The Easiest Product In The World To Make…

…is a product data sheet.

I learned this when I was employed by National Semiconductor Computer Products Group. Every month, we’d have to go beg Floyd Kvamme, General Manager of Semiconductor Operations, to sign purchase orders for DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips from “competing” manufacturers like Intel and/or a number of foreign competitors. Floyd hated the idea of giving other companies CPG’s business.

I say “competing” as National Semiconductor was never a leader in DRAM chips; at best National Semiconductor was a second, third or fourth source typically arriving much later in the market for a particular chip specification. To compete as a business selling systems, we needed to have the latest, greatest chips available in the marketplace. This is what our customers demanded of us. National Semiconductor simply wasn’t up to the task time and time again.

We’d have to bring Floyd a copy of the specs for each purchase order–this was part of the monthly drill. Almost without exception, Floyd would declare, “We make that part. I’ve seen the data sheet.” This was his way of suggesting we didn’t need to buy it from a competitor—we could buy it from him (corporate).

We would explain that the data sheet was for a future product, that it had been copied from our competitor’s data sheet and we had not successfully built more than a couple of chips (if that!) that met the specifications. We needed thousands, not a handful.

The semiconductor business is all about yield. Yielding a couple of chips that met the specifications out of hundreds or thousands built was simply not viable to meet our production needs.

The easiest product to create is a data sheet. Cost-effectively executing the specifications articulated in the data sheet is an entirely different matter. A delay in meeting the specifications can render its availability moot.

Customers don’t care about data sheets. They care about products that meet the criteria expressed in the data sheets.

Thought for the week:

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

What do you think? I welcome your comments! Dave Gardner

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