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Still Good Advice: Don’t Put All Your Fabs in One Basket

Last week, NEC Electronics America held an open house to showcase their newly expanded and upgraded fab in Roseville, CA. The fab has added an 8-inch line to the already existing 6-inch facility. This is all part of NEC Electronics Multifab™ strategy which was unveiled in February 2006. The Multifab strategy is designed to streamline manufacturing, enhance quality control and ensure a secure product supply by enabling customers to qualify one process at multiple manufacturing facilities. The process that will be ready for production later this year is an exact copy of a process that is already running in NEC Electronics Kyushu and Kumamoto facilities.

The increased capacity and capability is part of NEC Electronics’ plan to become the number one automotive microcontroller supplier by 2010. In addition to adding 0.15-micron, 8-inch wafer capacity, NEC Electronics is increasing resources at development centers in Dallas, Texas and Duesseldorf, Germany.

Semico Spin

Back in 1982, this fab was the first facility built in the U.S. by a Japanese semiconductor company. Once again NEC is bucking the trends by expanding an old fab in the U.S while most IDMs are closing or selling off their more mature fabs.

It is interesting to note that NEC Electronics America did not receive any special incentives for the expansion. The company installed used equipment from the NEC Electronics fab in Sagamihara, Japan and supplemented those tools with new equipment necessary to support 0.15-micron production and other test functions. But what a challenge! The company installed 8-inch equipment along side the 6-inch operations while still maintaining 6-inch production.

NEC Electronics Vice President of Manufacturing Operations Gabe Kim, attributes much of the fab success and efficiency to his employees. NEC must be going something right. He’s been at the Roseville fab for 23 years. And our tour guide was a 14-year veteran of the fab. How does NEC keep their talent? The importance of employee was evident all around the fab. There was a baseball diamond outside the gym and exercise room where we were welcomed. And there were pictures of employee "Kaizen Teams" or continuous improvement teams along with recognition pictures lining the walls inside the fab and in the hallways.

During the tour, a very proud employee showed us the Smooth-Flex Cart which was designed by fab employees to move wafers because they couldn’t find any supplier with exactly what they needed. (They plan on installing an 8” transport system in the near future.)

There was mention of the fact that having a U.S. fab was more convenient for European and U.S. customers to visit. I’m sure there was an automotive customer that required multiple manufacturing sites in order to ensure a more reliable source. And of course, the other reason why Roseville was attractive is that the infrastructure already existed.

But doesn’t this prove that manufacturing in the U.S. is still viable? Why can’t we do more of this? Our workforce talent just needs to be utilized in the right way. Is this a management shortfall, not being able to properly apply our workforce talent? If you’d like to see more opinions about this or make a comment yourself please go to the Electronic News Blog and post a comment.

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