The increase in business at STM’s Rennes site since 2003 has resulted in new hirings, better management of the facilities, the installation of new equipment, and improvements in processes. Aerospace work requires highly “manual” processes, given the relatively small quantities of chips sold and the many fabrication stages they undergo. The Rennes site produces approximately 200,000 units per year. A normal back end at STMicroelectronics produces between 12 million and 15 million per day.
Faced with the burgeoning growth in demand, Patrick Galloy says if he had that magic wand, he’d use it to produce more and faster, right away. But the constraints of aerospace production require careful management of any increase in production, taking costs into account and maintaining the reliability of the products that leave the plants.
STMicroelectronics invests between $500,000 and $800,000 a year in the Rennes fab. It plans to hire a night shift and install semiautomatic machines to optimize production. A project called Sirius has also been launched with the goal of improving employee working conditions and performance.
Another challenge is training the teams in the different quality standards. The aerospace industry is too small for schools to offer courses aimed at that specific market. So the site hires engineers and trains them in certification requirements itself, in partnership with the ESA.