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Kingston Meeting & Factory Tour

While there were quite a few Kingston products announced during Computex, we were lucky enough to attend a meeting with David Sun, co-founder of Kingston, as well as take a tour and show you how all of our every day used memory modules are made at the Kingston Hsinchu Factory.

Meeting with Kingston and David Sun

          On June 3rd, 2010, Bjorn3D and others were invited by Kingston to attend a meeting with David Sun, co-founder of Kingston Technology. This meeting was made possible to let us know about the latest products and advancements in the memory industry which we were able to already cover roughly 3 weeks ago. This also let us understand how the future for the memory industry will be shaped and get to know the story behind Kingston and how they became one of the major leaders in the memory industry. If you did not get a chance to take a look at Kingston’s latest products of 2010, please read our article HERE.

          At the beginning of the meeting, David Sun introduced himself and jumped straight to questions to allow us reviewers and journalists ask questions that we would be interested hearing about. One of the first questions by one of the reviewers wondered how the recent drop in the economy effected Kingston in their product strategies. “Product Strategy, will keep going, regardless of the economy,” David Sun explained. He continued explaining that while other companies might get effected by the “roller coaster” economy, Kingston is not one of them. While other companies might drop in sales, Kingston continues to rise. This proved to be true when we compared Kingston’s annul revenue and how their overall revenue quadrupled in the last 9 years. In 2001, Kingston’s revenue was about 1,000 Millions of US Dollars, while in 2009, their revenue was around 4,100 Million, surpassing  their 4,000 Million in 2008. This not only shows that Kingston is financially secured, but also that they know what they are doing. Keeping up with the latest technologies and providing the latest to their customers surely shows their success.

          The next question addressed to David asked about the DRAM market, wondering if Kingston is noticing any shrinking of the DRAM market as new hand-held devices and other such products start to become part of our everyday life. David has a very interesting stand on this issue. While from some sources we always hear that smart phones and other hand-held devices might take over the Desktop or Notebook PCs eventually, David still believes, that even though the there will be competition from devices like these, “the DRAM industry itself is going to be very good.” He continued to explain that even with new smart phones coming out, the computer systems will continue to grow, and the DRAM market will grow exponentially as well. He added that he believes that the smart phones will grow more as the years pass, but so will the speed of the processors, the use and capacity of the memories, and other internal devices in the phones, which is why he is not too much worried about the whole DRAM market. So to sum it all up, at the moment it seems that there is no shrinking in the DRAM market, but more like a growth. At the moment, even though you have a smart phone, you will still rely on a PC. Same goes with Home Entertainment. More people are moving to HTPCs than ever before, and there is a future in that as well. David believes, that even in the future, the smart phones might get more popular and better, but there will be certain things that you will still need a PC for.

Darwin Chen, Vice President of Sales and Marketing further added that David is not trying to imply that the PC industry and the DRAM manufacturing is shrinking, but that other devices like the smart phones have a much larger market share than before. It used to be that PCs market share was close to 100%, but now it is much lower because of other devices that are entering the market. The DRAM is still as widely used as before.

the truth behind Kingston

          The story behind Kingston and how they became so large throughout the years has truly shocked most of us at the meeting. Sure there was a lot of hard work involved during the past 25 years, and sure there were a lot of difficulties as well, but when David told us that the reason why Kingston is so big at the moment was because of “pure luck”, it became ten times more interesting. It was not just one big luck that brought him to this possition, but many good lucks over the years. You could say that Kingston got so lucky as comparing you to having a really large chance of winning the lottery.

Kingston got started in 1985. An engineer called David up, wondering why a memory module costs $200 compared to another company that sells it for $600. He came over to check out what David had to say about it. Soon they realized that the memory could be made vertical to make it better. All of this was done at home with the memory chip and a soldering machine. While each module cost David $200, he started selling them for $225, still $375 cheaper than the other company. As he noticed that lots of people were buying what he called a “stupid thing” he started raising the price to $300, then to $450 and more each time. As demand got bigger, David got some help from his own son. Sooner or later, it came down to a point where David ended up selling Kingston for $1.9 Billion of US Dollars, not knowing that two years later he will buy it back for $450 Million. His first luck happened when he started selling the memory modules like a crazy man, while his biggest luck came when he just sold his company and bought it back for 4x less than what he sold it for.

