This is a time of great opportunity for semiconductor players, with the increased demand for their products amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced companies to go digital and consumers to shop online. But they will need to dig into their pockets to invest heavily in upgrading their technological capabilities and attracting the right foreign talent to become global players, says Intel Malaysia managing director Robin Martin.
Martin, who is also Intel’s corporate vice-president and general manager of assembly test manufacturing, says the pandemic has accelerated technology adoption around the world, presenting a huge opportunity for the global sector. “However, local semiconductor companies, and other manufacturing companies in general, will have to be more productive and efficient by deploying technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence) and big data.
“They will need to continue investing in these technologies to evolve their current factories into smart factories so they can meet the global demand. It is not enough to build new factories, but to use technology to turn bricks-and-mortar factories into state-of-the-art facilities.”
Martin says the key for manufacturing companies, including those in the semiconductor sector, to emerge as global players is to ensure they can make their products with ease. “In the world of manufacturing today, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your product is if you cannot manufacture it with ease to meet the demand of larger clients,” he points out.
Drawing from Intel’s experience, Martin says attracting talent is another challenge. Semiconductor companies can develop better products and solutions or even move up the value chain if they can attract the right talent.
“Malaysian companies need to invest in having a diversified talent pool. If you are not able to source certain kinds of talent locally, you will have to be open to going out to acquire it. This is very important for semiconductor companies, especially those that wish to grow further or move up the value chain,” he adds.
Intel has invested US$6.5 bil in Malaysia since 1972
Malaysia’s semiconductor sector can compete with other companies on the global stage as it has the resources to do so. This has been proved by the Intel Malaysia team, which has continued to grow over the years despite various economic cycles and the ongoing pandemic.
According to Martin, Intel first established its footprint in Malaysia in 1972 and it has invested about US$6.5 billion in the country over the past 48 years.
According to Intel Corp’s annual report, the company has nine manufacturing sites around the world — six wafer fabrication and three assembly and test facilities. One of those assembly and test facilities is located in Malaysia.
Intel Malaysia has a design and development organisation that played a prominent role in the design of the 11th generation Intel Core mobile processor, code-named Tiger Lake. The company also houses one of Intel’s two shared services centres that provide back-office support such as finance, human resources and procurement.
Another two pillars of Intel Malaysia that continue to grow are its sales organisation and IoT group. The former leverages technology to conduct sales transactions and provide clients with technical online support while the latter focuses on delivering support and solutions for customers to design IoT products.
“In a nutshell, Intel Malaysia is like a microcosm of the larger corporation. And we are proud of our legacy here over the last 48 years and how we have grown,” says Martin.
A major achievement of Intel Malaysia over the last two years has been the refurbishment of one of its old factories that now tests a variety of Intel’s latest products. “This factory houses the most advanced test technology in the company today. We wanted to hold an opening event, but we had to defer it because of the pandemic. This is a recent investment we made locally,” he says.
While some companies in the technology sector have closed their operations or moved to other countries, Intel is committed to remaining in Malaysia, says Martin. “I can assure you that the corporation’s commitment to remain in this country is very strong. It is the result of our excellence.
“We have grown from manufacturing into all the other verticals that I’ve just mentioned. We have a strong leadership and engineering base in Malaysia.”