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TSMC founder doubts US competence in chip-making

Daniel Nenni

Admin
Staff member
Taiwanese semiconductor giant's founder warns of rocky road for the company's new $12 billion manufacturing plant in Arizona

“The United States stood out for cheap land and electricity when TSMC looked for an overseas site but we had to try hard to scout out competent technicians and workers in Arizona because manufacturing jobs have not been popular among American people for decades,” Chang said.

“Computers of different brands can often be hooked together but not people of different culture,” he said

“It was a breeze for us to rotate technicians and staff among the three fabs across the island and when employees change over from one location to another, they even do not need to move their homes thanks to Taiwan’s bullet trains and highways and well-rounded transport and logistical support,” said Chang. “It’s unlikely we can replicate all these in Arizona.”


Interesting read for sure.
 

Arthur Hanson

Well-known member
One thing the US does very well is to build platforms, which can vastly leverage talent at all levels. Like Einstein said 'Don't memorize anything you can look up", platforms can vastly leverage talent on a scale once considered unimaginable, even though the very sophisticated, complex platform is a very recent construct requiring massive, fast memory coupled with high power computing. This also applies to training people and these tools weren't even available when TSM was founded and even decades later. This is a changing world and I believe with the right management talent, a sophisticated fab complex in the US can be pulled off in record time, but not by methods used just a decade ago. Adaptive platforms, like those that have been used in education for about five years, have changed the game. If we use the management of the past we will fail and if we use forward-looking management, the US may surprise everyone in how fast we advance. Any thoughts or comments on this are appreciated. I have trained numerous people in radical methods of getting things done far faster, with a higher quality product. It can be done. An ounce of strategy is worth a ton of effort. Never count the US out.
 

soAsian

Member
Taiwanese semiconductor giant's founder warns of rocky road for the company's new $12 billion manufacturing plant in Arizona

“The United States stood out for cheap land and electricity when TSMC looked for an overseas site but we had to try hard to scout out competent technicians and workers in Arizona because manufacturing jobs have not been popular among American people for decades,” Chang said.

“Computers of different brands can often be hooked together but not people of different culture,” he said

“It was a breeze for us to rotate technicians and staff among the three fabs across the island and when employees change over from one location to another, they even do not need to move their homes thanks to Taiwan’s bullet trains and highways and well-rounded transport and logistical support,” said Chang. “It’s unlikely we can replicate all these in Arizona.”


Interesting read for sure.
well...decades of outsourcing tend to do that.
 

VCT

Member
Morris Chang also said " Good managers in Taiwan will not necessary be good managers in USA".
I believe he meant the culture difference and also language barrier.
So the efficiency of Arizona will most likly worse than that in Taiwan Fab.
 
Sick burns. The rentier capitalism that has governed America since Reagan has unsurprisingly made for a country of cronies and absentee landlords, and it turns out they are all nihilist parasites who suck at building stuff.
 

count

Active member
The US is good at a lot of stuff, but manufacturing is no longer really one of those things. The reason is 100% culture, companies here generally do not value manufacturing and operations as much as they value marketing, sales, and business development young engineers would rather work on software, which is valued and pays 3-4x what a similar level job in manufacturing would pay.
 

Daniel Nenni

Admin
Staff member
It's going to get worse. Americans now want to work from home all or part time, not punch a manufacturing clock each morning and afternoon.
 

chipsntexas

New member
Wow! Can't believe that I hadn't read this before. Morris Chang obviously very competent and then some, but also extraordinarily arrogant!! As if the only place leading edge work can be done - effectively & efficiently - is in Taiwan. Because of their strong culture!? I'm pretty sure this is the one that emulated silicon valley and now does it so much better in many ways. But they hardly have exclusive capabilities in this regard and will struggle to find engineers in any area that they expand into, including the US. Also completely dismisses Intel in the technology race as if China is a more imminent (technology) threat - this is laughable unless it includes their military threat.

