Semiconductor Industry Needs Automation for Growth

Semiconductor Industry Needs Automation for Growth

May 27, 2019

The Semiconductor industry is exploring wide-ranging applications of artificial intelligence and greater cross-industry collaboration to kick-start a sector that has suffered a downturn in recent years.

By Joanne Leila Smith

As a key partner for the Electronics Industry Transformation lead by Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore, Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA) held its annual Automation Supplier Day at One Farrer Hotel, Singapore this month.

Semiconductor industry peers shared insights into the latest in automation solutions at the event which attracted over 62 corporates within the Asia Pacific region.

Local and foreign suppliers of automation products and services also showcased how IoT, big data analytics and machine learning can intelligently improve manufacturing performance and productivity improvement.

In recent years, the industry has struggled under a global downturn. According to US-based Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), worldwide sales of semiconductors totaled USD 96.8 billion during the first quarter of 2019; this was a decrease of 15.5 percent over the previous quarter and 13 percent less than the first quarter of 2018.

In a recent SIA report, SIA president and CEO John Neuffer says sales decreased on a year-to-year basis across all major regional markets and semiconductor product categories, which is consistent with the cyclical trend the global market is experiencing.

In Asia, sales increased slightly in China (1.3 percent) but decreased in Asia Pacific (-1.9 percent) and Japan (-4.5 percent).

SIA’s recommendations in its Winning the Future: A Blueprint for Sustained U.S. Leadership in Semiconductor Technology report, posits that Government policy needs to help attract greater investment in R&D, tech talent and help ensure open markets and stronger protection of intellectual property to help buoy the industry.

According to SSIA Executive Director Ang Wee Seng, despite the industry suffering a downturn in recent years, attendee sentiment at the Singapore event was one of optimism.

“The event was aimed at facilitating business matching and development for companies. We can see increased participation from both MNC and SME companies this year despite a downturn in the industry over the past quarters. This has shown there are still many opportunities within the semiconductor industry, especially with regards to activities in improving operations’ effectiveness and productivity,” says Ang.

Brands including Hewlett-Packard, Beckhoff Automation, Infineon Technologies, Dream Technology System and A*Star shared their roadmaps, technologies, opportunities and challenges facing the industry with themes of Preventive Maintenance, Visual Inspection, Logistics and Automation heavily on the agenda.

Beckhoff Automation Managing Director David Chia says the largest challenge and opportunity for the industry lies in automation and urges greater cross-industry collaboration to fund digitization initiatives.

“In the drive towards higher manufacturing productivity, we are witnessing more companies developing and executing their digitization plans. The biggest challenges for digitization are funding, technology standards and talents. Companies should collaborate more to create common standard since there are more to gain from standardization than competition. Governments across the region should help in the funding of digitization initiatives because this is very important for SMEs,” says Chia.

On the question of greater collaboration, Ang agrees.

“We believe collaboration is key for the industry to thrive on the Industry 4.0 transformation and an engaging platform is the prerequisite. At the Automation Supplier Day this year, we focus on bringing the right companies on board to participate at the same time encouraging networking and establishing relationships between end users and suppliers. We hope the event will grow the electronics and semiconductor industry in Singapore,” says Ang.

SSIA represents organisations across the entire value chain including IC design companies, Manufacturers, Fabless companies, Equipment suppliers, Photovoltaic companies, EDA and material suppliers, Training and service providers, IP companies, research institutes and Academia, as well as individual members.

(Featured image of SSIA Executive Director Ang Wee Seng, Automation Supplier Day, One Farrer Hotel, Singapore in May 2019. Courtesy of SSIA.)


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