Effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak are rippling through the global microelectronics manufacturing infrastructure and supply chain. SEMI’s EHS team is holding weekly informational and sharing sessions with members to discuss the outbreak, best practices and how our industry is responding. The session focused on company policies and communications. A summary is presented below.
Facilities and Meetings
- Strict policy on visitors
- Generally, visitors from abroad cannot visit company sites, especially if they just traveled through “hotspots” identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- If visitors are permitted, screening through questionnaire is in effect and some companies are taking other means of protection, e.g., requiring body temperature checks (although there are questions on the effectiveness of the laser and ear-type digital thermometers)
- Companies are shifting all customer and supplier meetings to teleconference.
- Generally, high-quality masks, alcohol-based sanitizers, and digital thermometers are in very short supply
- Some companies have put employees on a rotating remote work schedule
- Some companies have mandated work from home for all employees
- All companies have frequent communication with employees via company email and on the intranet
- Some companies have a mandatory on-line health training course for all employees
- Some companies are adding pay benefits for employees caring for sick dependents and/or for employees with school-age children where schools are closed
- Generally, all companies have adopted a “no travel unless absolutely business critical” policy; travel is banned to/from certain affected countries
- Generally, employees must self-quarantine for at least 14 days when returning from visiting countries on a defined list
- Policies and instructions posted on supply chain website
- Most companies are restricting employees from attending any events – including internal meetings
Outside Authority and Escalation & De-escalation Phases:
- Some companies that are considering escalation and de-escalation strategies will base it on communications from local and state authorities
Discussion has moved to the phases of re-opening. One of our members shared this excellent analysis and guidance from the Massachusetts High Technology Council. Similar briefings are available from many analysts across the ecosystem. See a list on our Additional Resources page.
METHODS AND CONTENT OF COMPANY COMMUNICATIONS
- Information is shared via email
- Information is posted on websites
- Internal website for employees
- Among some companies, external site for outside (see LINKS section)
- Supply chain portal for suppliers
- Statement of Company Policy
- Site visit policy
- Employee work policy
- Employee travel policy
- Q&A or FAQ
For additional guidance on PR & Communications Strategies during COVID-19, see what our friends at Vetrano Communications & Embedded Communications have shared free of charge.
The information below was compiled from a call with 10 company IT leaders from electronics manufacturing equipment companies on March 13, 2020. More information about the group can be found at the ITL website.
Computing Hardware for Staff
- Generally, companies have equipped employees with laptops
- Some bought or readied laptops for those without
- One allowed employees to take home desktop workstations
- Some companies allowed employees to take home desktop monitors and docking stations
- No company is reimbursing employees for purchase of new peripherals for home use
- One company used AWS for virtual desktops for employees without laptops or necessary apps
- Some provided routers or paid for broadband (or upgrades) to homes of employees not so equipped before
- Some companies encrypted laptops before they left the building
- Helpdesk has seen spikes – nothing unmanageable
- Routing helpdesk calls to laptops (rather than office phones)
- Some companies have some challenges in procuring engineering workstations of some brands. Shifting to other brands, but lead times are tight for those too
- Some degradation in service from support firms who do not allow employees to use laptops from home
- So far teleconferencing capabilities have shown no degradation in performance and seem to be resilient
- Most companies spending increased time and effort on managing licenses
- All companies increased their number of seats for VPN and RDP licenses
- One member published apps through the MYAPP portal on Microsoft Azure
- Bought more licenses for ZOOM and Skype/Teams, Webex
- Most companies doing some sort of training on best practices for working from home or remotely
- Distributing information via SharePoint sites or direct email instructions.
- Holding 3x day training sessions on key points on how to work from home
- Special care being given to helping the engineering community work from home
- Providing special training on how and when to use VPN
- Buying additional capacity to ensure network bandwidth is secure
- Added more servers
- Some companies are split tunneling their VPN; others using a combination of strategies
- Found China firewall changes impacted response time and adjusted accordingly
- Increasing monitoring to ensure network and VPN is being managed correctly
- Members discussed what type of statistics they feel would make up a robust dashboard and provide useful information to understand impact on productivity
- Carefully monitoring the statistics around productivity
- Members have seen a hefty increase in phfishing scams – around sensitive topics of medical leave and compensation
- Launched special messaging to employees around the new scams and phfishing attempts
- Several companies adding MFA
- Updating security policies
- Utilizing IP masking to trace where people are coming from when using RDP
- Most employees would rather work onsite when given the choice
- Facilities are being kept very clean
- Keeping engineering labs open
- Considering a and b shifts
- Shifts alternating by week
- Social distancing policies in place
- Automated visitor questionnaires
- Saw some difficulties keeping China operations running – but seem to be moving toward normal operations now
- Created a pool of loaner laptops for checkout
- Heavy computational groups have been physically split – separate buildings – less likely of cross-contamination
Recently, SEMI’s Fab Owners Alliance (FOA) conducted a survey to understand the impact of COVID-19 on its device maker member community. While these situations are continuing to develop and change on an hourly basis, the FOA has decided to share the results to encourage communal awareness and advocacy for our industry. You may view the survey results here.
