA Vision Summit 2009: Indian design influence, ideas to volume

Definite need for rethink on India’s fab strategy!

Time for Indian semicon to step up! Yes or No?

Infineon on India’s e-passport and semicon industry

Indian chip industry dead? You’ve got to be kidding me!

How semicon firms can achieve high performance by simplifying business!

How semicon firms can achieve high performance — Part II

ISA’s BV Naidu on India’s way forward in semiconductors

Clearly, mixed signals in OEM semiconductor design activities!

What needs to be done to boost chip designing activities in India?

Freescale’s Rich Beyer on semicon and industry trends

Cypress on Indian semicon industry trends; launches PSoC 3 and PSoC 5 architectures

Chip market outlook: Back to normal abnormality? — Malcolm Penn @ IEF2009, Geneva

Excerpts from Future Horizons’ International Electronics Forum 2009 @ Geneva

Excerpts from Future Horizons’ IEF 2009 — II

Strong semicon industry recovery likely in 2010! — The first signs of recovery for an industry in trouble!

What does it take for students to be (semiconductor) industry-ready! — a top read article, especially for students!

Building pillars of India’s tech infrastructure: Dr. Bobby Mitra, TI India

Top 20 semicon suppliers of 2009! — One of the most read articles of the year!

Future Horizons signs me as its India affiliate! — I can’t wait to do events, research reports etc. in India! 😉

2009 ending with lot of positives for global semiconductor industry

Semicon update Dec. ‘09: Q4’s off to a great start; is ‘plan B’ in your back pocket?

Nov. 09 update: -10 percent growth in 2009, +22 percent minimum for 2010, says Future Horizons

My dear friends, it has been an absolute pleasure bringing to you the trials and triumphs of the global and Indian semiconductor industry this year. Hope to carry this forward in 2010 and beyond.

In case I’ve missed out certain posts, do point out those. A list of posts related to EDA and embedded systems are presented elsewhere on this blog. Also, it is not possible for me to select the top 10 articles for the year. If anyone of you can, I’d be very delighted.

My best wishes to you, your families and loved ones for a happy and prosperous 2010. Take care, God bless, and see you all very soon next year!

How semicon firms can achieve high performance — Part II

May 6, 2009 Comments off

Friends, as promised, here is the second part of the discussion I had with Accenture’s Scott Grant, based on Accenture’s recent study: Managing Through Challenging Times!

4. Reducing the time to cash for new products.
When companies industrialize the market concept, and they procure design win opportunities, we tend to see critical components involved with this: a) maintaining relationships of requirements from market analysis through final manufacturing build plan; b) leaders who use consistent lifecycle management of a product development flow; and c) IP management with integrated roadmap portfolio capabilities.

“Firms at times are not able to convert concepts to cash quickly. The process to integrate them has several gaps including innovation lifecycles, conversion of R&D concepts to volume products, and ability to optimize the engineering capacity constraints within their P&Ls.”

Product lifecycle management, portfolio & market analytics, and engineer skills/human resource management help to address these gaps. Portfolio management and roadmap planning process are a must. When done, semiconductor companies will be able to map quickly with the customers and the market insights.

5. Sharpening customer focus through more in-depth and accurate customer insight.
Most firms won’t survive if they are unable to gain rapid adoption of their product offering. From our experience, high performing companies build detailed customer usage-models and insight into end-device markets early in their R&D process.

The challenge many find is that without this baseline of understanding it is difficult to convert concepts into cash once the end-product is delivered to the market.

Many of the insights are available from Point of Sale trends, which can help a semicon firm exist at either an OEM (PC, handset, etc.) or distributor. High performers have enhanced the relationship with their work collaborators and customers to gain access to this data. They also build a “Trusted Advisor” relationship where they build scenarios for each end market to better predict what their end-customer may desire in features or functions.

