Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sematech: Saving the US Semiconductor Industry

Why Sematech consortium worked:

1. Members were willing to change
2. Members reduced interfirm secrecy
3. Solved problems with facts and information
4. Continuously reapplied the cooperative model
5. Accomplished specific, agreed-upon goals
6. Members avoiding “sandbagging”
7. Leverage continuous learning
8. Microchip industry profited by helping itself
9. The amount of investment was too big to dismiss
10. The organization was the optimal size
11. Leaders were willing to contribute without assurance of direct payback
12. Founding members brought with them the confidence of previous success

“The most important and timely success factor mentioned by everyone involved in Sematech is unprecedented cooperation among competitors requires an absolute belief in the necessity for collective action – a commonly held conviction that without hanging together, each will surely hand separately. In Sematech’s case that conviction was a widely held view that the industry’s survival was gravely endangered, and with it, the nation’s economic and military independence.”

“If it’s not competitive, it has to change.”

“The first empowerment was the decision to try. The second empowerment was the planning workshops, which said, ‘Try to do what?’”

“The biggest secret is that there is no secret.”

“One of the things we learned at Sematech early on was that all the secrets we were keeping from each other were basically the same secrets.”

“The prohibited areas of competitive collaboration were related to proprietary product and marketing issues. Legally allowed precompetitive collaboration involved core competencies or generic manufacturing process issues. The approximate proportions of the two types of information were eventually discovered to be a surprising 85 percent generic to 15 percent proprietary.”


1. Being open to ongoing self-assessment and willingness to change
2. The recognition of long-term interdependence for survival
3. The importance of hearing every voice
4. The necessity of continually learning from learning
5. The moral conviction of the win/win rewards of systematically expanding mutual support

Sematech: Saving the US Semiconductor Industry, Larry Browning & Judy Shetler, Texas A&M University Press, 2000

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