Lam Research believes that you can’t identify an innovator through innovation alone. It’s through collaboration, precision, and delivery. As a fundamental enabler of the fourth industrial revolution and trusted partner to the world’s leading semiconductor companies, Lam has always welcomed challenges and promises to deliver.
It gets there by combining superior systems engineering, technology leadership, a strong values-based culture, and an unwavering commitment to prove our customers’ next big thing.
Krishnan Shrinivasan, VP and MD, Lam Research India, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: Provide an overview of the semiconductor industry and the Wafer Fabrication Equipment (WFE) sector.
Krishnan Shrinivasan: The semiconductor industry was established in the 1960s and has since powered the rapid advancement of electronic devices and systems which have fundamentally reshaped human civilization. Driven by Moore’s Law, semiconductors have enabled the world to be interconnected in ways unimaginable 50 years ago and ushered in what we know as the digital era – reaching nearly $600 billion in revenues in 2021. They are foundational for the development of society for the next 50 years.
In the 1980s, the Wafer Fabrication Equipment industry was born out of the necessity to supply semiconductor manufacturers with the increasingly complex machinery required to enable Moore’s Law. Today, the WFE segment is nearly $100 billion in size, with leaders such as Lam Research working on some of the most complex technologies known to mankind. Leaders in the industry are primarily based in the US, Netherlands, and Japan.
The Wafer Fabrication Equipment (WFE) sector in the country is in a nascent stage. While India already plays a very important role in chip design, the prioritization of technological education and the rise in domestic spending on electronics products offers a large opportunity for global semiconductor equipment companies to establish themselves in the country, both for their own operations and as an end market.
From an R&D and talent perspective, India has always had substantial resources. Many of the world’s largest semiconductor and WFE manufacturers have significant R&D capabilities located in India. The availability of a technically sophisticated workforce contributes significantly to product design and testing. The government of India has recognized the opportunity afforded by this foundation and has created a strong system of incentives to attract semiconductor manufacturing.
DQ: How is Lam India supporting the semiconductor ecosystem and chipmakers in India for the present challenges? What kind of growth is expected in the country?
Krishnan Shrinivasan: Lam India primarily assists through three distinct units: Lam India Software Technologies (LIST), Lam India Global Hardware Technology (LIGHT), and Lam India Global Operations (LIGO). Our software division is responsible for developing and supporting software that controls our equipment. Our hardware team designs subassemblies and subsystems for all our product lines, providing innovation for next-generation products, along with cost and reliability improvements.
Our global operations group supports our factories and customers through the supply chain and spares management, order fulfillment, and logistics. In addition, Lam India employees provide data analytics solutions to improve the internal efficiency of Lam’s global operations.
In the larger context, Lam India professionals provide solutions that enable our factories to ship high-quality products to our customers on time and accurately customized to their needs. Lam India engineers are involved in the Engineering R&D necessary to develop innovative new products required to manufacture new generations of semiconductors with more aggressive design rules and higher capability.
DQ: What do you think about the government’s recent initiatives to boost the semiconductor sector in the country?
Krishnan Shrinivasan: According to an April 2022 report by the industry body, Indian Electronics and Semiconductors Association (IESA), India could account for $85-100 billion of the $1 trillion global market for semiconductors by 2030. This constitutes a significant end-market, and continuing to import all of India’s semiconductor requirements could significantly increase reliance on global supply chains, and negatively impact the balance of payments.
The government has recognized this deficiency and has responded with a compelling set of incentives, both for the manufacture of semiconductors as well as the electronics products that use them. The government is also interacting closely with applicants to its various incentive schemes and has been very active in amending them to suit the needs of the industry.
As India takes steps to attract the semiconductor industry to set up shop, the government has also recognized the need to set up a supporting ecosystem. It has engaged with various partners within the semiconductor industry including equipment and materials manufacturers. The government has involved academia to ensure that there is a steady supply of trained professionals needed for the industry. Current government schemes target the training of up to 85,000 engineering professionals for the industry. Accordingly, universities across India are being encouraged to adapt their curricula to the needs of the industry.
DQ: What are the different equipment and processes that Lam India is involved with? What work will be done at India Centre for Engineering, recently launched in Bengaluru?
Krishnan Shrinivasan: Lam manufactures and sells equipment that performs deposition, etching, photoresist stripping, and cleaning operations on semiconductor wafers. Within these broad categories, Lam has approximately 20 different product lines that are designed for specific process steps required to make a semiconductor device.
Lam India engineers work across these product lines providing software and control engineering as well as the design of critical subassemblies and subsystems. Technical solutions provided by Lam engineers are implemented and supported at our customer sites with the assistance of Lam India engineers.
Further, Lam India professionals are also involved in the smooth operations of our worldwide network of factories by managing supply chains, spares operations, logistics, and order fulfillment. These activities ensure the timely shipment of high-quality products to our customers.
The Indian Centre for Engineering that we launched in September 2022 in Bengaluru will focus on testing and validation of software and hardware designs created by Lam India engineers. These designs will be incorporated into Lam’s products necessary to manufacture the next generation of DRAM, NAND, and logic devices. The Bengaluru facility will be an integral part of Lam’s global network of cutting-edge labs.
At the new lab, engineers will solve problems spanning a range of disciplines, from plasma and materials sciences to instrumentation and control systems. Featuring state-of-the-art equipment, Lam India engineers can design, test, and validate new hardware and software for our products on-site rather than sending them to other locations, thereby offering the potential to significantly shorten the design cycle. The new lab will also feature virtual reality facilities to connect with other engineers around the globe. The lab also offers Lam India further opportunities to collaborate with industry partners, suppliers, and academia.
DQ: What kind of talent and skill set is needed to be a part of this niche sector?
Krishnan Shrinivasan: The wafer fabrication equipment industry employs people from a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines. Hardware design requires mechanical, electrical, electronics, chemical, and instrumentation engineers. Further, physicists, chemists, and materials scientists provide valuable insight into the scientific basis for hardware design.
Control software design involves electronics, controls, and software engineers who are capable of providing precise real-time control of the complex machines that Lam manufactures and sells. Professionals working with Lam’s global network of factories in managing supply chain, spares, logistics, and order fulfillment are also drawn from the technical ranks because of the complex nature of Lam’s products and the resulting need for critical thinking and problem-solving.
Since Lam India incorporates many of the engineering and manufacturing operations functions listed above, we hire a very similar cross-section of employees. To support the operations of our various global entities, Lam India also hires IT, Finance, HR, and Facilities professionals. Lam India hires a combination of experienced professionals and new college graduates across these disciplines. We have a strong process to develop employees and help them attain their full potential. A recent initiative is to focus on gender diversity by encouraging women in engineering to pursue careers in this critical and fulfilling domain.
DQ: What are Lam Research’s expansion plans in India?
Krishnan Shrinivasan: Lam Research will continue to invest in the capability of its India employees. This investment involves inculcating domain expertise and attaining global equivalence in an environment where there is a limited ecosystem. We believe that the India Center for Engineering is a critical enabler in helping us achieve our objectives.
Lam India will also continue to collaborate with our industry partners and academia in establishing training and education curricula necessary to develop read-made talent for the semiconductor manufacturing and WFE industries. Lam India continues to engage constructively with various levels of government in their attempt to attract more of the semiconductor industry to India. We are committed to the government’s goals of creating an ecosystem for semiconductor manufacturing and creating a talent pool to staff it.