Inside TSMC’s Expansion Struggles in Arizona

Viola Zhou, reporting for Rest of World on TSMC’s massive, but now much-delayed, chip fabrication campus outside Phoenix:

The American engineers complained of rigid, counterproductive hierarchies at the company; Taiwanese TSMC veterans described their American counterparts as lacking the kind of dedication and obedience they believe to be the foundation of their company’s world-leading success.

Some 2,200 employees now work at TSMC’s Arizona plant, with about half of them deployed from Taiwan. While tension at the plant simmers, TSMC has been ramping up its investments, recently securing billions of dollars in grants and loans from the U.S. government. Whether or not the plant succeeds in making cutting-edge chips with the same speed, efficiency, and profitability as facilities in Asia remains to be seen, with many skeptical about a U.S. workforce under TSMC’s army-like command system. “[The company] tried to make Arizona Taiwanese,” G. Dan Hutcheson, a semiconductor industry analyst at the research firm TechInsights, told Rest of World. “And it’s just not going to work.” [...]

TSMC’s work culture is notoriously rigorous, even by Taiwanese standards. Former executives have hailed the Confucian culture, which promotes diligence and respect for authority, as well as Taiwan’s strict work ethic as key to the company’s success. Chang, speaking last year about Taiwan’s competitiveness compared to the U.S., said that “if [a machine] breaks down at one in the morning, in the U.S. it will be fixed in the next morning. But in Taiwan, it will be fixed at 2 a.m.” And, he added, the wife of a Taiwanese engineer would “go back to sleep without saying another word.”

Even the use of wife rather than spouse speaks to the culture clash.

Tuesday, 23 April 2024