Former TSMC executive shares keys to chipmaker's global success

08/11/2022 11:02 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Aug. 11 (CNA) Corporate culture at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) is what made the chipmaker a leading player in the global industry, a former executive said in an interview with a U.S. museum released recently.

"One of the really important reasons why TSMC succeeded," said Chiang Shan-yi (蔣尚義), a former TSMC joint chief operating officer, is the culture at the company, where "if equipment went down at two o'clock in the morning, we just called an equipment engineer" and the engineer would not complain.

In addition, "TSMC didn't make any big mistakes," said Chiang, who retired from the chipmaker for a second time in 2013, in an interview with the Computer History Museum conducted in March.

"We didn't really do anything special, anything great. But we didn't make any major mistakes," when compared to its competitors, such as United Microelectronics Corp. in Taiwan and Intel Corp., Chiang told the museum in California for its oral history project.

Another reason for TSMC's success, Chiang said, was the decision to pivot to developing and manufacturing 12-inch wafers, when Intel and Samsung were focusing on 18-inch wafers in 2013.

TSMC had talks with European chip equipment supplier ASML about its priority at the time being advanced technology, and ASML did not care whether "wafers (were) bigger or smaller," he said.

Chiang Shang-you (right) and then Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (left) break ground on a TSMC factory in the southern city in 2012. CNA file photo
Chiang Shang-you (right) and then Tainan Mayor Lai Ching-te (left) break ground on a TSMC factory in the southern city in 2012. CNA file photo

Meanwhile, Chiang called his decision to join Chinese chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC) in 2016 "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) and received his approval before taking the offer to become an independent member of the SMIC board of directors in 2016.

"It was a mistake. Yeah. You do something right. You do something foolish in your life. It was one of the foolish things I've done," said Chiang, who holds American citizenship and now lives in the United States.

SMIC could not purchase the latest manufacturing equipment to produce 7-nanometer chips because of sanctions announced by the U.S. three days after Chiang joined the company, he said.

Chiang resigned as SMIC vice chairman in November 2021.

When asked if he is really retired, Chiang said "I have no plan to go back to work at this moment. That's enough. I'm 76. My next birthday, I'll be 76."

(By Chang Chien-chung and Kay Liu)

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