Not sure if it is simply just lazy reporting or commentary, but the statement that "the current global chip shortage, caused in large part by previous US president Donald Trump’s tech war against China" is not even close to accurate. Not even sure it's a factor in the shortage situation. Definitely a factor in longer term supply & manufacturing concerns, to be sure, but for current supply constraints I've not seen anything that would suggest this is even a minor factor. So if we make more chips in China, we wouldn't have a supply issue? Nonsense! It would simply be higher risk, and they're adding capacity for their own usage, not to export & supply the world. Their aim is to control their own supply needs, and the technology (leading edge) for advanced devices. China could not care less about the world's chip supply shortage and is not a major part of any global solution of such a shortage.
This is of course simply IMHO.
 

Jert

Member
Wow! Can't believe that I hadn't read this before. Morris Chang obviously very competent and then some, but also extraordinarily arrogant!! As if the only place leading edge work can be done - effectively & efficiently - is in Taiwan. Because of their strong culture!? I'm pretty sure this is the one that emulated silicon valley and now does it so much better in many ways. But they hardly have exclusive capabilities in this regard and will struggle to find engineers in any area that they expand into, including the US. Also completely dismisses Intel in the technology race as if China is a more imminent (technology) threat - this is laughable unless it includes their military threat.

Not sure if it is simply just lazy reporting or commentary, but the statement that "the current global chip shortage, caused in large part by previous US president Donald Trump’s tech war against China" is not even close to accurate. Not even sure it's a factor in the shortage situation. Definitely a factor in longer term supply & manufacturing concerns, to be sure, but for current supply constraints I've not seen anything that would suggest this is even a minor factor. So if we make more chips in China, we wouldn't have a supply issue? Nonsense! It would simply be higher risk, and they're adding capacity for their own usage, not to export & supply the world. Their aim is to control their own supply needs, and the technology (leading edge) for advanced devices. China could not care less about the world's chip supply shortage and is not a major part of any global solution of such a shortage.
This is of course simply IMHO.
100% agree. Morris seems have totally forgot where he got his education, his experiences, and even his work ethics! As much as I love Taiwan and admire Dr. Chang, the trashing of US and its people is totally rubbish.
 

chipsntexas

New member
Morris turns 90 next month. That should be greatly considered when reading his latest comments.
This may be true, but his words still carry quite a bit of weight on that island. Probably mainland as well. And by no means do I think that some points are clearly wrong - mixing management styles & cultures is very tricky. Most companies don't do this very well (mine included), but Taiwan also has a lot of American-style mindset from my observations. Not sure how much of that is in the TSMC-way as I don't work with them directly...yet!
 

lilo777

Member
Just like US manufacturing declined (to a degree) as the country got prosperous the same is likely to happen to Taiwan. And then someone else’s (China's?) culture will prove to be superior for manufacturing.
 

count

Active member
Just like US manufacturing declined (to a degree) as the country got prosperous the same is likely to happen to Taiwan. And then someone else’s (China's?) culture will prove to be superior for manufacturing.

I think China will almost inevitably rise to being a semiconductor manufacturing powerhouse, but it will take some time. My guess is it won't happen until after scaling limits are hit and the industry slows down enough for the Chinese industry to catch up.
 

VCT

Member
I think China will almost inevitably rise to being a semiconductor manufacturing powerhouse, but it will take some time. My guess is it won't happen until after scaling limits are hit and the industry slows down enough for the Chinese industry to catch up.
I don't think China will catchup in semiconductor manufacturing.
If you take 80% of the best people from TSMC to start a new company, with USA blocking advance equipment, they will be make it.
Also, China have the same problem as USA. Best college graduates go to software companies (BABA, Tencent......) and investment banking with a lot better pay.
 
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Portland

Active member
I think the problem is Americans have Hollywood other countries have literature. We're not learning the art of reading. The narrative of science changes all the time look at Einstein and light but the representations in the writings have been around since Aristotle.
 

hist78

Well-known member
Wow! Can't believe that I hadn't read this before. Morris Chang obviously very competent and then some, but also extraordinarily arrogant!! As if the only place leading edge work can be done - effectively & efficiently - is in Taiwan. Because of their strong culture!? I'm pretty sure this is the one that emulated silicon valley and now does it so much better in many ways. But they hardly have exclusive capabilities in this regard and will struggle to find engineers in any area that they expand into, including the US. Also completely dismisses Intel in the technology race as if China is a more imminent (technology) threat - this is laughable unless it includes their military threat.

