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Renesas moves target date for full supply restoration

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:supply? Japan quake? wafer line?

After Fujitsu Semiconductor declared full recovery for its chip production fabs in the quake-affected region of Tohoku to pre-quake level, Renesas Electronics Corp. scrambled to catch up. Renesas was hit the hardest by the March 11 quake lost an estimated 40 percent of its chip production capacity.

The company has disclosed they are moving up the target date for full supply restoration to the end of Septemberone month ahead of what they previously announced. Only a month ago, Renesas 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 by shifting production to the company'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, the company said.

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 held a media tour last June 10 at its Naka wafer fab, 80 miles northeast of Tokyo. The company showed off a clean room of the restored 300mm wafer production line. The plant has resumed mass production of its 200mm wafer line since June 1, while its 300mm wafer line resumed pre-quake capacity on June 6.

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 tells EE Times that, "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," as the company explained.

Curiously, though, Renesas is making its fab-network sound almost synonymous to a "fab-lite" strategy. "Through this network, we aim to improve our manufacturing efficiency by restraining large-scale investments to increase in-house manufacturing capacity," said a Renesas spokesman.

Renesas is already using outside foundries for production of advanced SoCs and other products at the 28nm node and beyond. The company is, however, using its own 300mm lines at the Tsuruoka and the Naka plants for mass production of SoCs and future MCUs up to 40nm 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," the spokesman added.

According to Renesas, they have 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.

The last great earthquake might have strengthened Renesas' multifoundry 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.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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