Thorsten Frei visits AP&S - exchange on current challenges in the semiconductor industry


On 20.07.2021, Thorsten Frei, Deputy Chairman of the CDU/ CSU parliamentary group, visited the AP&S headquarters in Donaueschingen-Aasen. "We are looking forward to the exchange. Dialog between politics and business is enormously important. Issues that move and influence us - especially small and medium-sized enterprises - must be known and represented at the top, where laws and foundations for our economic activities are laid. This is the only way to secure prosperity and economic growth here in the region," says Alexandra Laufer-Müller, CEO at AP&S.

AP&S International GmbH is a manufacturer of wet process equipment for semiconductor manufacturing and is currently benefiting from the strong, dynamic growth of the industry, but is also confronted with the challenges of the market.

The current situation in the semiconductor industry is affecting all sectors of the economy worldwide, and urgent action is required from policymakers. The demand for chips has been so high since the end of 2020 that manufacturers cannot supply enough. German car manufacturers have had to stop production in some cases due to the supply bottlenecks. The supply chain situation is critical. The entire industry depends on a handful of countries that compete fiercely with each other in the field of technology and, in some cases, duel with export restrictions. 80 % of the world's chips come from the Far East. More than two-thirds of all German companies import semiconductors. Europe's independence can only be achieved through subsidies; countries such as Taiwan, where 40 % of new semiconductor factories are subsidized by the state, are considered pioneers.

"Germany must become an attractive location for semi-conductor manufacturers. To secure and further expand the know-how in Germany and to better cover the demand for chips themselves - these are the goals that urgently need to be tackled, but in doing so it is also important to ensure that German and European manufacturers of equipment for the production halls of the pavers, do not go away empty-handed when it comes to subsidies with taxpayers' money," said CMO & CTO Tobias Bausch. "Already the supply bottlenecks 2919 for drugs and in the Corona crisis the shortage of masks has clearly shown us that the production shifts to the Far East have led to a dependence so not wanted. Here and in other areas such as chip production, we must take countermeasures," said Thorsten Frei.  

"Another challenge is the shortage of skilled workers. A good education system is the linchpin here. The more difficult search for personnel is already noticeable in the filling of apprenticeship positions, especially now after Corona, it is extremely noticeable in this area. The shortage of skilled workers is affecting all areas of the company. We currently have over 20 vacant positions to fill," Laufer-Müller added. "Basically, we are dependent on immigration due to weak birth cohorts and growing employee needs. We have regulated this for people outside the EU via the Skilled Worker Immigration Act, which was passed in 2019. But what we want to prevent at all costs is immigration into our social systems," Frei explained.

With innovative wet process benches, AP&S makes an important contribution to chip manufacturing. Various well-known semiconductor manufacturers worldwide are among the company's customers. The high flexibility of the modular AP&S systems enables semiconductor manufacturers to process wafers (starting material for microchips) in different sizes and thicknesses on one system, solvent as well as etching processes are possible on one machine, high batch sizes of up to 50 wafers per run ensure high productivity and attractive TCO (total cost of ownership). AP&S is also strong in wet process development for the innovative raw material silicon carbide (SiC), which is becoming increasingly important in chip production, especially with regard to electric cars. This is because these cars run more economically and for longer with SiC chips.