Fairchild Semiconductor, a South Portland-based manufacturer of silicon chips for electronics, is making plans to lay off employees at the company’s manufacturing plant on Western Avenue.

Fairchild spokeswoman Patti Olson confirmed that staff cuts are coming, but declined to provide details on how many of the company’s roughly 800 Maine employees will be affected, or when.

“We have started talking to employees about doing some cost cutting. It is still in the early phases,” she said, adding that more information will become availabe in the next few weeks.

Olson said the layoffs are confined to Maine and will mostly affect manufacturing jobs on Western Avenue, where the company employs some 500 people.

She said the company has no plans to close its Maine facilities. Most of its other employees are at its offices on Running Hill Road, also in South Portland.  

The cuts will help Fairchild remain competitive, build a stronger operation and ensure long-term viability and future growth, she said.

The Maine plant competes for orders not only with outside competitors, but also with the three other Fairchild plants, which are in Salt Lake City, Utah; Mountain Top, Pa.; and South Korea.

“Each can compete with the other sites to build products for the company,” she said.

Olson said orders for chips dropped significantly about two years ago at the start of the recession, and have never fully recovered.

The decision to cut staff was made by local managers after an evaluation of the plant’s expected 2011 output, Olson said.

Fairchild’s silicon chips are used in cell phones, automobiles, electronics and a host of other consumer products and are shipped worldwide.