As he tells the story, what was originally estimated as a six-month process before they could possibly restart the Naka fab was cut in half. By early June, Naka’s 200mm line began operation and, a week later, the 300-mm line restarted. This was because “to get Renesas up and running was a national priority – at least one of the national priorities – to the Japanese government,” he explained. But more important, the goal was achieved through extraordinary measures by suppliers, contractors – and even sometimes competitors who made no bones about diverting necessary equipment deliveries to Renesas.
At the peak of its recovery efforts in April, 2,500 people were working shifts around the clock, 24/7, all running a thousand different tasks in parallel, Mahoney explained.
Considering the magnitude of a disaster in which many employees lost their homes, Renesas management wouldn’t have dared demand a swift return from any of its employees in the area.
But in reality, as soon as these employees dealt with their own life and death issues, they all wanted to come back, said Mahoney. Each seemed to view the success of the company – getting Renesas back – as a personal goal.
Mahoney was visiting Japan just a week before the earthquake hit on March 11th. He found himself already back in Japan in mid-April, as he led a group of customers who requested the trip to get the first-hand information on Renesas.
Comparing Renesas before and after the quake, Mahoney observed a fresh energy among Renesas employees, dedicating themselves to the company’s full recovery. He said misfortune has turned a traditional, conservative and sometimes stodgy chip maker into “a new company.”
What did Renesas learn from this experience?
First, he said, “I personally learned the real power of teamwork. Everyone saw firsthand the whole was much greater than the sum of its parts.”
After giving a few moments to his own thoughts, Mahoney added, “Second, again, personally I learned that the fairness, integrity and transparency in our treatment of customers can draw us much closer to them.” Mahoney added, “We learned the importance of respecting and trusting our customers to handle the truth.”
Yasushi Akao, President of Renesas Electronics in Japan, made a conscious effort, since the day one after the quake, to not play favorites in dealing with customers. He banned preferential treatment to Japanese custimers, just because they are in Japan. The Japanese semiconductor company allocated parts based on pre-earthquake demand and forecast among every customer – including its smallest customers – scattered around North America, Europe, China and Asia. Keeping the trust of customers abroad was the top priority for Akao, Mahoney explained.
Third, earthquakes can happen anywhere, said Mahoney. The whole experience “has given us the opportunity to re-evaluate the importance of redundancy in manufacturing capability.”
Of course, none of these things negate the hard truth that the Japanese earthquake continues to plague the semiconductor industry. Revenues and forecasts are still affected by the disaster.
Two main points i felt after reading this is
1. Strong minded to rebuild the whole place with the understanding that again this disaster wont happen there
2.People's Team work and attachment to their work place
Junko it is gratifying to see bright lights in the aftermath of the earthquake. The world in general seems to have moved on from paying attention to Japan post quake and I was wondering just how are the businesses doing overall in terms of people (loss of talent and difficulties getting back to work due to family issues), plants, and infrastructure?
Thanks Junko for wonderful article and informative video. Its indeed nice to see re-naissance of Renesas factory in such short time and high collaborative efforts (even competitors). Also whats interesting to note is, how sensitive the billions-$ semiconductor Fabs/their equipment are/can be to earthquakes.
Hi, MP. I think that's the plan. Globalsources and TSMC are also definitely in the play. But we should dig deeper how this "redundancy" in their manufacturing plans is affecting their business. By the way, I think this is not just about Renesas, but about every chip vendor in Japan.
Thank you Yoshida-san!
Great article and thank you for the link to the video as well. I was looking to find the original Japanese version of the video (without the dubbing), but haven't been able to. If you know where I can find the link, I would be extremely grateful.
Tom Salmon, SEMI
@Junko: thank you for the report. It is great to know that ecosystem partners and even competitors helped in the recovery. I am pleasantly surprised by their fast recovery in half the time forecast.
It would be nice to know if Renesas intends to mitigate its risk by diversifying its manufacturing base to different global locations.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.