ON Semiconductor Corp. was created in 1999 as a spin-off of the broad-based "More-than-Moore" part of Motorola Semiconductors while Motorola's digital semiconductors became Freescale, a company that was subsequently sold to NXP Semiconductors NV.
As a result Onsemi's broad portfolio of products includes power devices, signal management, simple logic, discrete, and custom devices for automotive, communications, computing, consumer, industrial, LED lighting, medical, military/aerospace and power applications. It also has as many as ten wafer fabs. By 2025 that number will be a lot lower.
El-Khoury has determined that the company needs to focus down in terms of products, the manufacturing sites it owns and the market sectors it serves. And the compass that will drive the detail of those decisions will be the business opportunity of moving towards net-zero carbon emissions sustainability. The company is now seeing its future as intelligent power and intelligent sensors with a focus on supporting the industrial and automotive sectors.
He summed it up in an analyst conference by saying that sustainability is what governments are asking for, employees are demanding, companies are investing in and shareholders are requiring. "But more importantly, it's just the right thing to do," he told the analysts.
But surely there is a tension there. The more successful Onsemi, or any other chip company is, the more chips are sold and the more power is consumed.
El-Khoury doesn't see it like that. "Complexity is going up; electrification is nothing new. Now we must target energy efficiency." In other words, Onsemi wins by selling its efficient chips to displace its competitors' less efficient chips. And then the planet can win too. El-Khoury was speaking on the day when the United Nations published its most damning report yet on climate change. It is clear the planet needs to start winning and quickly.
Next: Growing markets versus sustainability