NEW YORK – The day after Fujitsu Semiconductor declared full recovery for its chip production fabs in the affected Tohoku region to pre-quake level, Renesas Electronics Corp. scrambled to catch up.
Renesas, which lost an estimated 40 percent of its chip production capacity due to the March 11 earthquake, disclosed that the company is moving up the target date for full supply restoration to the end of September -- one month ahead of the previously announced goal. Only a month ago, Renesas, hardest hit by the Great earthquake, had said that shipments wouldn’t return to pre-quake levels until the end of October.
Japan’s largest microcontroller company is restoring its supply to pre-March 11 levels, in large part, by shifting production to the group’s other factories and foundries abroad, including GlobalFoundries.
Renesas’ sooner-than-expected recovery date, however, was primarily enabled by accelerated restoration efforts at the Naka plant, according to the company.
In an effort to minimize the market’s concern over the potential shortage of automotive microcontrollers (for which Renesas holds the biggest market share), Renesas Friday (June 10th) held a media tour at its Naka wafer fab 80 miles northeast of Tokyo, showing off a clean room of the restored 300mm wafer production line.
At the Naka plant, the company said the 200mm wafer line had resumed mass production on June 1st, the 300mm wafer line on June 6th, according.
During the Naka plant press conference, Renesas president Yasushi Akao reportedly said that the company has been reassessing production at home and abroad since the March 11 earthquake.
Indeed, a Renesas spokesman earlier this month told EE Times, “Following the earthquake, we have shifted about half of our production at the Naka factory to some of the Group’s other factories and outside foundries.” The Japanese company described this as “one example of our ‘fab network’ structure.”
Just as Fujitsu Semiconductor insisted that its “Multi-Fab” strategy was instrumental to its quick recovery from the latest disaster, Renesas, too, has apparently renewed its commitment to the company’s “fab network” strategy. The fab-network strategy “allows the same product to be manufactured at multiple plants, as a means to strengthen our manufacturing structure to become resistant to demand fluctuations and unexpected accidents,” explained the company.
Curiously, though, Renesas is making its fab-network sound almost synonymous to a “fab-lite” strategy. Renesas’ spokesman, in fact, noted: “Through this network, we aim to improve our manufacturing efficiency by restraining large-scale investments to increase in-house manufacturing capacity.”
Renesas is already using outside foundries for production of advanced SoCs and other products at the 28-nm node and beyond. The company is, however, using its own 300- millimeter lines at the Tsuruoka and the Naka plants for mass production of SoCs and future MCUs up to 40-nm process technology, according to the spokesman. “Especially for MCUs, we position them as our core products and we will continue to manufacture them internally to provide added-value,” he added.
Renesas stated that the company has been working with both Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., and GlobalFoundries as strategic partners for some time. Before Renesas Electronics was founded, legacy Renesas Technology had been working with TSMC and legacy NEC Electronics with GlobalFoundries. NEC was a member of the technology research project with IBM and had been working with GlobalFoundries, said the company spokesman.
Like an ill wind, the last great earthquake might have strengthened Renesas’ multi-foundry strategy further. The strategy, nonetheless, comes with a burden, as Renesas needs to deal with design library, DFM and transistor variability issues at different geometries, foundry by foundry, design by design.