From the Farm to the Fab

 

One on One with Steve Megli, Co-General Manager of Intel’s Assembly Test Manufacturing

There’s little room for error when you are in charge of factory startups, thousands of engineers and technicians, and millions of dollars’ worth of tools that must work 24/7 so products can get in the hands of customers. Since 2008, Steve Megli has overseen thousands of Intel Assembly Test Manufacturing employees running factories in China, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Vietnam.

Megli grew up on a farm in Rock Falls, Ill., where he learned all about hard work. It was good preparation for a 25-year career with Intel’s Technology & Manufacturing Group, where today he’s a vice president and co-general manager of Assembly Test Manufacturing. Recently, Megli took a moment to talk about the need for so-called “possibility thinking” and how farming prepared him for Intel.

“Time-to-market is everything. You could have the best product in the world, but if you miss the window, you miss the window.” –Steve Megli (Flickr photo)

Can you give us a plain-English definition of what Assembly Test Manufacturing (ATM) does?

We take all of those wafers that we make in our fabs, test them to make sure they work, and then ship units to our customers. So when we’re done, the units are fully assembled and in the form factor that goes into whatever OEM build there is. We are the last stop before the customer.

What are your main priorities for ATM?

When you’re in manufacturing and there’s an “M” in your acronym, you have to go make all of that stuff. Job one is supporting that business and doing it safely and with high-quality, high-delivery, the right kind of supply chain and cycle times.

Time-to-market is everything. You could have the best product in the world, but if you miss the window, you miss the window.

What exactly is “possibility thinking?”

The phrase has been coined in the last 2 years, but possibility thinking is not new. [Intel co-founder] Robert Noyce said, “Don’t be encumbered by the past. Go out and do something wonderful.” That is the definition of what we call today “possibility thinking.”

It’s been in Intel’s DNA for a long time. To me, it’s the combination of thinking possibility and then using a strong discipline like Lean Manufacturing and good engineering. To me, that’s what drives the breakthrough.

Why the focus on possibility thinking?

[In 2011] the core business did extremely well. We should be so proud of what we’ve done in the server area, the cloud. Having said all of that, we have to think differently about new businesses. It’s a completely different cadence that you have to operate on, and it’s a completely different customer base.

We’ve got a tremendous opportunity because Intel architecture is fantastic. It gives you possibilities and capabilities way beyond any ARM tablet that’s shipping today.

How would you describe your management style?

For the most part it’s “tell me what help you need,” and I will try to be a helper and enabler to that. I’m also very quick to call out a performance issue and I’ll have a discussion with someone about it.

I have to think at a high level about our strategy. Factories in ATM are running great. I’m thinking about, “How do we run the technologies 5 years from now? What are the skill sets we will need?”

Is there one manager that you learned most from during the 25 years?

I’ve been exposed to a lot of great managers. I don’t just learn from managers. I learn from peers and people I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with [Chief Operating Officer] Brian Krzanich since the day I started at Intel.

Steve Megli, co-general manager of Intel’s Assembly Test Manufacturing (Flickr photo)

Is there one key learning you’ve had recently as a leader?

Since I moved into the ATM position, my world view has changed completely.

All of my jobs before were kind of U.S.-centric and in the fab. I really have developed a huge appreciation for the geographies and the fact that the policies that sometimes get made in California aren’t necessarily applicable around the world.

How do you manage work/life balance?

When I take a day off, I take a day off. If you don’t do that, you won’t ever regenerate and you’ll get burned out. If I take a week’s vacation, I’m not calling into meetings. There are some people who can do that. I can’t.

So you were raised on a farm?

Yep. People ask me, “What did you do on the farm?” We planted the crops in the spring, and nurtured them through the summer, and harvested them in the fall. And that was pretty much how it worked. The farm life is a great life. It’s a lot of hard work, but those are the kinds of values you take through life.

I used to think at Intel the scale of our job is huge, but when you’re on the farm and it doesn’t rain, you don’t eat.

Anything at Intel remind you of a farm?

I think it’s this idea of something tangible. I would struggle in a job where you didn’t have a tangible result. I think that comes from farming.

When we were building a fab in Arizona, I was talking to someone outside of Intel and said, “When I was young, we used to try to figure out how many acres we were going to put in corn, and how many acres in soybeans.”

With the fab it was how many acres we’re going to put in this process, and how many acres we’re going to put in that. [Laughs] The fabs have gotten that big.

