Agilent: Ipswich Lives!

Officials say R&D continues at the UK site, after manufacturing is spirited away to Asia

August 27, 2003

2 Min Read
Agilent: Ipswich Lives!

Officials at Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) are adamant that a 200-person layoff is not the the end of its U.K. transceiver operations.

The layoffs hit Agilent's 250-person facility in Ipswich at the beginning of July, says Tom Fawcett, Agilent's fiber optics marketing manager (see Headcount: Copy This). Ipswich included a semiconductor fabrication facility that is being decommissioned, with some of the equipment destined for Agilent's plant in Singapore.

Agilent never officially announced the layoffs, and its recent earnings announcement made only a glancing reference to the fab closure (see Agilent Posts Monster Q3 Loss). Rumors since then have swirled that Agilent made deep cuts in its transceiver plans, something Fawcett says is a "misconception."

A few products were canceled along with the layoffs, but Agilent's overall road map for transceivers is still "full," Fawcett says. In other words, no major groups of products were cut, and Agilent still plans to develop transceivers for both singlemode and multimode fiber.

Ipswich's 50 retained employees, from R&D and marketing, are continuing their work there but may be moved to a smaller facility later, Fawcett says.

The Ipswich fabrication plant built Fabry-Perot and distributed feedback (DFB) lasers. With demand low, that manufacturing capacity was mostly unused, so Agilent officials decided to save money by shuttering the fab and moving its manufacturing work to less expensive Singapore.

Fawcett calls the move a routine budget trimming. "From our standpoint, it's very consistent with getting our operations where they need to be."

It certainly has a familiar ring, as components makers cut costs by erasing the manufacturing capacity they built up during the bubble. One obvious step has been to combine fabs that are running well short of peak capacity.

For the manufacturing that doesn't get cut, Asia is an increasingly popular destination. For example, much of JDS Uniphase Corp.'s (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) manufacturing has gone to China, part of the company's titanic effort to return to profitability.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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