Editor's note: After the publication of this story, EE Times spoke with Brian Toohey, president of the SIA (Toohey could not be reached for comment the day the story broke). Toohey clarified that the SICAS organization is technically separate from the SIA, with its own membership and own executive committee. It was the SICAS executive committee that made the decision to stop publishing the quarterly fab capacity report, not the SIA, Toohey said. The original EE Times story (below) included the best information we had available at the time of publication. A follow up story, which includes Toohey's clarification of the relationship between the SIA and the SICAS organization, can be found here.
SAN FRANCISCO—The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said Wednesday (Feb. 29) it would cease publication of a closely watched quarterly report on chip fab capacity utilization, one day after it came to light that Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. stopped participating in another program that pools and reports data on chip sales.
The SIA issued its Semiconductor International Capacity Statistics (SICAS) report for the fourth quarter of 2011 Wednesday. The report included a notification that "due to significant changes in the SICAS program participation base in 2011, the quarterly SICAS capacity and utilization report will be discontinued, effective quarter 1 2012." The notification appears in red near the top of each page of the report.
Last year, Taiwanese chip foundries Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) and DRAM vendor Nanya Technology Corp. ceased participating in the SICAs program, causing an outcry. At the time, the SIA said it was working to get TSMC to rejoin the program. None of the Taiwanese firms were listed among the participants on the report issued Wednesday.
At the time that the companies withdrew from the program, Bill McClean, president of market research firm IC Insights Inc., speculated that because TSMC and UMC represent such a huge portion of the world's foundry capacity, they no longer wanted such detailed information on their manufacturing published each quarter.
Like all companies traded publicly in Taiwan, TSMC and UMC issue monthly reports on sales. Both also typically disclose their capacity utilization rates in some detail in quarterly financial reports.
A spokeswoman for TSMC said in an email exchange with EE Times Wednesday that TSMC considers detailed capacity information—such as by node and type of technology—to be trade secrets and thus stopped providing it for the SICAs report. The spokeswoman noted that TSMC still provides general information about overall capacity utilization by fab and by quarter when it reports its quarterly results.
A spokesman for UMC, also reached via email, said UMC pulled out of SICAs after TSMC did. "We would be the only Taiwan merchant foundry remaining in the survey. The results would have reflected a data pool of one," the spokesman said.
The SIA could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to McClean, the SICAs report now reflects only about 57 percent of the world's semiconductor manufacturing capacity installed base, down from 70 percent before the Taiwanese companies withdrew and 88 percent when the SIA first started publishing the report in the 1990s.
Earlier this week, Intel and AMD confirmed that they had ceased participating in the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) program, which pools and reports information about global chip sales on a monthly basis. Spokespersons from both companies said the firms had concluded that participation was no longer of value to them.
Reports like the SICAs and the WSTS provide industry forecasters and analysts throughout the electronics supply chain with valuable information for planning, staffing and other decisions about business. The reports are also a valuable tool for market research firms in gauging the health of the industry and spotting trends.
The SICAs report issued by the SIA Wednesday said overall capacity utilization rate in the semiconductor industry slipped to 86.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, down from 90.6 percent in the third quarter and 92.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. Overall industry capacity grew to 2.04 million wafer starts per week, up about 2 percent from the third quarter.