ITC 2008:
Cisco VP Promotes Test in the Supply Chain

by Tets Maniwa

The 2008 International Test Conference in Santa Clara opened on October 28th with a plenary talk from Michael Lydon, vice president of technology and quality at Cisco Systems. Lydon began his talk with the question: "What intellectual property do you have that can be shared with your supply chain, that will improve product quality?"

Lydon spent the next hour laying out the answer to his question: The drivers in the marketplace for answering this question are relevant to the entire industry.

The Internet is changing all phases of life and interactions between people and machines. In 2001, approximately 300 million devices were connected. This number is expected to increase to over 14 billion devices by the end of 2009. Video is changing everything, as well, with the current volume of video bits exceeding the volume of all backbone traffic in 2001. Today’s connectivity is driving the entire world towards greater urbanization and changing the world from a physical-labor economy to a services-based economy.

The changing demographics across the world reflect one constant; the rate of change is increasing. With all the changes in human-to-human, human-to-machine, and machine-to-machine communications, a host of new problems and challenges for all industries arise. The increasing rate of change begs the question: "Will we have time to find viable solutions?"

Cisco is deeply involved in supplying the infrastructure to use all available change, from the high-end routers and switches in the backbone, down through many levels to the end-user access hardware. Meanwhile, all of this hardware must meet fairly rigid demands for quality.

Quality comes from three critical components: good designs, good components, and excellent control processes. First: in the design area, Cisco couples early test development with the concept of design for reliability and efficiency. Second: good components are based on the concept of six Sigma, and the ability to share quality data on a business-to-business basis across the entire supply chain. And third: standard procedures must move all processes towards zero defects.

Relevant to ITC, Lydon noted that the drive towards test excellence in the industry enables earlier detection of problems and the identification of emerging trends. Access to good data greatly improves information feedback loops and sharing throughout the supply chain, as well as enhancing the ability for people to act on early information before they have access to physical components. Additionally, by sharing failure information, Cisco improves its ability to innovate in their test methodologies, while the ability to transfer data seamlessly across the supply chain enables continuing improvements in quality levels for the company, their vendors and their customers.

Data sharing, however, requires more than just the transfer of bits. The various partners need to identify appropriate metrics and understand that data valuable to one partner, may in fact be inconsequential to another. Nevertheless, the overall system Cisco has developed helps to improve yields and decrease defects as teams of people across the global supply chain work together to solve problems.

Providing the foundation for good metrics is the ability to start from a standard test development and operations platform. Included within Cisco test development are resource planning and customer configuration management capabilities, with resolutions that can even trace country of origin for individual components. These management and tracing capabilities are the basis for the data sharing and analysis functions on internal and external networks at Cisco. Reports and measurements are sent to all suppliers, which in turn improves the speed of response for any important data.

Lydon closed by noting that critical parameters are flagged and available to all partners. This open information exchange allows all suppliers to gather and share critical information in a timely fashion. Early failure analysis results in preventative responses within the supply chain, as opposed to long lines of product being manufactured with faults that must be resolved after the fact.

Cisco’s ultimate goal is to have zero customer returns. Sharing information up and down the entire supply change improves quality and reduces waste among all partners, and helps the company move towards this goal.

November 10, 2008


EDA industry observer Tets Maniwa can be reached at maniwa_at_sbcglobal.net


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