Batu Kawan draws Micron with efficiency, talent
By Dzof Azmi August 29, 2019
- Hires 30 new graduates from universities in Malaysia
- Must focus on what talent industry needs for industry 4.0
"DURING the first two weeks after joining Micron, I had my first meeting with the government agencies," recalled Gursharan Singh, Micron senior vice president, Global Back-End Operations. "Within three months we were able to close the deal."
When I suggested to him that bureaucratic red tape must have still been a challenge, his denial is straight to the point: "I would totally disagree to that," he said. "Our experience is very, very positive."
Micron Technology's new center of excellence for SSD Assembly and Test is located in Batu Kawan Industrial Park, and represents an investment of US$356.6 million (RM1.5 billion) over five years. It is located on a 52.6 acre site.
"It is one of the largest pieces of land that we have acquired," he explained, adding that construction is due to be completed by early 2020. Nevertheless, 500 team members are already hard at work at a nearby temporary building, having trained a team and set up a clean room within six months. "We are already shipping volume from that facility."
Gursharan says the quick progress is a result of the assistance given by Mida and Invest Penang. "The level of transparency and collaboration they have is awesome," he shared. "They're our one-stop shop to really engage with the various government agencies."
Skill sets established since the 1970s
Gursharan (pic, right) said that Penang's long and deep history with semiconductors was also a factor taken into consideration.
"Our game plan is to have IC assembly, IC test and then transform into SSD manufacturing, test it and ship it," he explained, requiring experience with IC assembly tests, as well as SSD and hard disk drive experience.
"Fortunately Malaysia has had that skill set since the 1970's," he said, giving National Semiconductor, Intel, and AMD as examples.
"What we are going to do is couple those experiences from IC assembly with hard disk manufacturing experience, put it together and have a vertically integrated factory."
This should result in a shorter cycle time, reducing time to market.
"We have hired 30 new college graduates from universities in Malaysia," he shared, adding "We want local talent to be really bringing up the new factory."
When asked how the factory in Penang fits together with the new fab plant in Singapore, Gursharan explained, "We are learning from our factory in Singapore," he said, referring not just to the new IR4-type technologies to improve productivity, but also to leveraging on the increased quantities of data that the site in Singapore will produce.
"We have learned that now we can design the factory to utilise those learnings and push the envelope to get it to next level."
Better infrastructure, more up-to-date talent
However, despite praise being heaped on the government agencies that helped Micron in their latest endeavour, Gursharan had some suggestions on what else can be improved.
For one thing, he pointed to possible upgrades in infrastructure. “For example, our ability to move goods much faster, (with) Penang upgrading their airport.”
The other area of improvement is unsurprisingly in talent development, specifically to keep the curriculum up to date with the latest technological developments, like IoT, and data science.
“Focus on what industry needs for industry 4.0,” he stressed.
“Actually we discussed, having design centres that are government-funded so that there's an opportunity for young engineers to learn. That will enable the industry to grow.”
Indeed, rather than avoiding that sticky bureaucratic red tape, Micron looks forward to more government collaboration.