Micron Strives to Make the “New Normal” Similar to the Old One
By Dzof Azmi May 18, 2020
- Used lessons learned in China to help manage regional Covid-19 lockdown
- Development of US$345 mil Batu Kawan facility to continue as normal
In a time when we are all talking about the "new normal", it is perhaps heartening that Micron Technology is reporting that they are able to operate in Malaysia and Singapore in a way that’s closer to the “old normal” – including continuing the development of a US$345 million (RM1.5 billion) 21-hectare facility in Penang, Malaysia.
"Since the last time we spoke, we have already started our construction and met our commitment on hiring in Malaysia and will as continuing to set up the team, and commence our factory," said Gursharan Singh (pic), Micron SVP, Global Back-End Operations. "We actually have been looking into coming back very fast, initiate our construction, and with all the approval from the government," he adds.
"We are pretty much on schedule including adding the number of team members we had originally committed," he said, referring to the 1,000 workers earmarked for the project. "Of course, there's been some impact to our construction but we are pretty much going to be catching up on that by mid 2020.”
Part of this optimism is due to the fact that Micron in this region managed to learn from their experience with Covid-19 in their China operations. Micron was one the earliest adopters to take precautionary measures, including health screening, social distancing, work from home, as well as team separation into red and blue teams.
"We actually were able to throughout the period maintain 100% operation in China," said Gursharan, adding that the lessons learned there have been transferred to Malaysia and Singapore. "(By) putting these measures in place, all the sites have been running very successfully and in compliance with government requirements."
Production “able to meet customer requirements”
As a result, Micron operations in Malaysia have returned back to normal - almost. When asked if they have been able to maintain production levels, Gursharan will only say they have "been able to meet our customer requirements".
"None of our customers have been impacted," he stressed.
Part of the reason was because although the electronics sector got itself accepted as an "essential service", the government guidelines then was that only 50% of employees could come to work, while maintaining social distancing and health screening. The others operated from home.
"We stayed very much in compliance to the government requirements that were laid out," he continued, expressing optimism that things will eventually correct themselves. "As it stands today, 100% of our China team members are back to work, and it’s businesses as usual."
Gursharan was quick to add that it resulted from a team effort. "The American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) has done a very good job. And they've been continuously in touch with Miti and Mida,” he said.
"I would say, the Malaysian government has been very supportive," he enthused, “And Miti has been representing us very well to the Ministry of Health and other associations, to allow us to be one of the essential service providers. As a matter of fact, we shared our best practices with AMCHAM, and they adopted that and shared with all the other companies in Malaysia," he added.
Meanwhile, the unusual singular and disruptive nature of the pandemic moved Micron to set up a fund for its workers. "Micron decided to pay RM1,300 per team worker and nearly 94% of our workforce in Malaysia was compensated," said Gursharan with pride. He clarified that this was on top of their base salary. "This was just a compensation for them to meet their additional needs and any hardships their family or extended family may have."
On top of this, Micron allocated an additional RM2.6 millon for the local community in Malaysia, "We work with AMCHAM and other NGOs to take care of several areas and in this instance we reached out to frontline workers and hospitals. We reached out to charitable homes for children, as well as underprivileged families. We want to be good partners and great corporate citizens wherever we operate," he concluded. "Both Muar, in Johor as well as Penang, are very close to our heart," he stresses.
Demand for data and cloud storage still increasing
As for the economic impact of Covid-19, Gursharan is still optimistic that a downturn in the overall economy will not adversely affect their segment of the microelectronics industry. "The demand for computer devices, demand for data storage, cloud storage is actually increasing," he shared. Although there may be a shift in demand between individual products, he believes that overall demand will stay strong.
"Actually, adding new capacity means our investment in Malaysia becomes even more important for us," Gursharan continued. "This is where we had planned our Center of Excellence for SSD to be located."