Not sure if it is simply just lazy reporting or commentary, but the statement that "the current global chip shortage, caused in large part by previous US president Donald Trump’s tech war against China" is not even close to accurate. Not even sure it's a factor in the shortage situation. Definitely a factor in longer term supply & manufacturing concerns, to be sure, but for current supply constraints I've not seen anything that would suggest this is even a minor factor. So if we make more chips in China, we wouldn't have a supply issue? Nonsense! It would simply be higher risk, and they're adding capacity for their own usage, not to export & supply the world. Their aim is to control their own supply needs, and the technology (leading edge) for advanced devices. China could not care less about the world's chip supply shortage and is not a major part of any global solution of such a shortage.
This is of course simply IMHO.

Hold your horse, Please!

This Asia Times report is based on a speech Dr. Chang gave in the late April and has discussed in another thread:


Unfortunately, there are some factual errors, omission, and misleading information with this Asia Times article.

1. Fact: Morris Chang did not say anything against the TSMC Arizona project. As matter of fact, this speech was given in a forum about the future of Taiwan's economy. It's not about the new TSMC fab in US.

2. Fact: Because this is the forum about Taiwan's economic development, Dr. Chang described how TSMC established and how it grows to become an important player in semiconductor industry. He described those factors that help TSMC throughout the years. It will be kind of stretch if someone picks every his talking point as if he looks down on US or the world.

3. Dr. Chang said a top gun TSMC manager might not perform well in other countries and vice versa. He used himself as an example. He told the audience he struggled when he went to Taiwan to lead organizations (first at ITRI and later TSMC, my own comment) even he had thirty years management experience at two much larger US companies, Texas Instruments and General Instruments. What he tried to communicate is the importance of adapting to local environment and hiring and growing local talents. I don't see he was trying to insult anyone.

4. Asia Times said: " TSMC has profited immensely from the current global chip shortage, caused in large part by previous US president Donald Trump’s tech war against China."

First: I think more close to truth is that TSMC benefits largely because the surging demand due to the Covid-19, remote access/working from home, high performance computing, AI/ML, 5G, and gaming. The widely cited automobile semiconductors business contributed only 3% of TSMC 2020 revenue and 4% of 1Q2021 revenue.

Second: In the speech Dr. Chang did not say the semiconductor shortage is caused by the sanction against China. Actually I don't think he discussed anything about the semiconductor shortage at all. The sanction triggered semiconductors shortage is purely the Asia Times reporter's own speculation, not Dr. Chang's.

5. Because most audience in the forum were not from the semiconductor industry, Dr. Chang spent about half amount of this one-hour speech on the history of transistors, IC, and semiconductors. He described the early days of starting TSMC. Back then the good situation for TSMC was that there wasn't any competitors but at the same time TSMC didn't have customers either.

While many news media reported that Dr. Chang said it's ironic for Intel to start foundry business again, they failed to mention another important part.

Dr. Chang said Intel had opportunity to become one of the TSMC's founding investors but Intel chose not to participate it. It's because Intel couldn't see the foundry model can scale up to become a large business and generate significant revenue and profit, Dr. Chang suggested. Furthermore Dr. Chang told the audience that Intel's Gordon Moore and Andy Grove sent several orders to TSMC to help their old friend Morris. He said that's really a big help from his friends at Intel during TSMC's early days.

6. The Asia Times said there is only one westerner on the TSMC's board. Not only that article's TSMC board URL link connects readers to a wrong page, but also the writer got the number wrong.

Among the nine-member TSMC board of directors, one is former Applied Materials Chairman (US), another one is NXP's Chairman (UK), and the third one is the former Xilinx's CEO (US/Israel).

7. The Asia Times said "new $12 billion fabrication plant in Phoenix, Arizona, which he and other senior executives and American officials had broken ground on less than a year ago. "

It's the writer's own imagination. First, TSMC bought the 1,129 acres of North Phoenix land very late last year on December 9, 2020. Second, It's impossible and dangerous for 89 years old Morris Chang to travel from Taiwan to US during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, just for a ceremony?!

8. It's been discussed in another thread about the comparison between US and Taiwan's engineers, technicians, and production line workers.


