Wolfspeed’s ambitious expansion plans unveiled at supplier event in Chatham County

By Gene Galin

Pittsboro, NC – In a grand showcase of innovation and growth, Wolfspeed, a leading player in the semiconductor industry, presented its ambitious expansion plans during a supplier event held at the Chatham Agricultural Center on August 29, 2023. The event shed light on Wolfspeed’s vision to build the world’s largest silicon carbide factory in Siler City, North Carolina. This significant undertaking, with plans to increase production tenfold, is poised to reshape the semiconductor landscape and have far-reaching implications for various industries.

Supplier representatives at the Wolfspeed event at the Chatham County Conference Center.

The sprawling Siler City factory, stretching across a staggering 445 acres and encompassing eight buildings under one roof, is set to become Wolfspeed’s flagship production facility. Leslie Buckheit, Senior Director of Indirect Procurement at Wolfspeed, welcomed attendees and emphasized the magnitude of this project. “That is more than 36 football fields under one building,” she exclaimed, providing a vivid perspective of the factory’s colossal scale.

Wolfspeed’s Commitment to Community and Diversity
Wolfspeed’s involvement in various local and national programs demonstrates its commitment to being an integral part of the community. The company actively collaborates with multiple groups to minimize barriers to success. Their dedication to diversity and inclusion is evident through their focus on diverse and small business programs. Joe Tarica, leading the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative, highlighted Wolfspeed’s goal to have five percent of their expenditure directed towards small and diverse suppliers by 2025. However, for the Siler City facility, the aim is even higher – an ambitious 20 percent. This demonstrates not only direct engagement with small and diverse businesses but also encouraging tier-one suppliers to participate.

Expansive Bid Opportunities
Wolfspeed’s expansion plans are accompanied by an extensive list of competitive bids in various procurement areas. The company’s commitment to transparency was evident as they showcased these opportunities, a clear invitation for potential partners to join them in their journey. Buckheit encouraged attendees to visit the front table, construction management, or facilities table for a more comprehensive list of upcoming bids. These bids will be a substantial source of opportunities for suppliers over the next year and beyond.

Material Operations and Silicon Carbide’s Significance
Dave McGregor, Senior Director of Operations at Wolfspeed, then took the stage to delve into the intricacies of material operations. He highlighted that Wolfspeed currently supplies about 60 percent of the world’s silicon carbide, emphasizing the significance of this material in the semiconductor industry. Silicon carbide’s unique properties, which allow for the creation of power transistors capable of switching large currents and voltages rapidly, are driving innovation in industries such as electric vehicle charging.

McGregor also explained the challenges of manufacturing silicon carbide, particularly its requirement for precise atomic arrangements. He shared that the Siler City facility would focus on producing eight-inch silicon carbide wafers with a single polytype, a complex process that demands a high level of precision and expertise.

Material Procurement and Collaboration
Chris Miksa, Senior Director of Material at Wolfspeed, expanded on the company’s procurement needs. He described how Wolfspeed, as a vertically integrated company, manages everything from product design to final testing and packaging. However, with the Siler City factory, they are open to partnerships in areas such as precision machining and metal fabrication, which may not make sense to handle in-house at the scale they are envisioning. Miksa also emphasized the importance of strong communication, structured problem-solving, and ethical conduct among their suppliers.

Automation Partnerships and Quality Expectations
Chris Miksa also highlighted the custom automation solutions that will be implemented in the Siler City factory, noting that opportunities for collaboration exist with their key supply partners in the automation space. He reiterated Wolfspeed’s expectations regarding quality, emphasizing that suppliers should aim to keep issues small through effective communication and participate in structured problem-solving when challenges arise. Additionally, ethical conduct is non-negotiable, and Wolfspeed provides channels for anonymous reporting if concerns arise.

Suppliers interested in collaborating with Wolfspeed on this groundbreaking project are encouraged to explore the diverse opportunities offered and embrace the company’s values of quality and ethics. Wolfspeed’s vision is not only to advance technology but also to foster a more inclusive and sustainable future.

Quick Notes

  • Leslie Buckheit, Senior Director of Indirect Procurement, welcomes attendees to the Siler City Factory event.
  • The Siler City Factory will span over 445 acres and consist of eight buildings, totaling more than 2.1 million square feet, making it the largest silicon carbide factory globally.
  • Wolfspeed actively engages with local and national programs and groups to support the community.
  • Wolfspeed aims to have 5% of its spending with small and diverse suppliers by 2025 and is pushing for 20% in Siler City.
  • The company is preparing for various competitive bids in procurement and invites suppliers to collaborate.
  • Dave McGregor, Senior Director of Operations, explains the significance of silicon carbide in semiconductor technology.
  • The Siler City Factory aims to manufacture silicon carbide wafers with specific atomic arrangements for power transistors.
  • Chris Miksa, Senior Director of Material, discusses the expansion plans, supplier opportunities, and the unique automation aspect of the factory.
  • Quality expectations for suppliers include good communication, structured problem solving, and ethical business practices.

View the Wolfspeed Introduction on YouTube.

00:14 Wolfspeed is building the world’s largest silicon carbide factory in North Carolina.

  • This highly automated facility spans over 445 acres and consists of eight buildings under one roof, covering more than 2.1 million square feet.
  • The facility will increase Wolfspeed’s size in North Carolina more than 10-fold and is the largest economic development investment to date in the state.

01:54 Wolfspeed is committed to working with small and diverse suppliers

  • Wolfspeed aims to have 5% of spend with small and diverse suppliers by 2025
  • They also collaborate with tier one suppliers to promote engagement with smaller diverse businesses
  • Wolfspeed is actively involved in various competitive bid projects

03:21 The Siler City site will be 10 times bigger than the Durham factory and will manufacture silicon carbide.

  • The Siler City site will be responsible for the JD operations once it’s fully operational.
  • It will create silicon carbide products which will go to the New York and Germany factories.

04:45 Silicon carbide enables the manufacturing of power transistors for industries like electric vehicles.

  • Silicon carbide allows for the control of large currents and voltages, making it ideal for applications like electric vehicle charging.
  • The arrangement of atoms in silicon carbide is more complex than in silicon, requiring specific arrangements for optimal performance.
  • Silicon carbide wafers with specific polytypes are created using atomic scale manipulation.
  • The advantage of silicon carbide over silicon is its ability to switch large currents and voltages quickly.

06:15 Wolfspeed is scaling up the production of silicon carbide wafers in Siler City

  • 60% of the world’s silicon carbide supply comes from their operations in Durham
  • They are vertically integrated, handling everything from product design to final tests and packaging
  • Their organization is responsible for procuring the capital equipment for the factories

07:47 The Siler City factory is the first of its kind in terms of automation.

  • The company has established and mature supply partners for equipment and raw materials.
  • Near-term opportunities include precision machining, metal fabrication, and parts repair, which may require outsourcing.

09:05 Opportunities for collaboration with suppliers and focus on quality

  • Meeting suppliers to explore core competencies and collaboration opportunities
  • Integration of custom automation solutions with key supply partners
  • Emphasis on good communication and real-time issue resolution for quality assurance

10:29 Driving root cause analysis and prevention, establishing good partnerships, and promoting ethics in supplier relationships.

  • Identifying root causes of excursions or opportunities in factories and preventing their reoccurrence.
  • Setting clear expectations on quality for suppliers and fostering a strong partnership with Wolfspeed.
  • Ensuring ethics and values are upheld in business practices and offering anonymous channels for reporting concerns.