Toshiba Restructuring: New 3D Fab Coming

Toshiba Yokkaichi Fab ComplexBeleaguered Toshiba finally unveiled its restructuring plan on Friday.  The plan aims to return the company to profitability and growth through management accountability.

A lot of the presentation focused on the memory business, a shining star of the Toshiba conglomerate, which has so far included appliances, nuclear power plants, and medical electronics.

Toshiba has big plans for its Semiconductor & Storage Products Company, calling it “A pillar of income with Memories as a core business”.  The company plans to enhance its NAND flash cost competitiveness by accelerating development of BiCS (Toshiba’s 3D NAND technology) and by expanding its SSD business.   There are three parts to this effort:

  1. Grow 3D NAND production capacity
  2. Speed up 3D NAND development
  3. Increase SSD development resources

This post’s graphic is an overhead view of Toshiba’s Yokkaichi wafer fab complex.  By clicking on the picture you can see the whole site layout.  The blue box on the right shows where a proposed new fab is to be constructed during fiscal 2017 (April 2017 – March 2018).   A budget of ¥860 billion (roughly $8 billion US) for fiscal 2016 – 2018 has been set aside for this facility and for additional 3D NAND tooling at existing facilities.

The company is on an aggressive fundraising campaign to finance this and other costs related to the turnaround.  In all, Toshiba plans to raise one trillion yen, ¥666 billion of which has already been raised through the sale of Toshiba’s Medical Systems business, and another ¥200 billion from sales of the company’s stock holdings.  The upcoming divestiture of Toshiba’s Home Appliance business and additional sales of the company’s stock holdings are expected to bring available capital up to its ¥1 trillion goal.

The new fab isn’t the only change that the company is making to this division.  A name change will refocus the goals of the business: Toshiba’s “Semiconductor & Storage Products Company” has been renamed to the: “Storage & Electron Devices Company”.  Storage comes first because that’s the key market for Toshiba’s NAND flash chips.  Despite the name change, the division will remain intact, since this segment sells into a growing market and is profitable.   Toshiba will focus on the fact that SSDs and HDDs share a business, rather than run them separately as was done some time back.

In addition to expanding its 3D NAND business, Toshiba plans to continue developing its ReRAM & MRAM storage class memories “for high speed SSD”.  The original strategy was for these two technologies to supplant 3D NAND flash once it had reached its stacking limit, which was anticipated at 100 layers or so.  A new stacking technique revealed by Hynix last year shows that 3D NAND may last considerably longer than was originally thought, leaving ReRAM and MRAM without an important market.  The Memory Guy believes that ReRAM and MRAM will continue to be funded thanks to Intel’s and Micron’s introduction of 3D XPoint Memory, which Objective Analysis predicts is more likely to find acceptance as a DIMM than as an SSD.  Toshiba needs ReRAM (and perhaps MRAM) to compete in this market.

Toshiba also plans to open an SSD design center in North America and to expand its portfolio of near-line and enterprise HDDs.

Although there has been a lot of talk in the past of Toshiba spinning off its memory business, or even selling it to a Chinese investor, The Memory Guy finds it unsurprising that the profitable memory chip business will remain with the company.   Good luck to Toshiba in achieving its goals through this difficult restructuring.

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