"If we put his words in the context of the whole speech, I believe what Dr. Chang meant is that Taiwanese engineers, technicians, and production line workers are more willing to work in the "manufacturing" business, in comparison to current US situation.

Honestly, in US it's the reality that many jobs in the manufacturing sector are less glamour, less income, and less quick rewards than jobs at Google, Amazon, hedge funds, financial investment, or business consulting."


9. For those people who know Chinese, please watch the video of Dr. Chang's speech at the link below. Or you can find a person to translate it for you.

It's an interesting one-hour talk. Dr. Chang recalled one December day after the annual IEDM conference at D.C., Robert Noyce (31), Gordon Moore (29), and Morris Chang (27) went drinking and dinner. Dr. Chang said "We were all young and feel very happy and lucky to work in the new and exciting semiconductors industry. After the dinner we three sang and walked back to the hotel while snow was dropping from the sky."

 
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benb

Active member
So summarizing, Morris Chang is not happy about TSMC expanding in the US, or at least thinks its a risk and has win-lose possibilities. Because of culture.
I think he’s right to worry about TSMC unique culture being tied somehow to Taiwan, and won’t translate into the US.
There are technically competent semiconductor professionals in the US though. I don’t think he was implying what the headline implies, that there is simply no competence.
The US manufacturing competency is less semiconductor-dedicated than in Taiwan though. The US has automotive, aerospace, oil, gas, minerals, you name it. The breadth of experience of US technicians may not be appreciated by some, but it is valuable, and it would be wise for Taiwan leaders to recognize this diversity.
One area I think he is right about, there is a shortage of technicians. TSMC will have to compete for talent. The privilege and prestige TSMC enjoys in Taiwan doesn’t exist here, as they are currently a small employer with a 200mm fab in Oregon. But they can build from this, and I’m sure they will.
 

Sherlock

New member
As an ex-employee of TSMC, I had mix feeling Morris's comments on "more professional Taiwanese engineer/technician" stirring up turmoil.

First, as hist78 mentioned, it's bad journalism taking quotes out of content.
It's a forum talking Taiwan economy, he did say "mass amount" & "willing" & "professional" engineers/technicians.
I feel "mass amount" and "willing" plays bigger roles here.

Second, many engineers in Taiwan feel deeply exploited as Taiwan semicon engineers's salary is about 1/3 of its US counterpart.
Ture, it is relatively much better than other professions in Taiwan for those science majored master graduated, but that's another long topic concerning Taiwan's enclosed and slavery-ish job market.
When they say "professional" engineers in Taiwan, I feel as many engineers saying to himself, well it's more like many slaves having to do this with less pay on the expense of their health and family life.

That might still be the "advantage" of Taiwan from the view of top managers and investors.
 

Paul2

Active member
One thing the US does very well is to build platforms, which can vastly leverage talent at all levels. Like Einstein said 'Don't memorize anything you can look up", platforms can vastly leverage talent on a scale once considered unimaginable, even though the very sophisticated, complex platform is a very recent construct requiring massive, fast memory coupled with high power computing. This also applies to training people and these tools weren't even available when TSM was founded and even decades later. This is a changing world and I believe with the right management talent, a sophisticated fab complex in the US can be pulled off in record time, but not by methods used just a decade ago. Adaptive platforms, like those that have been used in education for about five years, have changed the game. If we use the management of the past we will fail and if we use forward-looking management, the US may surprise everyone in how fast we advance. Any thoughts or comments on this are appreciated. I have trained numerous people in radical methods of getting things done far faster, with a higher quality product. It can be done. An ounce of strategy is worth a ton of effort. Never count the US out.

On other hand I will also point that US companies have really strong believe that they can get just anybody off the job market.

Companies elsewhere, especially Asia, have very good understanding that people they look for might be in single digits worldwide if somebody has to learn some rare piece of equipment, or fairly rare manufacturing process.

For example, a seeming "omnipresent" semi-solid metal casting technology requires fairly rare skills. There are just few thousands metallurgists-technologists with knowledge of the tech on a level where they will not blow your budget redoing with molds.

Even in China, a common approach to starting with that is just to hire fresh metallurgy grads, and just spend tens of thousand dollars upskilling them by trial, and error on live projects.
 
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