Manufacturing Wales members were hosted for a visit at SPTS Technologies, a KLA company, and a tour of this global semiconductor equipment supplier’s lean manufacturing operations.
SPTS, based just off the Coldra roundabout in Newport, shared their history and growth story. The UK was a pioneer of semiconductor technology in the 1970-1980’s. Today, almost every electronic device we use in our daily lives will have been made using technology from SPTS and fellow semiconductor cluster companies in Wales. For example, in a smartphone alone there are around 40 electronic devices, semiconductors are in your coffee machines, your energy efficient fridges and washing machines. And in a new car you can expect around 10,000 devices.
With an impressive global client portfolio that includes some of the world’s biggest and most recognised brands SPTS exports around 98% of the products manufactured in Wales to customers in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
They develop the capital equipment key to creating the building block of all modern technology, either adding material to or removing material from semiconductor wafers. Their technology enables customers to work at atomic scale to create their products that are used in a variety of applications across ever smaller devices.
Using microscopic technology they help their customers fit 8.5 billion transistors onto something the size of a fingernail. That’s the equivalent of a working scale model of Greater London that would fit on the size and thickness of your thumbnail.
Their key end markets include AI, healthcare, robotics, automotive, mobile devices, data centres, virtual interaction and Aerospace.
Like many of the manufacturing companies who attended the visit, SPTS has faced the challenges of coming out of the pandemic; managing hybrid working, attracting talent, overcoming freight and logistics complications and managing fluctuation of costs and stability of supply chains. For SPTS, they have also had to revisit their logistics strategy after finding that the closure of flight paths across Russia and Ukraine were adding significantly to their costs and shipping times.
Andrew Evans, senior director at SPTS, explained:
”We have been faced with these challenges at a time of significant growth in the business. We are expanding, investing in R&D and looking to attract the talent needed, both locally and globally, to sustain our growth. We are working with local schools, colleges and universities via our STEM programmes and targeting untapped talent pools to attract the diverse talent we need. We continue to raise awareness of both what we do and why a career in manufacturing and the semiconductor industry should be a career of choice. Our expansion plans are nearing completion for an additional site in Newport, which is due to start construction shortly.”
“Being part of Manufacturing Wales is important to us because as Welsh manufacturers, even if in completely different markets or different sized businesses, we share many of the same problems. As the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and having a network of Welsh manufacturing businesses where that knowledge and experience can be shared is so important.”
Neil Quigley from Penderyn said:
“Thanks to everyone at SPTS for an extremely informative and interesting visit and tour. It’s great to understand the high tech capabilities and manufacturing facilities that are here on our own doorstep. Your hospitality was greatly appreciated. As this was my first tour, thanks also to Manufacturing Wales, for making it happen”
Leanne Waring from Cardiff and Vale College said about the tour:
"It was a pleasure to attend our first Manufacturing Wales tour and to meet some of the members too. Thank you to the team at SPTS who looked after us so well. It really was an eye opener to learn more about SPTS, their services and clients they support. To learn that the advanced wafer processing solutions can create a city the size of a thumbnail was mind blowing!!! We very much look forward to the next visit."
Karl Couch from Cardiff Metropolitan University said:
"A well hosted and enjoyable tour at SPTS. An interesting and insightful introduction into the world leading technology manufacturing happening in Wales."
With Chris Burgess from GTS Flexible Materials saying:
"A really instructive session with great insight into the evolution of the SPTS business. Also a very useful opportunity to network and to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing other manufacturers, many of which are similar to our own"