September 05, 2006

Life at Taiwan Semiconductor

I recently received a forwarded email with a long essay attached. The essay is written by a production line supervisor who works at Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC). It is a humorous look at what life is like for a new college graduate working at a high-tech company in Taiwan. The essay is about 33 pages long, and it appears that the piece is only a fraction of a much larger piece. As a production line supervisor, the author’s job is to keep the line running smoothly, trying to minimize machine idle time, scrapped wafers and operator errors, while dealing with machines that go down and getting high-priority (super hot) lots through as quickly as possible.

The essay was a pleasure to read, so I tried to locate the rest of it on the web. The content has been posted to a few blogs and message boards (here's one), but I found no official source for the story, and none of the postings had more content than the one I was sent by email. It’s likely that the author did not intend for the story to become public, and there are likely some people at TSMC who would be embarrassed by the story. However, the story has become public. I first heard about the article from a friend working at a high-tech company. Then I received the forwarded piece from an unconnected source a week later.

If I'm not feeling lazy (likelihood: low), I may do some quick translations of parts of it, even though they won't be as clever as the original.

Here's a sample:

Public Address System

When the phone line is busy or reception is bad and a connection can’t be made, or when the person you are trying to reach is not carrying one of the company’s PHS phones, dialing 180 will connect you to the PA system. The whole fab can then hear your call. There are a few ways that a call can be made:

"CVD area, Chang Hsiao-mo please dial extension 3030” is the normal version.
"Chang Hsiao-mo, please dial extension 3030 immediately” is the version when the line supervisor is about to erupt with suppressed rage.
“Anayou Momo-san, wakananai.” There is also a Japanese version when a Japanese vendor is searching for a lost countryman.
"Hsinchu rice noodles are oily and fragrant and delicious.” In the Taoyuan-Hsinchu-Miaoli area, there are many Hakkas. Over the PA system, the voices of a lot of employees and vendors carry an especially friendly native feeling.

In addition to the normal versions, the PA system is sometimes used to sing Happy Birthday. But there is also a version where some muddleheaded person dials 180 and then forgets to hang up the phone, letting the whole fab listen to the sounds of rubbing as he puts the phone in his pocket.

Sometimes the noise in the fab decreases the effectiveness of the broadcast and you can’t make out the name or the extension that was mentioned. At these times, you will hear things like:

“Whoever just called for Chang Hsiao-mo, please dial Chang Hsiao-mo at extension 1234.” Or,“Whoever just called for Chang Hsiao-mo, please page him again.”


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