It is difficult for a semicon firm to know how a product will be used. It is really the beginning of gaining insight into utilization, the consumer, and what usage model should be employed. So a semicon firm should study carefully how things can be used in the market. User behavior is crucial. If companies don’t understand that, they may be missing out.

6. Pursuing alliances to share the cost burden of new product development.
The point here is to make sure that semiconductor companies are taking a strategic view and look at the right places to pursue alliances. There’s a lot of impact in pursuing alliances. When semicon companies do this, they can absolutely share the burdens, but it can impact the operating model.

Other recommendations for the industry
What are the other recommendations that Accenture have for the semiconductor industry going forward?

Grant recommends the industry to focus on achieving high performance business results. Those include sustained leadership in various financial metrics such as return to shareholders, profits, and revenue growth.

“Recognize and adapt to the reality that we are now living in a multi-polar world. This is a world in which a growing number of emerging countries and economies are becoming more financially powerful, competitive and relevant in competing against the traditionally more developed parts of the world such as North America, Asia and Europe. This means there are a multitude of growing business opportunities in these emerging nations for semiconductor companies to capitalize on.

“Proactively invest during a recession rather than pull back investments and just wait until the economy pulls out of this down cycle. History has shown that those companies that invest the most perform better in the years after the market recovers.”

Companies repeating mistakes?
Now, these recessions always have a bad habit of occuring cyclically! Therefore, why do semiconductor (and other) companies tend to repeat those same mistakes again and again?

According to Grant, one reason is they tend to indiscriminately and rapidly cut costs without thinking more strategically and carefully about what costs to cut. “They tend to lay off workers who they need when the market recovers, but they can’t hire them back because those employees have moved on with their careers. These semiconductor companies don’t think hard enough about what employees and assets they will need when the market recovers.”

Layoffs? What about design and development?
Finally, are layoffs the only solution to combat recession? What happens to design and development?

Grant agrees that layoffs are absolutely not the only solution to combat recession. Investing in core competencies is crucial, and spending less time and effort on non-core capabilities is important.

“Employee morale tends to fall within design and development during a recession because they see some of their colleagues lose their jobs and they take on more work. And they lose more control of what work they are assigned to do. And they’re less secure about their job security.

“But, much of this can be alleviated by giving employees a chance to share their ideas and concerns at regularly scheduled Town Hall meetings, to communicate with them regularly and candidly, and to focus them on achieving high performance business results.”

CONCLUDED

Categories: Accenture, Scott Grant

How semicon firms can achieve high performance by simplifying business!

May 4, 2009 Comments off

Engineers in the global semiconductor industry have typically have had considerable control of their work. Processes are pretty straightforward, sequential, and logical — and satisfying for an honest day’s work.

However, due to the ongoing global economic downturn, many of these engineers are rapidly losing control of more of their professional lives. Caught like the rest of the world in a recession, they are losing more control of what work they are assigned to do, how they do it, in what sequence, by when and with whom.

Given these inter-related problems, many semiconductor companies need to make rapid and fundamental changes in their business operations, strategies and workforce management practices to emerge from this downturn, and for year beyond, as high performers.

Once this recession ends, these people will be entering a market with a different landscape than the market that existed when the downturn began. They need to figure out how to restart their businesses, regain their footing and connect to a new purpose.

They need to address the so-called ‘soft’ aspects of business, such as the engineers who design chips and how they feel. It’s time for them to pay more attention to the little things that may seem innocuous but are actually central to achieving high performance.

Thanks to Charlie Hartley, Accenture, US, I was able to get hold of Accenture’s recent study: Managing Through Challenging Times!! Quite an interesting read!

Naturally, it led to a conversation with Scott Grant, Executive Global Lead of Accenture’s Semiconductor Operating Unit (see image here), who led the research and analysis of this new Accenture report released now about these issues and recommended solutions.

Accenture’s report has seven suggestions or recommendations.

