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Singapore has had a reputation in executing some seriously high-quality manufacturing in electronics. Further, we’ve got a fantastically stable economic and political environment and we don’t really take sides when big boys fight (aka. USA and China). That means that semiconductor manufacturers like putting their critical manufacturing operations in Singapore.
When we are looking at which companies to work for, it’s pledging the majority of our daily hours to a cause. Before we jump in, we should look at who is doing what and if it’s going to be a big deal in the future. Or are we tethering ourselves to a sinking ship? Details to follow.
With the advent of IoT, 5G, and smart devices everywhere, semiconductor manufacturing and NAND manufacturing are growing rapidly. This means more jobs. However, it would be foolish to go charging into the wrong segment so let’s do a bit of research first. (P.S. Don’t make a decisions till you read till the end)
However, Samsung does not have any chip manufacturing in Singapore since Seoul does an equally good job of manufacturing so let’s see what the chart looks like without Samsung:
So Intel looks great until we dig deeper into the news. Without diving into the details, broadly speaking, semiconductors can perform better, if the process size is smaller (I know we are over simplifying here). Market leaders in 2020 are AMD and Nvidia who are fab-less manufacturers, and are pushing on 7nm process (remember: smaller is better). Intel, however, has drawn a line in the sand and decided to stick to its 14nm.
And then decided to head towards a 10nm design that was “current” when they decided but as Intel pushed towards 10nm, AMD and Nvidia moved to 7nm from 10nm.
In short, they were playing catchup.
Here comes the perfect storm: Intel says it’s 10nm process is performing poorly. AMD launches the RYZEN 7 series that outperform Intel and are cheaper. Nvidia moves away from pure graphics card chips and starts heading towards microprocessors (and is also considering buying ARM to accelerate this move).
In short, Intel is sinking and has to reinvent itself fast. We will come back to this.
Building semiconductors is a complicated process of R&D, testing, manufacturing, quality control, and distribution and marketing. Intel owns its entire chain as described above. That’s why it’s so huge – and slow to change.
AMD and Nvidia on the other hand, just design, and distribute. They don’t own any factories for manufacturing. Instead, they contract it out to contract manufacturers. This used to be a bidding war between TSMC in Taiwan and Samsung in Korea so if we hop back up to the first chart you’ll know why the big boys are the big boys.
Qualcomm, Broadcom, MediaTek and Apple are also fabless manufacturers.
Micron – owns their own fabs and manufacturers NAND chips (storage)
Global Foundries – manufacturers for AMD, Broadcom, Qualcomm, ST Microelectronics
Siltronic – Manufacturers silicon (the base materials for semiconductors) and supplies to a wide variety of large manufacturers. They are not exactly a semiconductor manufacturer but they are an important part of the food chain.
SSMC – Preferred provider for OEM (generic chips) for the vehicle and automotive industry. They mostly manufacture communications chips like RF, NFC, Mixed Signal, etc.
There are a variety of other manufacturers in Singapore that need no introduction like Seagate, Western Digital, MediaTek, Takeda, and others. Just taking a drive around Sembawang and Woodlands will give you an idea of how large this industry is.
Singapore produces 11% of the works electronics chips – more than one in ten chips used by electronics globally come from Singapore.
This is a very speculative question. Our opinion is that memory chips are in a tough spot because prices keep coming down and the only way they will truly keep up is through heavy automation meaning: less manpower, and more robotics.
However, there is an ever growing demand for high performance chips. AMD and Intel chips seem to maintain their pricing by pushing the performance curve up and opening up new segments by moving from traditional computing processors into the smaller IoT processors or into the heavier data-center/cloud computing segments. These bode well for chip makers. These include: AMD, Qualcomm, Intel and their downstream suppliers such as TSMC and UMC who both had stunning 2020 financial results.
Another option for manufacturers that will do well is for those in the 5G race. The 5G technology is not secret. Once the standard is agreed upon (which it kind of is already), it will be shared with all the various producers and people can make and sell the chips to the various assembly folks. E.g. Global Foundries makes the 5G chips and sells them to Nokia, Siemens, Huawei who will then make them into the radio/antenna/satellite devices that you see on buildings and in your phones.
We also believe that 5G will do extremely well because of its application. Every telecommunication satellite, every building, every underground station, every phone, every device, every office will need some form of 5G translation – and this is for everyone globally. This is a huge opportunity and the prices aren’t cheap like NAND. 5G tech is expensive because of all the years of R&D that has gone into it. Companies in Singapore that are into 5G chip manufacturing include: Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, Nokia who make carrier grade equipment and also Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung who manufacture the chips for the phones. Downstream manufacturers are SSMC, UMC, Micro-Mechanics, UMS, AEM, Frencken, Avi-Tech. Don’t forget our national carrier SingTel who will benefit from the deployment of 5G across all it’s related brands that it owns.
An interesting mention would be for Applied Materials who supplies raw materials for semiconductor manufacturing.
This article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide to a list of semiconductor manufacturers in Singapore nor is it meant to be a be-all-end-all guide to finding a job in the industry. What it is meant to be is an eye-opener to how broad, how deep, and how diverse this one industry is.
If you’re looking to work in this industry, it’s a massive opportunity for tech-enthused locals but don’t just go charging in.
Read our articles below about making the right approach:
Far too often, we take the easy approach of doing what is easiest to us (the job seeker). But remember that HR departments that manage thousands of employees on daily shifts have a massive amount of other work to do so they too are taking the easy approach too of looking for what is easiest for them (the employer). In this case, they hold all the chips so read on here to find out more about how to get your CV in the right hands.
We do the comparison for you – what are high-paying semiconductor companies looking for in engineering roles. What are the top skills? What can we infer from the common roles that they are looking for across multiple players?
And how can you make your CV look hot enough for them to contact you for the role!
We recommend that you start looking for degree programmes and hopefully, you choose us.
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