The below information was compiled from an open forum call with 76 members representing 15 device maker companies on March 16, 2020.
Workplace and Facility
- Some companies have introduced thermal screening measures in the fabs. Body temperature scan is in place where employees registering a temperature of 100.4 are not permitted.
- There was a lot interest in learning about thermal screening: suppliers, logistics, protocols and legal implications.
- All companies have started additional disinfection practices with extra wipe down of common areas, lockers, handrails and cleanroom.
- Extra hand sanitizers have been installed and frequent hand washing is encouraged.
- Some companies are taking extra measures to ensure separation of gowns, putting them in bags to contain the transmission.
- Interior doors are propped open to avoid people touching. Revolving and automatic doors in place.
- Vendor access has been restricted at some companies. Guidelines are being tightened every day.
- Some companies have protocols and a response team in place to isolate factory staff. Further isolation guidelines are expected in the coming week.
- Fitness centers have been closed.
- Most companies have restricted travel, imposing a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the country.
- Some companies have extended the self-quarantine rule to domestic travel as well.
- One company has directed employees to stay in the metro area, within 50 miles from the worksite. Significant work went into defining the metro area.
Employee Safety & Policies
- Almost all companies have enforced social distancing encouraging six-feet rule. Many have rearranged tables in cafeterias and other common areas to keep 6 feet separation.
- Many companies have extended work from home guidance to employees whose job allows them to do so.
- For others, companies are experimenting with rotating schedules and gaps between shift transitions.
- Some companies are only allowing critical roles to report on-site, requiring approval from manager.
- Many companies are concerned about on-site contractors, many of whom don’t receive paid sick leave. They are exploring ways to redefine pay processes and mitigate the risk of sick staff coming to work.
- Some companies have placed restrictions on overtime for their operator workforce.
- Most companies are keeping an eye on the material supply but haven't experienced any shortages yet
- Parts supply lines not yet impacted.
- Many companies are experiencing face mask inventory shortage and have started qualifying second sources.
- Some companies are experiencing scheduling issues with field service engineers
- There are concerns about the ramification of quarantine. An action plan to ensure fabs don’t shut down and key people are available.
- Many companies expect an increase in absenteeism especially due to school closures and sick dependents.
- Suppliers are impacted due to Bay Area “shelter in place” order.
Follow-Up Survey Summary
On March 24th, the FOA issued a follow-up survey to its device maker members to collect further information on tactical activities and policies companies are undertaking as part of their business continuity plans. Below is a summary of the best practices and recommendations gathered from 13 device maker companies focused primarily on workplace safety.
- Companies responded that for any employees with spouses in the medical field, employees can come into work if they or their family is not exhibiting any symptoms.
- In the event an employee tested positive, members were taking different approaches to handle the situation. Responses ranged from members still working on determining a protocol, to deep cleaning of the areas the employee worked in. Most members responded that any employee who worked with impacted employee, were also to self-quarantine.
- Most member companies were staggering shifts to limit cross shift exposure.
- Most members reported not having any policies in place to reduce absenteeism for non- exempt employees. One member had an innovative approach as follows:
- Offering free food in the cafeteria (up to $10 a day) to all employees who end up on site
- Majority members reported to not paying contractors without sick leave to stay home.
- Members were polled to see if they switched to masks from beard covers, but majority said masks were the preferred method of protection in the first place.
- Distribution drivers for deliveries weren’t allowed into the building for most members, and that social distancing was practiced in case of deliveries.
- For those working from home, member companies reported on advising sanitizing keyboards, mouse, computer with wipes on a regular basis.
- Temperature scanning was a protocol that was in the process of being reviewed for implementation at several member companies. Some of the device maker members have already implemented temperature scanning and shared details about lessons learnt from the same.
- For those who have temperature scanning in place, security handles the scanning.
FAB OWNERS ALLIANCE RETURN-TO-WORK OPEN FORUM
The Fab Owners Alliance (FOA) continues to facilitate dialogue and information sharing between its close-knit Device Maker members by hosting a series of open forums virtually. The second open forum in this series focused on return-to-work during the pandemic. 30 members representing 15 Device Maker companies attended the forum. To gather baseline data and maximize interaction time during the live discussion, the membership was surveyed on their procedures and policies in order to safely bring their workforce back on site.
