With most of the world still in lockdown, we thought we’d find out how different people in the semiconductor industry are dealing with the coronavirus.

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Carl Moore, Yield Management Specialist, yieldHUB

David Wright, Senior Product Test Engineer, Adesto

John O’Donnell, Founder and CEO, yieldHUB

Patrick McNamee, Director of Operation, EnSilica

Shane Zhang, Head of Product Engineering, DisplayLink

Yovav Yahav-Amir, CEO and Founder, E.K.S.S Microelectronics

Carl Moore, Yield Management Specialist, yieldHUB

How has Covid-19 affected your work life?

Much of my work is remote, but Covid-19 affects in-person interactions with customers, which is always important. Video conferencing is critical in keeping good communication. I always try to use my video (even with my new recluse beard….). Interestingly, I find many people take some time to migrate to video conferencing if they haven’t used it regularly in the past. In many cases, it has even improved communication, as it is easy to set up a quick online meeting to help our customers. It’s nice to spend more time with family at home since everyone is now working from home.

How has the virus affected your company ?

yieldHUB is a global company, so we have already adapted the remote work that many companies are now being forced to accept with Covid-19. Many of my friends in the semiconductor industry have overcome new challenges of development work in the lab and manufacturing production, dealing with the requirements of staff that have to be on-site to run the equipment. Even simple things like face masks, that were typically worn in manufacturing fab and test areas, now have supply issues due to Covid-19. It is nice to see some of the actions that semiconductor companies have taken to help keep their workers safe.

David Wright, Senior Product Test Engineer, Adesto

How has Covid-19 affected your work life?

Like many of our colleagues around the world, the majority of Adesto’s employees are working from home. For me, this means working alongside family members and getting more exercise, while homeschooling and doing a lot more cooking! The great thing is that Adesto’s ASIC and IP team – which has been developing custom ASICs and licensing IP for over 30 years –already has everything in place to make it easy to collaborate and work remotely. We have a team of very experienced designers and program managers working in multiple global locations, and for every project we do, the teams are nearly always comprised of people from different geographical locations.  As a result, with everyone now working from home, the teams are continuing, as usual, to work separately yet together in completing our projects.  We have systems in place like our internally developed project management tool which provides team members and customers real-time visibility on the status of all elements of their project. We also have a validation tool that was developed by our engineering team that makes it possible to perform first silicon validation testing remotely – so there is no need for engineers to be in the lab.

How has the virus affected the industry?

The challenge for many companies is that while they may be used to some level of workplace flexibility and having people work from home a day or two a week, they aren’t set up to have their whole workforce working remotely on a full-time basis. This can impact their projects even though schedules will remain the same.  We are trying to help customers who find themselves in this position by offering very flexible models such as taking on portions of their design work or helping to extend their existing team so that they can keep projects on schedule.

John O’Donnell, Founder and CEO, yieldHUB

How has Covid-19 affected your current work life?

At yieldHUB, we often worked from home before this pandemic so WFH was not new to me or most of my team. Because we have a lot of systems for communication and project management in place already, it was straightforward to enhance these for the wider team. I have staff and customers across multiple time zones across the world and can make myself readily available from my home office any time of the day and night (within reason) if needed.

How has the virus affected the industry?

Many of our customers have never been busier! 2020 was set to be a big year for them, it’s great to see that they are able to make changes. Our customers work in different end markets – industrial, automotive, 5G, IoT, aerospace etc. With such a diverse customer base, knocks from the environment have a lesser impact. The semiconductor industry always adapts to the needs of people also.  The fact that our software is ideal for engineers working for home means we are increasing new business this year at a faster rate than before.

One thing I miss is visiting customers. I enjoy meeting people face to face as you always find out a lot about the people you work with by meeting them. They often tell you things in person that they can’t convey over email. But, I use online meetings a lot now. It’s nearly as good! It saves a lot of time and money. So we meet our customers less, but we have more time to support them and continuously improve our offerings to them.

Yovav Yahav-Amir, CEO and Founder, E.K.S.S Microelectronics

How has Covid-19 affected your current work life?

EKSS Microelectronics embraced home working. It is something we are very used to and comfortable with. We already use unified comms technology like Zoom, Teams and Skype and also use  WhatsApp as a good way of communicating with staff, suppliers, and customers. 

The only changes due to Covid-19 is that families have been at home, so we have all had to adapt to enable proper work focus and adapting the spaces we work in to maximize efficiency. Of course, several conversations are interrupted with background noise, but this is the same for our team and all those that we communicate with. Everyone shows  great tolerance and patience during these exchanges.

We accept that our working day is different and sometimes work-hours are spread over a longer period of time. Occasionally we divide our working hours into two main working time segments. For example, morning time for meetings and important e-mails that had to be urgently answered, and then at night when the house is quieter for engineering work (e.g. developing test programs).

How has the virus affected your company?

‘Working from home’ and ‘remote login’ are long time buzz phrases that just became reality due to the Coronavirus for all the high-tech industry.

For EKSS, we just increased our remote login capabilities:

    • Instead of going to the test floor for debugging IC test programs, we remote login to the tester.
    • We use Zoom and TeamViewer to allow customers and designers to connect with us to the tester and be part of the development process.
    • When connecting external debug tools to the tester (e.g.: scope or DVM) we use webcams or cellphone cameras to look at the scope screen, while remote connect to the tester.
  • We used much more of the tester resources for the debug process (but this had to planned when developing the load board).

The industry has seen some changes, particularly with manufacturing and test capability for volume products in Asia. However, our network of global strategic partners and suppliers  enabled us to fulfill most requirements during this difficult time period. We believe our business model has worked well during this global pandemic and we are looking forward to growing our business as we all come out of lock-down.

Patrick McNamee, Director of Operations, EnSilica

How has Covid-19 affected your current work life?

Daily work life at EnSilica in common with most companies has all moved to work from home unless absolutely necessary. For most of us that is fine and team working by video seems not to have affected productivity too much with new designs. Where we are most affected is remote debugging of test programs on ATE this is clearly not as efficient as being there and able to just connect an oscilloscope or other instrument at will to aid with debugging.

How has the virus affected your company?

Ensilica is a project driven company we find that near term projects and work in progress is as busy as ever, however longer-term business is more uncertain. We pick up regular short-term outsourced projects from our customers. That outsourcing has completely dried up as companies seek to conserve cash. Consequently, some furloughing off staff has commenced. Our view is that the casual project work may not return to ‘normal’ levels for several months but the longer-term bigger projects do seem to be proceeding more or less as normal.

Shane Zhang, Head of Product Engineering, Displaylink

How has Covid-19 affected your current work life?

The impact is big definitely. Since most people must work from home, the consequence is many daily or weekly face to face meetings or communications have to be replaced by remote phone calls or video conferences. Obviously, many issues  or questions became difficult to resolve or clarify on time. Many follow-up actions  could be  slipped or even failed through easily. 

How has the virus affected your company?

Similar to other Semiconductor Fabless companies, the major impact was and will be  from the interruption of Supply Chains, as many of them had been suffered Logistic or Labour Resource issues due to the travel ban or lockdown in some cities worldwide. Most companies tried to pull in loading in manufacture sites or increasing the orders dramatically  to keep a good inventory level. By saying that, our products’ demand is much higher than usual because it’s benefited from Woking from Home policy implemented globally, which need more and more mobile Monitor Screen chips or devices.