Culture & People

Challenge for Global Top Tier NAND Supplier : Interviewing Jung Dal Choi, Head of NAND Development

By July 16, 2020 July 30th, 2020 No Comments

SK hynix is vying for the world’s best in the DRAM market, but the situation is rather different in the NAND Flash market. The objective evalution on SK hynix currently is “around the fifth place in the global NAND market,” but what about ten years later, or two years later from now? Will SK hynix still be in its current position? Jung Dal Choi, Head of NAND Development at SK hynix, says different.


Accomplished Designer for SK hynix NAND Business

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In recent years, SK hynix has been putting a lot of efforts into the NAND sector, with rising expectations that there will be great achievements in the near future. Choi is confident that SK hynix will meet such expectations starting this year.

“When the 128-layer 4D NAND technology is applied to major production lines, the status of SK hynix’s NAND business will change. Next-generation NAND technology is also being developed smoothly. Once these goals are achieved, we can surely enter the global top tier level among global NAND suppliers.”

Developing technology for the first time in the world is definitely not a coincidence. Such achievements symbolize that SK hynix’s unique working system has already reached a very high level, and human resources at SK hynix possess a world-class competency.

Choi predicted that SK hynix will rapidly evolve and become one of the top tier global NAND suppliers over the next few years. This was not based on some groundless confidence. SK hynix has already developed the world’s first 128-layer 4D NAND technology, securing a technology advantage differentiated from its competitors.

“SK hynix has demonstrated that its NAND technology prowess reached the highest level in the world by developing the world’s first 128-layer 4D NAND technology. SK hynix is committing itself to strengthen its position as the No.1 in the industry, not in terms of the scale, but in terms of technological power.”

Actually, the industry predicts SK hynix’s NAND business will turn a profit in the early stages, increasing SK hynix’s corporate value eventually.

“The main reason behind the profitability improvement is the increased proportion of the cost-competitve products. This year, the 96-layer products are playing a key role in sales and operating profit, and the transition from 72-layer to 96-layer is rapidly taking place. The yield has already exceeded 90%, and the future is bright as well. We are currently expanding customer certification with the 128-layer 4D NAND. As the proportion of this product increases, the product portfolio will also improve.”

While many indicators were positive, negative issues also occurred due to the spread of COVID-19 at the beginning of this year. The market situation worsened, hindering the development of NAND flash; however, SK hynix has turned the crisis into an “opportunity” by ensuring internal stability while minimizing the effect of COVID-19.

“It is true that some global supply chains were disrupted by COVID-19, but we ramped up the production of 128-layer 4D NANDs by warehousing equipment one step ahead and increasing the operating rate of existing equipment. As a result, we could secure the equipment operating rate of 128-layer products higher than that of the existing products.

We also established a system to prevent accidents at the production line. We are planning to fortify internal stability this year as the 128-layer products are under the preparation stage. Based on these efforts, we expect to supply products in an even more stable way than we have done so far, when the COVID-19 situation calms down.”


“Father of 128-layer 4D NANDs”

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Choi had built his career for a long time working to develop next-generation semiconductor. In 2017, he served as Head of NAND Device Technology Group at R&D. From the following year, as the Head of 128-layer 4D NAND Task Force (TF) , he led the development and presented the title of the “world’s first” to the SK hynix’s NAND business.

Choi was also confident and proud about SK hynix’s unique corporate culture.

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“SK hynix has a strong culture of caring for others, which allows you to look around, rather than just looking infront. Of course, it is important to be the best alone, but when you become the best while caring for others at the same time, the value becomes much greater.”

Based on this philosophy, Choi suggested “Best Quality, First NAND” as the vision of NAND Development organization this year. This vision implies that with great quality secured, SK hynix can become a top tier company in the global NAND market.

Choi also made a careful effort for securing the motivative power to achieve this goal. This year, SK hynix established a product-oriented system for all employees including CEO, and is reorganizing the role, responsibility, and the way of working of each organization in order to guarantee high quality, as well as the overall optimization of the Company. Amid these changes, NAND Development organization was reorganized too.

“Until now, both the internal and external communication have been managed by one organization, which hindered the efficient operation of human resources. To reform this, NAND Application Engineering (AE) Team and Product Engineering (PE) Team were newly established last year. NAND AE Team is responsible for external communication where the team accommodates the needs of customers promptly to provide customized products on time. On the other hand, NAND PE Team is responsible for internal communication which is necessary for a smooth collaboration with Solution Part. We also reinforced our workforce for this newly established double-team reform.”

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At the end of the interview, we asked Choi to express himself as “one of the leaders at SK hynix”.

“As one of the colleagues, I want to support the continuous growth of others. However as a leader, I’d like to be a ‘game-changer’. I’d like to shake the game and continue innovation, transforming the flow of the NAND market where SK hynix leads.”