Intel has shaken up its leadership following a serious stumble in its advanced manufacturing development, marking an abrupt upheaval for a company normally known for its highly methodical handling of management succession.

The company said last week that it was 12 months behind schedule in developing the process technology needed to make its next generation of chips, based on 7 nanometre technology. The setback followed an earlier delay in its move to the current generation of 10nm chips, threatening to leave it well behind the Taiwanese producer TSMC in the global race to make the most efficient and fastest microprocessors.

The management changes, announced on Monday, include the departure of Murthy Renduchintala, who had been in charge of all of the US chipmaker’s manufacturing, engineering and technology, making him the company’s key engineering executive. At one time Mr Renduchintala was seen as a potential successor to Brian Krzanich, who was forced out as Intel’s chief executive two years ago.

The shake-up puts Ann Kelleher, a longtime Intel engineer and manufacturing manager, in the hot seat to deliver the 7nm products that are key to keeping the company on the leading edge of chipmaking. Ms Kelleher, who has been in charge of Intel’s manufacturing since early 2018, will head technical development, giving her primary responsibility for the highly complex process technology needed to make the chips.

A process engineer who joined the company in 1996, and who has a PhD from University College Cork in Ireland, Ms Kelleher is the latest in a line of top female executives at Intel. Others include Diane Bryant, who ran Intel’s Data centre group, and Renée James, former president under Mr Krzanich. 

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Ms Kelleher has taken over technical development from Mike Mayberry, who the company said was already due to retire at the end of the year. A former head of research and development, Mr Mayberry did not have a record in operations to match Ms Kelleher, and had been running technical development at the company for only a year.

Rather than replace Mr Renduchintala, Intel said its engineering and manufacturing units would operate under separate leadership. Ms Kelleher’s manufacturing role passes to Keyvan Esfarjani, who previously ran manufacturing for memory products.

Intel was already hunting for a replacement for Jim Keller, its high-profile former head of design engineering, who quit unexpectedly last month. Mr Keller — who is credited with product breakthroughs at several different chip companies, most recently designing the AI processor used in Tesla’s electric cars — left for what Intel said were personal reasons after only two years at the company. 

Via Financial Times