Statewide ‘Manufacturing Week’ bus tour highlights Camas wafer fab’s growth, commitment to sustainability

Association of Washington Business leaders get inside look at Analog Devices’ 24-7 wafer fabrication facility in Camas

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The Association of Washington Business' "Manufacturing Week" tour bus pulls into the Analog Devices parking lot in Camas on Oct. 10, 2022. (Photos by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

The Association of Washington Business took to the road last week to highlight the importance of the manufacturing sector on the state’s economy and highlight “modern manufacturing” jobs available to Washington students.

The group’s sixth annual manufacturing week bus tour stopped at nearly 30 manufacturing facilities across Washington, Oct. 6-13.

On Monday, Oct. 10, the bus tour pulled into Camas’ Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) wafer fabrication facility (commonly called a “fab” in the semiconductor industry) off Northwest Pacific Rim Boulevard.

One of the Massachusetts-based company’s two Portland-area wafer fabs — the other is in Beaverton, Oregon — the Camas facility employs 450 workers; operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and creates semiconductor products used in everything from cell phones, computers and automobiles to NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers.

On Monday, ADI managers touted the Camas site’s recent expansions, commitment to decreasing its environmental footprint and abundance of entry-level jobs that pay over minimum wage and offer upward mobility within the company.

ADI took over the then 20-year-old Camas wafer fab in 2016, after purchasing Linear Technology for nearly $15 billion. Since then, the Camas fab has increased to a 24-7 manufacturing schedule and increased its staff by 55%, growing from 290 Camas-based employees in 2016, to 450 employees today.

Much of the Camas fab’s recent growth took place during the early months of 2022, amid a worldwide semiconductor chip shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic combined with an increased demand for smartphones and other compact electronic devices that depend on the type of silicon wafers produced at the Camas fab.

The Camas site’s general manager, John Michael, said Monday that the Camas fab has increased its workforce by about 25% this year and is not done growing.

“We have 450 employees now and will probably increase by another 10 to 20 percent (over the next few years),” Michael said, adding that the company was already in the middle of its expansion when President Joe Biden passed the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which will inject nearly $50 billion into the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing industry, in August.

“We didn’t wait for the CHIPS Act,” Michael said. “We were already expanding — and we are still expanding.”

In fact, the company expects to double its wafer fabrication capacity over the next couple years, Michael said.

The Camas ADI site offers hundreds of entry-level positions available to high school graduates. In fact, 73% of the site’s 450 employees have no higher education training and earn above minimum wage — the Camas fab typically pays its new operators around $16 an hour, Michael said, but offers opportunities for operators and technicians to grow into positions that pay around $30 an hour.

Highlighting these types of “modern manufacturing” jobs available to Washington’s young people was one of the goals of this year’s Manufacturing Week bus tour, said Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business.

“The last few years have been challenging, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future of the economy,” Johnson said. “Through it all, Washington manufacturers have proven to be resilient. Manufacturing is already a major driver of the economy and now the state is working toward a goal of doubling manufacturing by 2031. … If we’re going to double manufacturing in Washington, we must invest in our young people to ensure we have a trained and educated workforce to fill the new positions.”

Though much of the tour through the Camas wafer fab focused on the site’s recent expansion and ongoing growth, ADI managers also focused on one of the company’s top tenets: protecting the planet and increasing the company’s commitment to sustainability.

Michael said the company is committed to reducing its impact on the planet. The Camas site offers free chargers for employees who drive electric vehicles and is figuring out ways to use fewer chemicals and less water in its manufacturing processes.

This year alone, the Camas fab has been able to reduce its water usage by 27% — a reduction that will result in the savings of more than 20.5 million gallons of city water.

“Camas has set benchmarks to reduce our water (usage) and this effort is ongoing,” said Abhishek Gannarapu, an ADI process engineer, who added that, even as the Camas fab’s wafer production has ramped up in 2022, its water usage has decreased thanks to more efficient processes, equipment and water-monitoring systems.

The company’s efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle water are ongoing, Gannarapu said, with weekly meetings to discuss strategies that could further reduce the fab’s water usage as well as the amount of wastewater the facility is discharging into the city of Camas’ sewer system.

Michael said the Camas facility is committed to meeting ADI’s corporate goals for sustainability, which include carbon neutrality at ADI facilities by 2030, using 100% renewable energy at ADI’s manufacturing facilities by 2025, having a 50% water recycling rate in ADI’s manufacturing facilities by 2025, and reaching climate and energy “net zero” by 2050.

The bus tour also emphasized that many manufacturers, including the Camas wafer fab, rely on the state’s abundant hydroelectric power, which is widely considered to be a renewable energy source.

“We must protect Washington’s affordable, reliable and renewable energy, which has been one of the state’s core competitive advantages,” Johnson, the AWB president, said. “We need sensible regulatory policies that enable manufacturers to grow. … The future of manufacturing in Washington is bright if we make smart policy choices now.”