Terrific Year, Terrific Outlook

But there’s work to do to keep the good times rolling.


2017 was a terrific year. Chip revenues closed at nearly $440B, an impressive 22 percent year-over-year growth. The equipment industry surpassed revenue levels last reached in the year 2000. Semiconductor equipment posted sales of nearly $56B and semiconductor materials $48B in 2017. For semiconductor equipment, this was a giant 36 percent year-over-year growth. Samsung, alone, invested $26B in semiconductor CapEx in 2017 – an incredible single year spend in an incredible year.

MEMS and sensors gained new growth in telecom and medical markets, adding to existing demand from automotive, industrial and consumer segments. MEMS is forecast to be a $19B industry in 2018. Flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) is also experiencing significant product design and functionality growth with increasing gains in widespread adoption.

No longer is a single monolithic demand driver propelling the electronics manufacturing supply chain. The rapidly expanding digital economy continues to foster innovation with new demand from the IoT, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), automobile infotainment and driver assistance, artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data, among others. With the explosion in data usage, memory demand is nearly insatiable, holding memory device ASPs high and prompting continued heavy investment in new capacity.

2018 is forecast to be another terrific year. IC revenues are expected to increase another 8 percent and semiconductor equipment will grow 11 percent. With diverse digital economy demand continuing, additional manufacturing capacity is being added in China as fab projects come on line to develop and increase the indigenous semiconductor supply chain.

So, why worry?
Can the industry sustain this growth? The electronics manufacturing supply chain has demonstrated it can generally scale and expedite production to meet the massive new investment projects. The cracks starting to show are in the areas of talent, data management, and Environment, Health, and Safety (EH&S).

Talent has become a pinch point. In Silicon Valley alone, SEMI member companies have thousands of open positions. Globally, there are more than 10,000 open jobs. Attracting new candidates and developing a global workforce are critical to sustaining the pace of innovation and growth.

Data management and effective data sharing are keys to solving problems faster and making practical novel but immature processes at the leading edge. It is ironic that other industries are ahead of semiconductor manufacturing in harnessing manufacturing data and leveraging AI across their supply chains. Without collaborative smart data approaches, there is jeopardy of decreasing the cadence of Moore’s Law below the 10 nm node.

EH&S is critical for an industry that now uses the majority of the elements of the periodic table to make chips – at rates of more than 50,000 wafer starts per month (wspm) for a single fab. The industry came together strongly in the 1990s to develop SEMI Safety Standards and compliance methodologies. Since then, the number of EH&S professionals engaged in our industry has declined while the number of new materials has exploded, new processing techniques have been developed, and manufacturing is expanding across China in areas with no prior semiconductor manufacturing experience.

“None of us is as strong as all of us”
To ensure we don’t slow growth, the industry will need to work together in 2018 in these three key areas:

Talent development needs to rapidly accelerate by expanding currently working programs and adding additional means to fill the talent funnel. The SEMI Foundation’s High Tech University (HTU) works globally with member companies to increase the number of high school students selecting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields – and provides orientation to the semiconductor manufacturing industry. HTU has been a very effective program with over 218 sessions run to date, over 7,000 students engaged, and over 70 percent of respondents pursuing careers in the STEM field. SEMI will increase the number of HTU sessions in 2018.

Plans have already been approved by SEMI’s Board of Directors to work together with SEMI’s membership to leverage existing and pioneer new workforce development programs to attract and develop qualified candidates from across the age and experience spectrum (high school through university, diversity, etc.). Additionally, an industry awareness campaign will be developed and launched to make more potential candidates attracted to our member companies as a great career choice. I’ll be providing you with updates on this initiative – and asking for your involvement – throughout 2018.

Data management is a broad term. Big Data, machine learning, and AI are terms that today mean different things to different people in our supply chain. What is clear is that to act together and take advantage of the unimaginable amounts of data being generating to produce materials and make semiconductor devices with the diverse equipment sets across our fabs, we need a common understanding of the data and potential use of the data.

In 2018, SEMI will launch a Smart Data vertical application platform to engage stakeholders along the supply chain to produce a common language, develop standards, and align expectations for sharing data for mutual benefit. Benchmarking of other industries and pre-competitive pilot programs are being proposed to learn and, here too, we need the support and engagement of thought leaders throughout SEMI’s membership.

EH&S activity must intensify to maintain safe operations and to eliminate business interruptions from supply chain disruptions. There is potential for disruptions from material bans such as the Stockholm Convention action on PFOA and arising from the much wider range of chemicals and materials being used in advanced manufacturing. Being able to reliably identify these in time to guide and coordinate industry action will take a reinvigorated SEMI EH&S stewardship and membership engagement.

As China rapidly develops new fabs in many provinces – some with only limited prior experience and infrastructure – SEMI EH&S Standards orientation and training will accelerate the safe and sustainable operation of fabs, enabling them to keep pace with the ambitious growth trajectory our industry is delivering. In 2018, we’ll be looking for a renewed commitment to EH&S and sustainability for the budding challenges of new materials, methods, and emerging regions.

Remarkable results from a remarkable membership
In a quick review of 2017, I would like to thank SEMI’s members for their incredible results and new revenue records. Foundational to that, SEMI’s members have worked together with SEMI to connect, collaborate, and innovate to increase growth and prosperity for the industry. These foundational contributions have been in expositions, programs, standards, market data, messaging (communications), and workforce development (with HTU).

The infographic below captures these foundational accomplishments. SEMI strives to speed the time to better business results for its members across the global electronics manufacturing supply chain. To do so, SEMI is dependent upon, and grateful for, the support and volunteer efforts of its membership. Thank you for a terrific 2017 and let’s work together on the key initiatives to ensure that our industry’s growth and prosperity will continue in 2018 and beyond.

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