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  • Donal Murtagh

Construction VPs and their teams are under pressure to deliver semiconductor fabs on time while dealing with an irregular supply chain ecosystem.

Introduction:  


In response to demand for a globalized semiconductor production capacity, governments worldwide have pushed through ambitious programmes to bolster    technological innovation. The CHIPS Act in the US and its equivalent in the EU have set ambitious targets for semiconductor production capacity expansion by 2030.  

This is great news for CEOs and CFOs of large IDMs, but a number of construction teams led by their VPs are starting to feel the pressure.


Regulatory mandates stipulate rapid construction timelines and increased production capacity to address the growing demand for electronic devices and ensure national technological competitiveness. Yet, semiconductor companies face constraints such as material shortages, labor shortages, and the need for specialized skills, complicating efforts to comply with regulatory requirements. 

 

Material Shortages


Semiconductor fabs are stuffed full of expensive tools some the size of a family car. What is often overlooked is the workforce and equipment needed to connect these tools to the facilities. Today construction teams often grapple with material shortages, particularly in sourcing critical components essential for construction. Cleanroom materials, including high-grade steel, specialty plastics, and ultra-pure filters, are frequently in short supply, hindering project progress. Additionally, the industry's reliance on rare earth elements further exacerbates the issue, with geopolitical uncertainties and supply chain disruptions impacting availability. 


To address material shortages, semiconductor owners must implement proactive supply chain management strategies, including diversifying sourcing channels and cultivating strategic partnerships with suppliers.  


Design teams need to work hand in glove with their construction and procurement teams, working in a more agile way while putting in the right tools to help get their Bill of Materials earlier in the process. 


By prioritizing supply chain resilience and investing in inventory management systems, semiconductor companies can mitigate risks associated with material scarcity and ensure uninterrupted project progress. 


Labor Shortages and Skills Gap 


Labor shortages pose another significant challenge in semiconductor fab construction, exacerbated by the industry's demand for a highly skilled workforce proficient in various disciplines.  


Competition for skilled labour including pipe fitters, welders, electricians, and carpenters poses the biggest barrier to meeting 2030 deadlines.  There are also big shortages of engineering talent especially those with tool calibration skills.  


Manufacturing and construction industries are held back by spreadsheets, paperwork and “that’s how it’s always been doneism.” The industry needs to embrace software and automation as tools that improve productivity rather than seeing it as job replacers. 

The emergence of recent technologies such as advanced robotics and automation further intensifies the need for specialized skills. To address these challenges, semiconductor owners must invest in workforce development initiatives, including training programs and apprenticeships, to bridge the skills gap and cultivate a skilled workforce capable of meeting project demands. 


How does Basesite help? 


Basesite is an automation and project management software platform to help Engineering teams at Semicon Fabs save time, money and rework connecting complex tools in the Basebuild and Tool-Install phases. 


We are an automation pilot for engineering teams who want to get ahead of the supply chain issues by getting their Bill of Materials in 1 week rather than 12 weeks. We design the facilities points of connection (FPOC) for 1,000s of tools in just 1 day allowing your engineers to focus on what they are good at.  

 

Conclusion 


Semiconductor fab construction projects face unique supply chain challenges, including material shortages, labor shortages, and skills gaps. However, with proactive supply chain management and innovative solutions such as those offered by Basesite, semiconductor owners can overcome these hurdles and optimize project outcomes. By prioritizing supply chain visibility, supplier collaboration, and workforce management, semiconductor owners can mitigate risks, minimize delays, and ensure the successful completion of fab construction projects. 


As Vice Presidents of Construction navigate the complexities of semiconductor fab management amidst regulatory pressures, partnering with Basesite can provide the tools and expertise needed to navigate supply chain challenges effectively and drive project success. By embracing innovation and fostering collaboration, semiconductor owners can build the foundations for a resilient and competitive future in semiconductor manufacturing. 

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