Kingston Factory Tour
Before we begin, for those of you unfamiliar with Kingston, they are the largest independent memory manufacturer in the world, by far. Starting from very humble beginnings in 1987, Kingston is now one of the 100 largest privately-held companies in the world, has annual revenues over $4 billion, and around 4,500 employees worldwide. According to iSuppli, Kingston held a 40% share of the DRAM market in 2009. To put that into perspective, the closest competitor, A-DATA, came in at only 7.4%. They are also ranked second in the USB drive market and third in the flash market. The reason this is so impressive is that Kingston is an independent memory company which means that they aren't affiliated to any of the large memory chip makers (Elpida, Hynix, Micron, Samsung, Toshiba, etc), nor do they fabricate their own ICs. Instead Kingston buys memory chips and assembles various memory products at their four global manufacturing facilities, one of which is the Hsinchu factory that is the focus of this article.
Early last month during the Computex 2010 expo a group of journalists from Europe and North America got an opportunity to check tour Kingston's manufacturing facility in Hsinchu, Taiwan to see get an inside look at how flash media and DIMM modules are manufactured, assembled and tested. This city is about an hour southwest of Taipei, and it is home to an industrial park hosting some of biggest factories and most important companies in Taiwan such as BenQ, D-Link, Logitech, Lite-On, Logitech, Powerchip, ProMOS, Realtek, TSMC, and UMC.
Regrettably, just as we pulled up the skies opened up and it started raining, so it was not possible to get a proper picture of the front of the building, but here is a stock photograph of Kingston's Taiwan-based Hsinchu factory. Although the factory is not particularly wide it is surprisingly long, and you will see why in the coming pages.
Kingston had programmed their welcome sign to list the name of all the journalists present or at least all of those who were supposed to be present. Everyone took pictures of and huddled around this sign like moths to a bugzapper, yours truly included.
Next we walked into the spacious lobby where we collected the visitor badges that we needed to wear in order to gain access to the factory area. Once we passed the security check point, we were ushered to a conference room on the second floor where we were given full length white coveralls and disposable booties. Needless to say that cleanliness is imperative in a manufacturing environment. Once we had our new attire on, the group was split into three each with its own tour guide.
In the following pages we'll check out Kingston's memory module manufacturing process, their quality assurance labs, flash assembly & testing, as well as the packaging & shipping floor.