How Equipment and Facility Partners Can Help Semiconductor Fabs Avoid Disaster
August 20, 2021
By Evan Blalock
Earlier this year, a series of violent blizzards brought down Texas’ energy grid.1 The destruction from the storm and subsequent power outages left over 4 million residents without energy and resulted in tragedy.2
Subsequently, it also forced the semiconductor fabrication facilities in the area to halt production. When semiconductor equipment needs to be turned on or off, it requires more than a flip of a switch. Semiconductor chips are fabricated using complex manufacturing processes that involve many steps. Because equipment needs to be monitored and stabilized, the shutdown process can take longer than expected.3
The forced shutdowns financially devastated the biggest chipmakers with manufacturing facilities in the area and further strained the semiconductor supply chain. Samsung lost $270 million from a one-month plant shutdown that affected 71,000 wafers.4 NXP, a Dutch-based semiconductor company, estimated that it lost around $100 million in revenue.5Infineon Technologies, a German semiconductor manufacturer, didn’t regain full production capabilities until June 2021.6
While these hardships experienced by large corporations are striking, we also need to consider the impact on the workforce—the people who bring these products to life. Fierce Electronics recently published an article titled, “Out of chips, out of work: auto workers tell their stories,” which included an account of one automotive worker who’s been in the industry for over 40 years. He said, “All I know is, the reason that my plant and other plants in this country are off is because of the semiconductor [shortage] and no fault of the working man. When you run out of those chips, what good is a $30,000 car?”7
Some of this damage was unavoidable. Most of Texas operates on its own energy grid, so it’s practically impossible for it to borrow energy from neighboring states. While the storms were unprecedented in Texas, it’s not the first time that blackouts have occurred due to cold weather, as we saw during Christmas Eve of 1989 and even early February 2011. Then and now, local and state governments didn’t anticipate the weather. They didn’t have the proper infrastructure in place to respond quickly, nor did they follow the winterization standards for natural gas.
The lost revenue provides an important lesson to semiconductor manufacturers around the world: Be prepared for anything. You never know when a crisis will hit, or your fabs will have to shut down. That’s why it is important to partner with an experienced, trusted service provider that can help you get your tools and facility back up and running as quickly and safely as possible.
How an equipment and facility service partner can help
The idiom, “time is money” never applied more than it does to a fab that is forced to shut down. Furthermore, crises often cause structural damages to the tools. Properly decommissioning and recommissioning tools in a timely manner can save millions of dollars—something NSTAR has been helping our customers do for over 20 years. So, how can we help the Lone Star State, and others?
During the Texas storms, we deployed many field engineers to help our customers get back on their feet. Even when coupled with the challenges presented by the pandemic, we are so proud of how our team performed.
When disaster strikes, you want partners with decades of experience in charge of ensuring the safety of the facility and the workers. Our highly qualified engineers make the necessary repairs on-site, helping to reduce the downtime of the entire fab, through NSHIELDSM equipment services. By providing on-site parts assessment and kitting, fabs won’t have to worry about the status of their tools during a storm or other natural disaster. This is where our NSITESM facility services also shine. We integrate an on-site safety protocol and can take over project management of the facility, helping to ensure peak operational efficiency.
Rather than waiting for that moment to happen, let’s build the relationship sooner, so we can be more resilient, together. Contact our director of facility services, Jimmy Lyngar, at email@example.com to start the conversation now!
1. Texas freeze shuts chip factories amid shortages, BBC, February 18, 2021.
2. Texas’s power disaster is a warning sign for the US, Vox, March 4, 2021.
3. Severe Winter Weather In Texas Will Impact Many Supply Chains Beyond Chips, Forbes, February 19, 2021.
4. Samsung loses over $270M from Texas plant shutdown as quarterly profits boom, The Verge, April 29, 2021.
5. Austin-based NXP Semiconductor likely to lose $100 million because of Texas grid collapse, Yahoo Finance, March 15, 2021.
7. Out of chips, out of work: auto workers tell their stories, Fierce Electronics, June 18, 2021.