Tue, May 13, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Hsinchu chipmakers revise their contingency plans

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chipmakers in the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park (新竹科學園區) have prepared contingency plans to ensure the wheels of production keep turning in the event of an outbreak of the deadly SARS virus at park facilities, officials said yesterday. Global technology watchers keep a close eye on the park as it is home to the world's two top makers of OEM chips.

"We have implemented intensive measures and are considering others," said Tseng Jin-hao (曾晉皓), spokesman for the world's largest maker of made-to-order computer chips, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電).

The first of those new measures aims to restrict access to the company's core. Appointments are now required for all arrivals, and visits past lobbies are restricted.

As early as April 30, TSMC named deputy chief executive Tseng Fan-cheng (曾繁城) its SARS czar. Tseng Fan-cheng meets with leading TSMC executives every day to update them on the SARS situation, spokesman Tseng said yesterday.

Business leaders in Taiwan have urged larger companies to separate key staff to different sites, if possible. As TSMC already has eight different sites in Taiwan, it has not moved key members of staff to other sites.

"Since we have many locations, people are automatically divided," said spokesman Tseng. "And we have four shifts on the floor which are also automatically separated."

TSMC is now considering whether research and development engineers need to be split into different sites, and whether some administrative staff could work from home, he said.

Over at rival United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電), the world's second largest maker of custom-made chips, travel to other SARS-affected areas outside Taiwan has been banned, and anyone returning from these areas is not allowed to enter UMC facilities for 10 days.

Employees' temperatures are also checked, and those who have relatives working in hospitals -- which have seen the highest number of SARS infections -- have to come clean with a supervisor.

"The purpose is for future reference in the event that a possible SARS case must be traced," the company said in a statement.

UMC has also asked staff to nix face-to-face contact with outsiders wherever possible.

"Due to the severity of the virus, until further notice, UMC employees are encouraged to avoid face-to-face interactions and instead handle business communications over the phone or through other means," a company statement reads.

Deliveries are also restricted. "All materials requiring exchange are to be handled at the lobby or reception area in order to minimize the possibility of an infected person entering UMC's facilities."

Last week, a suspected case of SARS over at Silicon Integrated Systems Corp (SiS, 矽統科技) sent shivers through the domestic chip industry, much of which is concentrated in the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park. An engineer at SiS' research and development center outside the park in Hsinchu City turned out to be a false alarm, but the shock sent the park's administrators scrambling to make sure all companies in the park drew up SARS contingency plans.

"We asked all the companies in the park to prepare contingency plans, but we did not stipulate what those plans should be," park administration spokesman Randy Yen (顏宗明) said yesterday.

But the measures may all be unnecessary, according to one chip industry analyst.

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