Micron’s ‘fab’ jobs for the new fab plant in Singapore

  • Expects initial manufacturing output during the second half of this year
  • Automation will create more high-end jobs, even as it displaces the labour-intensive ones

 

(From left) Micron president and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra; Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat; and Micron VP and Singapore country manager Chen Kok Sing

SINGAPORE is "very important in terms of the pipeline driving innovation", said Micron president and chief executive officer Sanjay Mehrotra, with reference to the talent needed to drive the Smart Manufacturing components of the company's expansion of its 3D NAND flash memory fabrication operations in Singapore.

In particular, Mehrotra lauded the talent pool available in Singapore, the partnership Micron has with local institutes of higher education and the nation's focus on and commitment to STEM.

Micron representatives also highlighted that this was part of Micron’s ability to “tap into a global talent pool” from its worldwide operations from countries such as the US, Singapore, China, Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

Calling it a "special milestone for Micron", Mehrotra added, that the expansion builds upon Micron's NAND Centre of Excellence to develop even more complex 3D NAND chips crucial to the manufacture of devices that require non-volatile memory such as SSD drives.

The company is also confident demand will not be overly affected by the ongoing trade war. "We certainly hope that US and China trade relation issues will get resolved," said Mehrotra, adding that Micron had already resumed shipments to Huawei for products that do not fall under the export control regulation.

The company expects initial manufacturing output from the expanded fabrication facility during the second half of this year.

Smart manufacturing replacing laborious tasks

Micron intends its operations in Singapore to be the first of its plants to put into practice the promises envisaged by Industry 4.0. At the expo accompanying the opening, was a showcase of automation technologies, including robots designed to carry heavy loads, AI-powered cameras to detect manufacturing defects, and IOT sensors to continually monitor readings.

Meanwhile, a site visit to the new plant itself (courtesy of self-driving electric buggies) revealed an overhead robotic crane system travelling on 36km of track, and a demonstration of a remote desktop so that operators no longer need to be physically present on the production floor.

"We're moving all the laborious tasks that they used to do, (that took) a lot of their time," explained Adeline Tay, Micron director, Smart Manufacturing and Artificial Intelligence. "They are all now able to do it in the office on their iPads."

It is expected that the fabrication plant will generate 10 terabytes of data per day. "(There is a) set of technologies there that enable us to capture much more data and make them available for analysis," said Koen De Backer, Micron vice president, Smart Manufacturing and Artificial Intelligence. "You need the right talent to be able to handle that".

"One of the skills that's in relatively short supply today is data scientists," agreed Lam Research president and chief executive officer Tim Archer. "This could be a great opportunity for Singapore to invest in data science right at the beginning of this real wave of transformation in manufacturing."

Developing a pipeline for talent

This opportunity to develop high-end talent is not lost on the Singaporean government. Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Heng Swee Keat, said at the launch, “As a country with no natural resources, manpower is our most critical resource. I am glad Micron is bringing the best out of our workers and offering them good jobs”.

In fact smart manufacturing in Singapore can increase productivity by 30%, while average salaries would increase by 50%, according to research by BCG.

"It's all about bringing the workforce along with you on the journey, and to be able to train and retrain, learn, unlearn and relearn," said Lim Kok Kiang, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) assistant managing director.

"That is an area also where the Singapore government is actually putting quite a bit of emphasis in," he added referring to programmes like the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) and the SkillsFuture Career Advisor Programme.

There is however, a more pessimistic side to what automation will bring. It is estimated in a Mckinsey Global Institute report, that while employers worldwide would save US$15 trillion in wages by 2030, it would come at a cost of up to 800 million jobs being displaced in the process.

Nevertheless, the mood at Micron is to showcase the opportunities for upskilling rather than dwell on the negatives of being let go.

"There is a big opportunity to get (into) much more value-add jobs which are more interesting for people," stressed De Backer. "From the experience that we see here at Micron, we will be very successful at doing that, and the feedback that we get from people is actually very positive."

 
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