Every day at Intel's factories – or fabs as it calls them – in Leixlip, Co Kildare, the company makes thousands of microprocessors. These tiny little marvels then make their way around the world to power our digital lives. Have you ever wondered how we get delicate products like this transported thousands of miles every day? We caught up with Intel Ireland logistics manager Gerry Darcy to find out just what’s involved.
What are the key skills required for this role? Presumably, maths, computing, management/organising, communication, an eye for solving problems etc?
What you presume is correct – problem solving and evaluating risk / potential risks are critical parts of the role – but the globalisation of supply chains also highlights the cultural aspect of communication and engagement, particularly when travel was limited during lockdown, it is critical to keep in close engagement with all key aspects of a global logistics supply chain (suppliers, transit hubs, airlines, ocean carriers, road hauliers, brokerage agents, etc).
Have Covid and China lockdowns, and the Suez canal blockage problems changed the world of logistics management much, or was it just a temporary issue? Was the supply chain badly affected in all cases? Solutions? Does the industry have to source materials from different zones?
The challenges with Covid, China, Suez Canal and even Brexit have had a major impact on how we manage our logistics network – key challenge was maintaining logistics through put times to meet key factory needs as a lot of companies utilise JIT inventory models and also balancing transportation and warehousing costs – the industry has seen a very significant increase in costs as both air, road and sea freight capacity remains constraint.
One of the critical aspects of our logistics management is building more resilience into our supply chain – this has required us here at Intel to engage even closer with our logistics suppliers, airlines, sea vessel companies, cargo handlers to help understand what risks they may encounter and how we can collaborate with them to try and mitigate these risks to our overall network.
The typical day
A typical day for Darcy starts at the Intel campus in Leixlip just before 8am. He joined Intel in 1994, where he originally worked in the in the systems assembly operation in Leixlip. “I moved into logistics in 1996 – I had actually studied supply chain management when I was in college, so it always interested me. In 1999 I had the chance to move to Holland with Intel where we set up our European distribution centre.”
“We in-sourced our whole European Finished Goods logistics operation back in 1999 and I was part of the team that set that up. I lived there until 2004 and then I supported that operation from Ireland for another number of years before taking on my current role six years ago”.
It also requires companies to build out stronger business continuity plans that include alternative sourcing, back-up transportation solutions etc. These ongoing challenges have highlighted more than ever the criticality of logistics and supply chain management and how essential an asset it is to a company.
Darcy usually begins the day by catching up on email and checking in with colleagues. His role lies within GLO (global logistics organisation) which is part of Intel’s customer planning and logistics group – or CPLG for short.
As the site logistics manager for Ireland, Darcy oversees all of the Intel owned freight and shipments that move in and out of the Leixlip site. Chief among these shipments are our completed products, which we refer to as wafer shipments, as well as Capital tool equipment that powers our factories.
Microprocessors are built side by side on silicon wafers and it is these wafers that are shipped from Ireland to the next stage in the manufacturing process which is called 'assembly test'. Most of the product that is made in Ireland is shipped by air to assembly test facilities in Asia and the US.
We have 14 people based in GLO on site in Ireland and a wider number of people that support various CPLG functions such as factory planning, reverse logistics and other support functions.
Darcy is pictured with Colm Boyle at the global logistics command centre meeting, which his team chairs every Thursday. At this meeting the team assess and track a variety of items that may impact on logistics management such as supply chain routes and what challenges are emerging.
This meeting is chaired and led from Ireland. “We have developed a lot of experience and expertise from Ireland and work very closely with our colleagues around the world. We have to be aware of what’s going on everywhere in the world to know what impact it will have on the Ireland team - we’re managing something different everyday.”
Darcy is pictured at one of the Intel onsite warehouses with Brian Brannigan, who works for our shipping partner. Our products are shipped every day on pallets just like the ones you see here.
Darcy is discussing the airline schedule through the new year, going through the flight matrix to make sure we have enough coverage and capacity. Dublin is one of the only airports that shuts on Christmas Day, as do ports, so continuity planning for the festive period is important. The shipping of Intel product from Leixlip is a round the clock process.
“We continue to meet regularly and build strong relationships with airlines, ocean vessel companies as well as cargo handlers to help build as much resilience into our supply chain logistics’ networks as possible – with so many moving parts it’s an interesting challenge every day – my team continually audit key transit hubs such as Dublin airport/port, London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, New York and many others – although Ireland is our focus we are truly global in scope and scale’.
Darcy makes a quick pit stop at one of the onsite cafes in Leixlip. More than 20,000 meals are served every day at the Leixlip campus from our cafes, which are the backbone of our 24/7 site operations. Some days he will be based entirely onsite between his desk, meeting spaces and our warehouses. Today, he will take a trip out to one of our offsite warehouse facilities, so after lunch he jumps in the car for the short journey to the facility in Dublin.
Darcy meets with Siobhan Curtin (logistics capital warehouse operations manager) and Dave Dillon (warehouse supplier manager) at our offsite warehouse facility which is located in Dublin. We have two main offsite warehouse facilities – one that is 150,000 sq ft and the other 80,000 sq ft. Both of the warehouses are almost full at the moment with a third likely to come online soon.
These warehouses support the ramp of our new fab facility in Ireland as well as legacy equipment. “We’re starting to ramp up the logistics support and activity for the large-scale construction project which is ongoing in Leixlip. So we need additional warehouse space to manage the incoming capital equipment - tools and parts - that will go into this new manufacturing space”. You can see some of this equipment pictured in the large wooden crates.
The warehouses are one the places that Darcy visits regularly to meet with our logistics partners and to understand any issues that may be emerging. “The challenges we have in the current environment – things such as reduced sailings and reduced number of flights – mean that it can be more difficult to secure capacity and manage freight costs.
We also have challenges around Covid and the supply chain – much the same as most businesses are experiencing”. In pre-Covid times he would often visit the big transit hubs that Intel uses to meet with cargo handlers and the airlines, so they can understand exactly the specifics of what they are handling.
Things change constantly in the world of logistics and barely a few minutes go by without Darcy's phone ringing. At the moment our production volume is quite linear, so we have a fairly predictable picture for the product we are shipping out.
Sometimes we ship directly from Dublin via air freighter and sometimes the product will travel to the UK by road and onward by air”. After some time at the warehouse he heads back to the Intel campus to finish off his day.
He packs up and heads for home. Evening times are usually taken up with family time – Darcy lives locally in Celbridge and enjoys coaching his kids football teams (GAA and football). Most evenings it’s a taxi run for training or matches for the 3 kids who are aged 16, 14 and 10. Sometimes there may be an evening work calls with US teams that he joins from home.