Related stories

 

From the Farm to the Fab

 

One on One with Steve Megli, Co-General Manager of Intel’s Assembly Test Manufacturing

There’s little room for error when you are in charge of factory startups, thousands of engineers and technicians, and millions of dollars’ worth of tools that must work 24/7 so products can get in the hands of customers. Since 2008, Steve Megli has overseen thousands of Intel Assembly Test Manufacturing employees running factories in China, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Vietnam.

Megli grew up on a farm in Rock Falls, Ill., where he learned all about hard work. It was good preparation for a 25-year career with Intel’s Technology & Manufacturing Group, where today he’s a vice president and co-general manager of Assembly Test Manufacturing. Recently, Megli took a moment to talk about the need for so-called “possibility thinking” and how farming prepared him for Intel.

“Time-to-market is everything. You could have the best product in the world, but if you miss the window, you miss the window.” –Steve Megli (Flickr photo)

Can you give us a plain-English definition of what Assembly Test Manufacturing (ATM) does?

We take all of those wafers that we make in our fabs, test them to make sure they work, and then ship units to our customers. So when we’re done, the units are fully assembled and in the form factor that goes into whatever OEM build there is. We are the last stop before the customer.

What are your main priorities for ATM?

When you’re in manufacturing and there’s an “M” in your acronym, you have to go make all of that stuff. Job one is supporting that business and doing it safely and with high-quality, high-delivery, the right kind of supply chain and cycle times.

Time-to-market is everything. You could have the best product in the world, but if you miss the window, you miss the window.

What exactly is “possibility thinking?”

The phrase has been coined in the last 2 years, but possibility thinking is not new. [Intel co-founder] Robert Noyce said, “Don’t be encumbered by the past. Go out and do something wonderful.” That is the definition of what we call today “possibility thinking.”

It’s been in Intel’s DNA for a long time. To me, it’s the combination of thinking possibility and then using a strong discipline like Lean Manufacturing and good engineering. To me, that’s what drives the breakthrough.

Why the focus on possibility thinking?

[In 2011] the core business did extremely well. We should be so proud of what we’ve done in the server area, the cloud. Having said all of that, we have to think differently about new businesses. It’s a completely different cadence that you have to operate on, and it’s a completely different customer base.

We’ve got a tremendous opportunity because Intel architecture is fantastic. It gives you possibilities and capabilities way beyond any ARM tablet that’s shipping today.

How would you describe your management style?

For the most part it’s “tell me what help you need,” and I will try to be a helper and enabler to that. I’m also very quick to call out a performance issue and I’ll have a discussion with someone about it.

I have to think at a high level about our strategy. Factories in ATM are running great. I’m thinking about, “How do we run the technologies 5 years from now? What are the skill sets we will need?”

Is there one manager that you learned most from during the 25 years?

I’ve been exposed to a lot of great managers. I don’t just learn from managers. I learn from peers and people I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with [Chief Operating Officer] Brian Krzanich since the day I started at Intel.

Steve Megli, co-general manager of Intel’s Assembly Test Manufacturing (Flickr photo)

Is there one key learning you’ve had recently as a leader?

Since I moved into the ATM position, my world view has changed completely.

All of my jobs before were kind of U.S.-centric and in the fab. I really have developed a huge appreciation for the geographies and the fact that the policies that sometimes get made in California aren’t necessarily applicable around the world.

How do you manage work/life balance?

When I take a day off, I take a day off. If you don’t do that, you won’t ever regenerate and you’ll get burned out. If I take a week’s vacation, I’m not calling into meetings. There are some people who can do that. I can’t.

So you were raised on a farm?

Yep. People ask me, “What did you do on the farm?” We planted the crops in the spring, and nurtured them through the summer, and harvested them in the fall. And that was pretty much how it worked. The farm life is a great life. It’s a lot of hard work, but those are the kinds of values you take through life.

I used to think at Intel the scale of our job is huge, but when you’re on the farm and it doesn’t rain, you don’t eat.

Anything at Intel remind you of a farm?

I think it’s this idea of something tangible. I would struggle in a job where you didn’t have a tangible result. I think that comes from farming.

When we were building a fab in Arizona, I was talking to someone outside of Intel and said, “When I was young, we used to try to figure out how many acres we were going to put in corn, and how many acres in soybeans.”

With the fab it was how many acres we’re going to put in this process, and how many acres we’re going to put in that. [Laughs] The fabs have gotten that big.

Related stories