Corporate culture at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) is what made the chipmaker a leading player in the global industry, a former executive said in an interview with California’s Computer History Museum.
“One of the really important reasons that TSMC succeeded” is the culture at the firm, where “if equipment went down at two o’clock in the morning, we just called an equipment engineer,” and the worker would not complain, said former TSMC joint chief operating officer Chiang Shan-yi (蔣尚義).
“We didn’t really do anything special, anything great, but we didn’t make any major mistakes,” when compared with competitors, such as United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) in Taiwan and Intel Corp, Chiang told the museum in March for its oral history project.
Chiang retired from the chipmaker in 2013.
Another reason for TSMC’s success was the decision to pivot to developing and manufacturing 12-inch wafers, when Intel and Samsung were focusing on 18-inch wafers in 2013, he said.
TSMC had talks with European chip equipment supplier ASML, whose priority at the time was advanced technology, he said, adding that the industry was “hot for 450mm wafers,” which TSMC was not pursuing.
However, ASML did not care whether “wafers [were] bigger or smaller,” as there was no cost saving, he said.
Chiang called his decision in 2016 to join Chinese chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC, 中芯) “a mistake” and “foolish.”
“Before that, I had a pretty good image in Taiwan. That really hurt my image a lot. I didn’t expect that,” Chiang said.
Chiang said he asked TSMC founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) before taking the offer to become an independent member of the SMIC board of directors in 2016, and received his approval.
“You do something right, you do something foolish in your life. It was one of the foolish things I’ve done,” said Chiang, who now lives in the US, where he is a citzen.
SMIC could not purchase the latest manufacturing equipment to produce 7-nanometer chips because of US sanctions implemented three days after he joined the company, Chiang said.
He resigned as SMIC vice chairman in November last year.
“I have no plan to go back to work at this moment. That’s enough,” he said when asked if he is fully retired. “My next birthday, I’ll be 76.”
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