Kingston Hsinchu Factory Tour

During our stay in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, Kingston not only invited us to their meetings, but also to their factory tour in Hsinchu. We were honored to go, and we did not want to miss the chance to go there while we were in Taiwan. Overall the experience was great, and it will be difficult to duplicate that experience here in the article, but hopefully this will give you a slight overview of how our DRAM, Flash, and other memory modules are made.

We do not have a lot of pictures of Kingston’s Hsinchu factory tour, due to the limited pictures that we were allowed to snap there, but nonetheless, we hope that you will find this short sum-up of the factory tour interesting. We have a more detailed Kingston factory tour of the Fountain Valley’s factory, which is a bit smaller than the one located in Hsinchu, Taiwan. We’d like to invite you to also have a look at the other article of the Fountain Valley’s factory tour HERE.

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First of all, my first impression of arriving to Hsinchu, a smaller town about an hour away from Taipei, was that it is extremely well taken care of. It kind of reminded me of the businesses I see here in the United States in Camarillo, California, where some of the semiconductor businesses are located and servo controllers are built. The only difference was that the plantation was more hydrated, it was a lot greener there, and the streets were more taken care of. This sets a very nice and clean environment where we get some of the most used products that we use in our systems.
On the first three pictures, we see a few shots of the lobby area of the factory. We were kindly invited to put on security badges that we had to verify and swipe with a security crew when we entered into the manufacturing floor. We can also see some of Kingston’s award winning HyperX DDR3 memory modules, as well as their flash memory lineup and other products. But before we actually got to our tour, we were again kindly asked to put on anti-static lab jackets and blue shoe dirt protectors to make sure nothing goes wrong during our stay.

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Now the next picture cuts straight into the middle of the factory tour, so lets summarize what happens before the stage you see on the next picture. There are three main areas of the factory, the OEM manufacturing, the SMT product manufacturing and testing, and product storage. First of all when Kingston receives their packages with the electronic components, it has to go through some basic tests before it can go into production. There are several sections the small components can be divided into. Some of the main sections were designed that if the products fail on a certain degree, Kingston can send back the materials to receive new ones. The other category could be an OK category which would further push the tested components to the production or SMT (Surface-mount technology) line.
Once it gets to the SMT line, there are 16 rows of machines set up to produce the main DDR3 and DDR2 memory modules that we use in our computer systems on a daily bases. It was nice to see that instead of already prebuilt memory modules, Kingston actually goes through the process of having RAM Blanks where the memory chips and the circuitry will be installed. We can see the process in the picture bellow, where all the components are quickly laser soldered to the boards by the machines. When I checked on one the monitors for one row of machines, it said that the daily production was about 3,600 units. If we do the math, that is 57,600 units in a day just in this one room. According to Kingston, on a weekly bases, they manufacture 3.5 million memory modules all across the world. That is a tremendous amount of memory modules if you ask me.

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After this stage, the memory modules get neatly cut up into the actual DIMMs that the end-user sees in their packages. The manufacturing process has to continue though and go through further inspections before it gets to the test-bench where they can go through stress tests that each memory module has to pass. Just like before, we see multi-millionaire machines working in a row producing the products we use in our every day lives.

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But it does not stop just there. Once it goes though the machine inspection, the modules get loaded into a large tray that also has to go through human inspection. If everything is fine, the memories can go to their second stage where they will be stress tested to see their durability and stability.

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On the next picture we see something a bit different. Instead of the DRAM, we actually see a flash device, a USB Flash Drive. First these drives are inspected, and then they are cleaned and put together. Usually the only way of going back to this stage for the end-user would be by breaking the casing for the flash drives, which nobody would be happy about.
And finally, here we have a whole floor dedicated just to testing. There are 1,000 test benches set up for stressing the memories and making sure they are ready to be packaged and shipped to the stores, which can later be bought by the end user. If the tests do not pass, the memory modules have to be removed from the production line and they will probably never make it to the end-user.

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Unfortunately, there are lot of steps we were not allowed to take pictures of. The way the machines worked would have been a great video opportunity as well, but video recording was not allowed. We hope you have enjoyed this quick overview of the Kingston Hsinchu Factory tour.

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