The survey results can be viewed here.
Attorneys from the Wiley Law group gave insights into key legal considerations for employers and also provided practical advice concerning contact tracing amid COVID-19.
- 85% of participants reported requiring a negative COVID-19 test for the employees who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 before being allowed to work on site.
- 80 % of the participants had temperature screening implemented on site.
- Staggered shifts, increased social distancing, increased janitorial support of common areas, virtual meetings were the methods used by 100% of the participants for employee safety.
- In the event an employee tests positive, quarantine of the employee and those in close contact with the employee were the most common procedures in place at member companies.
- E-mails, training, CDC data were the most commonly used tools for employee education around COVID-19.
- Guidance from CDC and the local county were most commonly used by participants to assess site specific risk.
- In at least one case, an app (for company’s internal use) has been developed. Employees need to answer certain questions based on which eligibility for onsite work is determined.
- Set up of multiple gowning stations, to help maintain social distancing.
- When planning for onsite work, members took into consideration those who needed to work on site (requirement to work in labs) versus those who are not impacted if working remotely.
- Over 90% participants reported allowing field service engineers on site.
- Over 80% participants reported having structured meetings between the various groups (HR, EH&S, Facilities) within an organization.
COVID-19 RESPONSE SURVEY
On March 30, 2020, SEMI’s Electronic Materials Group (EMG) issued a survey to its members to collect industry best practices in response to COVID-19. As of April 1, 2020, twenty-two EMG members responded to the survey. Please click here to access the survey findings.
On April 3, 2020, SEMI’s EMG team hosted an open forum call with 30 EMG members representing companies that provide substrates, polymers, metals, organic and inorganic materials, chemicals, and gases that are developed or in use for the manufacturing of electronics. A summary is presented below.
Update from Joe Pasetti, VP of Global Advocacy & Public Policy at SEMI
- SEMI has sent letters to 16 governors and the chairs of the National Governors Association, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and National Association of Counties requesting that the semiconductor industry be considered “essential business”.
- SEMI has urged state and local government to follow guidelines issued by Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency identifying manufacturers and supply chain vendors that provide hardware and software, and information technology equipment for critical infrastructure as essential critical infrastructure workers.
- SEMI is continuing this effort worldwide by working with Semiconductor Industry Associations in China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and the U.S. to reinforce the importance of semiconductor business.
Open Forum Discussion
Workplace and employee safety
- Most companies have a business continuity plan in place to mitigate the risks posed by the pandemic.
- Almost all companies have implemented flexible work arrangements that allow non-operation employees to work remotely. Some have even deactivated employee badges.
- Generally, production operations are still open with strict adherence to guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control. Below are some precautions being practiced.
- Physical-distancing-at-work activated
- Mandatory to wear masks when in office
- Proper protective gear is provided to employees
- Vendor and customer visits have been restricted
- Tracking employees to ensure minimized physical interaction
- Dividing employees into teams
- Rotating shifts with no overlaps
- Cleaning protocols are in place
- Employees are not allowed to go building to building
- Temperature screening activated
- Total headcount within the building has been reduced
- Changing the entry location every day
- Providing exemption letters to employees
- Some were curious about the topic of managing employee privacy while implementing policies like thermal screening and health issue questionnaire.
- A couple of companies had employees that tested positive for COVID-19. Safety protocols were followed to scrub and clean the facility.
- Some companies have kept procedures conservative for employees and contractors that are bringing in materials with no touch and no contact protocols.
- Fabs are not allowing external people to enter the facility. Hasn’t caused any issues yet.
- For a couple of companies, it has been challenging to maintain full shift operations due to employees showing symptoms that are hard to identify as COVID-19 versus common flu.
Business continuity and supply chain
- Most companies have not encountered any supply chain disruptions so far.
- Some companies have started to experience delays in shipments. Some Japanese suppliers are saying they won’t be able to fulfill some of the orders.
- Some companies have seen an increase in demand from customers that are stocking up on products as they worry about business continuity.
- For most companies the first quarter has been strong. No headwinds or slowdowns so far.
- All companies are watching the demand very carefully. Economy is getting hit so that might cause decline in Q3. Forecast are strong so far.
- Some companies expressed concerns about fab operation interruptions in Europe.
- For a Europe-based company, logistics are becoming an issue. It started with shipments to Japan and China, and now to the U.S.
- Some faced temporary issues due to the lockdown in India. They were able to identify second sources to maintain robustness.
- There are general concerns over tool experts not being able to fly across the ocean due to travel restrictions.