1. Divesting the business of unproductive assets.
2. Infusing a higher degree of operational excellence into the business.
3. Maintaining morale and energy in the workforce, especially in the key area of innovation.
4. Reducing the time to cash for new products.
5. Sharpening customer focus through more in-depth and accurate customer insight.
6. Pursuing alliances to share the cost burden of new product development.
7. Acquiring key assets.

Let’s take a look at those, one by one!

1. Divesting the business of unproductive assets.
From Accenture’s perspective, it has become evident during the past few years that among the top 20 semiconductor a growing number are fabless. That trend will continue in the future mainly because fabless companies have more competitive cost structures than semiconductor manufacturing companies that incur such high fixed-asset costs for their operations. Accenture’s clients (customers) are seeking to understand the business operating model that best fits their desired position in the market. Our assessment leads to having a leaner product portfolio.

The first thing we look at is true cost at length. Traditionally, industry looks at cost per wafer metrics. Accenture studies what the hidden costs are. We look at Total Cost to Land including NPI re-spin costs, complete organization costs, advanced manufacturing process costs, plus the traditional material and labor costs. The goal is to find a fair comparison with an external manufacturing model that presents key improvement opportunities.

We also look for an integrated roadmap for manufacturing, design technology and intellectual property (IP). There are opportunities to better use IP investments across both leading products and derivatives, resulting in reduced cost in product ramp/readiness. To divest of unproductive assets, high performing firms build an accurate and balanced cost baseline for comparison.

In addition, we also look at strategic sourcing. Semiconductor companies often ask how they can lower costs. Sometimes this has the adverse affect within material quality. Strategic sourcing is an important factor to balance both sides of this equation. We suggest that our clients compare costs objectively against their peer groups and external suppliers. Many times we see lower direct material costs through use of external manufacturing models, because of the manufacturing supplier’s economies of scale.

2. Infusing a higher degree of operational excellence into the business.
Traditionally, semiconductor companies were all about operational excellence. In the late 90s and early 2000s, the industry was about R&D excellence. Now, we see operational excellence in terms of sales and marketing — with the amount of feet on the ground, the amount of time invested per design wins. Accenture strives to understand how companies better integrate sales operations into the manufacturing and production operation process.

Given the focus on external manufacturing, operational excellence is now being applied to the IP Ecosystem. IP management is critical for the current industry landscape. Semiconductor companies need to have a compelling argument to differentiate their IP. IP management and external management have been the crux of the strategy. Companies see the design importance growing. They see the change in their clients’ requests towards a focus on sales operation and the IP ecosystem.

We see a few shifts in sales opeations. Many of Accenture’s clients are challenged when they take emerging products into certain regional and local markets. One key challenge is the ability to maintain consistency in quoting, contracting and ordering. The other challenge is training and investing in sales. Sales is being asked to do more. They seem to spend 45 percent of their time in non-sales activities such as administrative tasks. However, they need to spend much more of their total time than that on sales activities and have others do more of the administration.

When Accenture examines the sales cycles of semiconductor companies, we tend to see limited performance metrics that follow. These companies tend to adhere to regional sales models — and the complexity arises regarding how to be consistent with quoting, contracting and ordering.

3. Maintaining morale and energy in the workforce, especially in the key area of innovation.
One of the key decisions during a downturn is workforce reduction. For those employees remaining with the companies after reductions, it’s key for these companies to re-enforce their connection to the new strategy, and how can they re-adjust from a training perspective to prepare such employees for innovation.

Investing in innovation is a huge priority. The transition Accenture sees in workforce reduction includes engineers feeling a loss of control. To maintain moral and energy, semiconductor executives need to continue to communicate strategic objectives to all employees.

Sometimes amid the change, a semiconductor company needs to ask whether it has thought beyond the change event (portfolio, workforce or facility reductions) and also focused on the complete organizational transition. This is a process of communication — to help employees reconnect with their companies. Getting employees to understand, adapt and connect to the new direction takes a lot longer, and it also impacts productivity. Yet it must be emphasized.

Part II continues tomorrow. Stay tuned, folks!

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